Olson discusses Campus Plan changes

After ongoing negative feedback by residents of surrounding communities to Georgetown’s 2010 Campus Plan, the university has introduced a number of amendments to the plan in a Pre-Hearing Submission filed with the DC Zoning Commission on March 31. The submission modifies parts of the Campus Plan, which is due to be taken up by the Zoning Commission starting April 14.

Most significantly, the submission calls for adding 250 undergraduate beds either on-campus or at a satellite location outside of residential portions of zip code 20007, and for relocating 1,000 students in the Graduate School of Continuing Studies away from the main campus to satellite locations. Other changes include commitments by the University to reduce its proposed enrollment cap from 16,133 students to 15,000 students and to construct an internal loop roadway to help route university buses away from neighborhood streets.

In an interview with the Hoya and the Voice, Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson said that the changes were in direct response to concerns raised by members of the community and officials at the D.C. Department of Transportation and Office of Planning.

“We really believe we’ve worked […] to respond to some of the issues and concerns that these stakeholders have raised with us,” Olson said.

Olson indicated that by the fall of 2014 the University will either be housing students in new off-campus beds or will have made further applications to the Zoning Commission for a new on-campus dorm. As a result, the University is currently in the process of evaluating potential spaces for the location of new beds, with one proposal focusing on the current Georgetown Hotel in Leavey as a potential site.

“One of the options, and I want to make clear that this […] is not a final decision by any means, is that we may look at turning the Leavey Center Hotel into a residence hall,” Olson said.

When asked about several sites that were previously brought up as potential spaces for new facilities, including Harbin Patio and North Kehoe Field, Olson acknowledged that utilizing these sites would be difficult.

“We don’t believe that any of those sites are optimal,” Olson said. “All those sites have major challenges that go with them.”

Olson also noted that the University is committed to moving “some part” of the School of Continuing Studies off-site by the end of 2013, but that the school has not yet decided on a location for a satellite campus.

“I think [we’re considering] areas that would be accessible to a metro station and would be reasonably appealing to students that might study there,” Olson explained.

Olson stated that while changes to the campus plan were made in response to community concerns, the modifications were not a direct result of negotiations with opposed parties.

“We have made these adjustments just in good faith,” Olson said.

However, members of ANC 2E, which previously voted 6-1 to adopt a recommendation to the Zoning Commission opposing the Campus Plan, have indicated that the pre-hearing submission has done little to change their minds.

At the ANC’s meeting Tuesday evening, commission chairman Ron Lewis asked members who had supported the resolution if they wished to alter their votes in light of the changes, with no commissioners indicating they wished to do so.

“I don’t believe anything in here responds nearly adequately to the points we’ve made,” said Lewis. “So, we will not change our final recommendations to the Zoning Commission.”

When asked if the University would consider modifying the Campus Plan further if community members remained opposed, Olson indicated only that he considered the current modifications to be an “appropriate set of responses” to concerns.

“That’s the best way I can characterize our position right now,” Olson said.

12 Comments on “Olson discusses Campus Plan changes

  1. Here’s one of our problems:

    “We really believe we’ve worked […] to respond to some of the issues and concerns that these stakeholders have raised with us,” Olson said.

    THE NEIGHBORS ARE NOT “STAKEHOLDERS.” THEY ARE “OPPOSITION.” They oppose everything. They concede nothing. They have no interest in Georgetown except a desire to see the school shrink until it is no more. Responding to them is like responding to a hungry dog that keeps grabbing foot off the table. It will not care, and it will not stop.

  2. The ANC is absolutely pathetic. The University attempts a compromise that addresses realistic solutions to their objections and predictably the ANC just throws it in the waste bin without a second glance. I am cautiously optimistic the zoning board will take little pity on their outrageous and unrealistic demands.

    On a related note, the hotel rooms have got to be nicer than any dorm room on campus. Anyone know who currently owns/ operates the hotel and is it profitable?

  3. I’m familiar with Zoning Commission hearings and believe me, they’re VERY used to crazy ANCs marching in with all kinds of NIMBY demands. They’re required by law to take the ANC position into consideration with “great weight”, but the ANC is by no means the determining factor in their decision. They also realize that in most of these cases, like with Georgetown, what you hear is a very loud (harpy-like, in fact), very vocal minority of residents who have the time and energy to put into this effort. They know that those groups don’t speak for the whole.

  4. Would that I could get the administration to pay attention to the University’s actual stakeholders — the students. If they gave them 1/100th of the consideration they give to the neighbors’ demands, we wouldn’t just have Healy Pub, we’d have the whole Dahlgren Quad buildings to ourselves.

  5. I’d like to see Georgetown display a little backbone and do something besides negotiate with itself.

    Please? Is it possible? We spent a quarter billion dollars building a state school mega-dorm to keep the neighbors happy. What did it yield?

  6. This doesn’t make any sense. Why on earth would you offer concessions to the neighbors knowing full well that there is no way in hell that it will lead to them supporting the campus plan?!?!

  7. @ Danny — Georgetown Metropolitan has a very clear explanation on this here: http://georgetownmetropolitan.com/2011/04/05/anc-round-up-right-to-a-room-with-a-view/#more-8474

    But, simply put, the University didn’t make these changes to the Campus Plan because of the neighbors. The Office of Planning is one of several District agencies who will submit their official opinion of the Plan to the Zoning Commission, which the ZC takes into very serious consideration. The fact that GU amended the Plan is a move toward appeasing OP and other agencies that may have had issues. The school knows that, no matter what, they don’t have neighborhood support, and I doubt they care a whole lot.

  8. @in for a show

    Fair enough, thanks for the info!

  9. @GM, er, I mean, “in for a show”

    And why would they have had “issues?” Who pressures Planning? Please.

  10. @asuka – (and just to clarify, I am NOT the writer at GM. I’m a recent Hoya alum.)

    OP can have issues with a plan with regards to density, use, and height, for the most part. If you want to see the OP report for the Campus Plan, it’s on public record at the Office of Zoning and you can go down there, ask to see the case file, and read the report. That should answer your questions for you. I’ve only seen OP reports that speak to mixed-use real estate development projects, and I imagine a response to a university campus plan would look different. Planning pressures Planning — they’re a District agency charged with offering their professional opinion to the Zoning Commission when the hearing comes around, in order to assist the ZC in their final decision and speak on behalf of the District government. Commissioners can cross-examine OP during the hearing in order to more fully understand whatever it is OP said in their report as well.

  11. Right – Councilmembers like Jack Evans would never pressure government agencies. Never. No, the fact that Planning just happens to echo the neighborhood’s totally irrational position on the university is simply coincidence.

  12. Pingback: Vox Populi » WaPo: Will Georgetown’s campus soon stretch across the Potomac?

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