Category Archives: Town and Gown

Why Doesn’t Georgetown Feel Like a College Town?

Photo by Aaron Webb.

Tonight, Georgetown University Hoyas will play their first round game in the Final Four tournament. But if you walk around Georgetown, you wouldn’t know it. (Well unless you walk by Prospect St. where a giant inflatable Jack looms overhead). Despite the presence of a major university right in its midst, Georgetown just doesn’t really feel like a college town.

GM went to college in a small upstate New York town. That was a college town. On fall weekends the whole town came down to watch our mediocre football team probably lose. On winter nights they’d huddle into our ice rink and watch our quite good hockey team probably win. It didn’t matter.

But that sort of relationship just doesn’t seem to exist here. Sure, there are parts of west Georgetown that are constantly buzzing with students, which might seem more college towny. But by the time you get over a few more blocks, you’d hardly think a school with thousands of students was right around the corner.

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Georgetown Continues its Family Outreach

This year, GU has been trying to reach out to the Georgetown community to engage local families with the school’s many resources and activities. Last spring, in fact, they held a meeting just for parents of young children to find out just what young families would like to see more of at GU.

As part of that effort, GU is hosting three events this month. The first is Georgetown Community Day on September 15. This is essentially a tailgate before the Yale-GU game, but it will have free food, as well as face painting and games for the kids.

The second event is the Hoya fall picnic on September 22 at 11:30 on the Healy Lawn. Again, it will have free food as well as plenty of activities for the kids. Continue reading

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GU Identifies New Satellite Campus

As part of its new campus plan, Georgetown University agreed to identify a new downtown satellite campus for its School of Continuing Studies. The ink is barely dry on the Zoning Commission’s order to approve the plan, and GU has already identified the location of the new campus: 650 Mass Ave.

The new space will accommodate 1,100 students. However, SCS students are unlike most GU students. The programs it offers are generally geared towards working professionals. The new location is perfectly suited to that mission (it’s the building just south of the NPR building, catty-corner to Mt. Vernon Square*). Being so close to downtown and Metro will enable the program to reach many more potential students. Continue reading

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Details of the Campus Plan Agreement

Yesterday evening, the details of the agreement between the ANC, the civic groups and Georgetown University were finally made public. The parties had announced a deal Wednesday, but were still hashing out the finer points through Thursday.

Before getting into the details, the highest level takeaway is that while the agreement is a genuine compromise whereby neither side got 100% of what it wanted, the respective parties are very happy with the outcome. That we could actually get to this point seemed impossible just a few months ago. So kodus to all the parties involved and the power of mediation!

Now to the details:

  • GU agrees to move 450 students from off-campus to on-campus. This is up from the 250 it had come up to in its most recent offer. This number will be met by moving 65 students out of Magis Row by the fall of 2013 (Magis Row is a row of university-owned townhouses on the 1400 block of 36th St.) and then constructing 385 new beds by the fall of 2015.
  • The bulk of those 450 new beds will be found by converting the Leavey Center hotel to dorm use.
  • A new Georgetown Community Partnership will be formed by reps of the ANC, civic groups, and GU. This committee will hopefully provide the sort of periodic pressure release that GM has supported before. It will serve as a forum for addressing issues without waiting for the next ten year plan. Continue reading

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Citypaper Gives Campus Plan Cover Article Treatment

This week, the Washinton Citypaper dedicated its cover article to the long drawn out campus plan issue. While the article touches on campus plans across the city, it is primarily concerned with the Georgetown campus plan. It’s definitely worth a read.

For the most part, the author of the piece, Shani O. Hilton, takes the position that you would expect the Citypaper to take, which is that Georgetown neighbors are rich (or as Hilton repeatedly put it: “affluent”, “comfortable”, “well-heeled”, “occupiers of $900,000 houses”, and “upscale”) and knew the university was there, so tough. This argument carries a lot of weight with people inclined to view this situation through the lens of the plot of Footloose. And the comments section is somewhat ripe with the choir echoing Hilton’s praisings. But it’s not a particularly novel insight and it’s an irrelevant point under the zoning laws.

But that’s only one aspect of Hilton’s generally strong article, in another part she makes this interesting observation:

Much of the recent upheaval is tied to the schools’ decennial efforts to gain required approval for mandatory 10-year campus plans—encourage an adversarial system replete with exaggerated gripes and over-the-top demands.

This is an often overlooked point. One of the main reasons this is such a drawn out process is that it only happens once every ten years. Lacking any way to meaningfully affect Georgetown’s behavior for nine years, the neighbors have an incentive to load a decade’s worth of complaints and wishes into this one shot. Once this process is done, it won’t be until 2020 that the neighbors have any leverage again. It makes the whole process unnecessarily confrontational and it gives each side credible reasons to think they’re the victim. Continue reading

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Round One of the Final Campus Plan Hearings Scored a Draw

Last night the Zoning Commission began its public deliberations on Georgetown University’s campus plan. While the commissioners appeared far from reaching a final decision on the plan, the contours of the discussion were well fleshed out. Watch it for yourself right here.

While all five of the commissioners attended the meeting last night, Commissioner Marcie Cohen is apparently recusing herself from the decision, so only four opinions matter. And relatively shortly into the proceeding you could begin to see where those opinions stand.

As he was throughout most of the testimony, Chairman Anthony Hood displayed a can’t-we-all-get-along attitude. He repeatedly cited the recently approved Howard University campus plan as a model. It appears that he just hopes against hope that a compromise between the school and its opponents can be reached.

Vice-Chair Konrad Schlater took the most pro-University line of the commission. Early on he cited how GU is the largest private employer in the District. Late on he made it clear that he rejected the possibility of GU housing all its students either on campus or outside the 20007 zip code. He acknowledged that a nuisance does exist from students living in the neighborhood, but he appears to believe that the campus plan is not the proper way to address those concerns. Continue reading

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The ANC Responds to GU’s Recent Charm Offensive

Over the last couple months, Georgetown University has been rolling out a series of efforts aimed to address the quality of life complaints that were aired at the spring’s campus plan Zoning Commission hearings. GM is personally convinced that GU has its eye on the upcoming hearings on the campus plan as it introduces these initiatives (which doesn’t mean they’re not good initiative, just that they’re not motivated by neighborly kindness). The idea being that it will argue that it is being proactive to address the neighbor’s concerns and thus the Zoning Commission shouldn’t take the draconian step of demanding GU either build on-campus housing or obtain housing outside 20007 for all undergrads by 2015, as the Office of Planning requested.

To undercut this argument, the ANC just issued a supplemental submission to the Zoning Commission. The ANC writes:

GU’s grudging, small-scale responses to community concerns throughout this case have been  disappointing. Instead of responding meaningfully to Chairman Hood‟s suggestion to the  University that it propose truly new, large, and effective approaches to the neighborhood issues, GU has instead come back with small-scale tweaks to existing off campus student programs.

The ANC takes a particularly cynical view of GU’s quality of life measures:

GU reserves the right to modify any and all of its student conduct measures at any time… And GU certainly cannot expect us to believe that any 11th-hour clamp-down it may have attempted over the past several months – in the spotlight of an impending Zoning Commission decision – will or could be sustained by GU over the long run. Continue reading

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WaPo Editorial Page Wades into 10 Year Plan Fight

Photo by Dionhinchliffe.

On Sunday, the Washington Post published an editorial on the Georgetown University campus plan. It was highly critical of the DC Office of Planning and the effort by community groups to insist that the final plan call for the housing of all undergraduate students on campus.

They write:

Imagine a city telling its largest private employer — one that pays millions in taxes and salaries, strives to hire local residents and voluntarily does community service — that it can’t grow anymore, that it might have to cut back. That seems far-fetched in light of today’s scary economy, but it’s essentially what D.C. officials are telling Georgetown University by insisting it either house all its students or cut back enrollment. The District seems distressingly disinterested in promoting a knowledge-based economy.

The editorial attempts to contrast the Office of Planning’s position against the city’s overall goal of adding residents. It argues that:

What’s most troubling about the city’s posture is the notion that an increase in young people, particularly those in search of an education, is somehow undesirable. What happened to the idea that these are the very kind of people that should be lured to make the District their home?

It’s an interesting argument. And it’s definitely the case that the presence of universities greatly contributes towards making a city a haven for the so-called Creative Class. But to suggest that the city is “disinterested in promoting a knowledge-based economy” simply because it maintains enrollment caps on universities is a bit hysterical. Besides, the vast majority of jobs in this city are either in the government or government-related, which will be here whether GU enrolls 14,000 or 15,000. Also, the editorial seems to have been written by someone without a strong familiarity with the situation; before it was corrected, the editorial talked about the neighborhood of “Fox Hollow”.

But that is really beside the point. What GM finds most interesting about this editorial is that it is clearly the product of a concerted lobbying campaign by GU. The thrust of the article is directed at the Office of Planning report, but that was issued in May. The only reason the Post is writing about this now is that the final Zoning Commission hearings are coming up. Continue reading

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Georgetown University Planning New Athletic Training Center

As reported by The Hoya, Georgetown University is moving forward with a plan for a large new athletic training facility. The plans call for a 125,000 square foot building that will, according to the Hoya ” house practice courts, locker rooms, team meeting rooms and coaches’ offices for the men’s and women’s basketball programs. Locker rooms for men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse as well as weight training facilities and training room areas for all varsity athletes are also slated to be built.”

The building has actually been on the drawing board for quite a while. It was even included in Georgetown’s 2000 campus plan. It is included again in GU’s most recent proposed plan. The proposal calls for the building to be constructed where the tennis courts now stand:

GM has heard that GU intends to rebuild the tennis courts on top of the new building.

GU is coming before the Old Georgetown Board next month for approvals. Which means they’ll be stopping by the ANC a few days before. And it wouldn’t be a GU matter before the ANC if it didn’t somehow get wrapped up in the campus plan. But this time it’s actually not a stretch! Continue reading

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The ANC’s Anti-Ten Year Plan Resolution: Conduct Section

Monday night, the ANC adopted a resolution opposing G.U.’s proposed ten year campus plan. GM’s already taken a closer look at the enrollment section and the transportation section. Today he’ll take a look at the last section, the one regarding student behavior off-campus.

The ANC’s approach is pretty simple and concise: they simply stated that the measures previously taken by G.U. and those proposed are inadequate to address the negative impact that student behavior has on the non-student population.

The strategy being taken by the ANC is to put the burden on G.U. to develop a program that is adequate. And it further argues that if G.U. doesn’t present an adequate plan, the Zoning Commission should reduce G.U.’s student cap until their are fewer students in the neighborhood.

And what are the steps that G.U. has put forward which the ANC considers so inadequate?:

  • Three reimbursable detail police officers stationed in trouble spots
  • A second SNAP car at night
  • Two G.U. staff members living off campus among the students to supervise them
  • New community contract to be signed by all off-campus students
  • Additional shuttles around the neighborhood to give students a ride back to the campus. Continue reading

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