Neighborhood Watch: Gripes Galore About Georgetown’s Campus Plan
The Issue: Neighbors expressed frustration and concern over Georgetown University’s 2010 Campus Plan at a meeting last night. “It’s possible there’ll be changes as a result of tonight–but some of the big issues–on-campus housing–I don’t expect change,” says Linda Greenan, assistant vice president for external relations at Georgetown. Noisy, late-night partyin’ students already plague life in Burleith and West Georgetown. And with an expected enrollment increase of 2,475 over the next decade, a 10 percent growth in staff and faculty, and 8,500 square feet of retail planned, residents may never sleep.
Stop, Drop and Enroll: Although the 2010 plan intends on boosting graduate enrollment, a majority of those will be “continuing studies” students, many of whom already reside in the District, says GU Provost James O’Donnell. The majority of students residing in Burleith and West Georgetown are undergraduates–where enrollment will be capped at the current 6,016.
In response to on-campus growth, parking will increase from 700 to 1,000 new spots and there’ll be an additional 120 beds. Off-campus, GU expects to ramp up SNAP to two cars to cover the community, with an additional third on patrol in the summer. In May, a detail of off-duty MPD officers will also be on patrol in response to student safety and noise issues.
In response to resident concerns, the original 26,000 square feet of retail planned for the so-called 1789 Block was reduced to 8,500. “I’m a neighbor, and I think that retail would be great–it gives people a place to walk, they don’t have to drive, and it gives students a place to get their things without cars,” one resident in the audience chimes in. “There may be things that change in that process [Zoning Commission], so the community will have lots of time…this doesn’t close out the process,” says Alan Brangman, university architect at GU. Greenan adds, “This whole plan is a concept. Every single thing that’s proposed in here, we’ll have to go through another process of zoning…we’re nowhere ready to do this. When we are ready, we’ll come back to the community and talk about it.”
A Cap On Gowns!: Some residents say it's a myth that graduate students don’t live in Burleith and West Georgetown. An increase of over 1,300 students, whether they reside in the area or not, still means “we’re going to have that many people coming in and out of the neighborhood–in addition to the traffic problems,” chirps one neighbor. An increase in graduate students in Burleith “threatens the diversity of the community,” says Lenore Rubino, president of the Burleith Citizens Association.
“Whatever the reasons for not putting a cap down, I think we should look now to putting an overall cap on the student community,” says Ron Lewis, chair of the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission. Some suggest a cap simply on undergraduates is inadequate in controlling the overall growth problem at hand. “I remember, it was a modest [population] increase of 15 percent," recalls one resident, citing the 2000 Campus Plan, "while we actually saw an increase of more like 75 percent. How can we put any faith in these projects if the last projects were so dramatically wrong?”
Some residents argued additional retail was unnecessary when neighboring Georgetown Park is mired in turmoil. Others add that SNAP was useless in combating profanity: “…college renters…are always saying, ‘fuck this,’ and ‘fuck that.’ I don’t want that to be my kids’ first words.”
“If the students were under control, I don’t think we would be here…I don’t know when a toga party is going to erupt on my block,” says nearby resident Ann Kenkel. "I feel like you're just here to check off a box for the city, to say that you had a community meeting and nothing else," adds another neighbor.
What’s Next: Georgetown University expects to file its 2010 Campus Plan with the Zoning Commission in May or June. After, the commision will schedule a series of hearings–expected in the fall–when student leaders, members of the community, witnesses and university officials are able to voice their concerns. The current campus plan expires on Dec. 31.
Additional reporting by Chris Heller.
Photo by rachaelvoorhees. Creative Commons Attribution License.