Town vs. Gown, No More?
After two years of acrimonious discussions between Georgetown University and its neighbors, the school—with the help of Mayor Vince Gray—announced yesterday that it’s reached a deal for the 2010 Campus Plan. Details could become available as early as today.
The plan will create a framework for a Georgetown community partnership that will fix the area’s short- and long-term issues, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E Commissioner Ron Lewis said. One of the biggest complaints has been over off-campus housing for students: The thin walls between the Burleith and West Georgetown row houses don’t do much to shield retirees from the rooms packed with 20-year-olds full of joie de vivre.
Up to this point, neighbors had demanded 100 percent of students be housed on campus, while Georgetown has flatly refused.
That may change with the new deal. As Lewis put it, they’ve “found a way for a new cooperative spirit.”
“Georgetown is a neighborhood; Georgetown is a university,” Georgetown University President John DeGioia said. “This gave us an opportunity to realign our relationship with our neighbors.”
“Everyone wanted what was best for the community, but not everyone agreed on what was best for the community or the university,” Gray said. Both sides had to work through differences of opinions, he said.
The announcement was long on warm fuzzies and short on details, though ANC 2E is expected to post details of the plan so that community members can review and vote on them in advance of a June 18 filing to the Zoning Commission.
“This agreement was a better ending than we thought there would be to the totally different opinions about what could and should be done,” West Georgetown resident Betsy Cooley says. “It looks very promising, but [Georgetown University] really will need to come in with real actions and real activities.”
Even though neighbor Hazel Denton says she understand students’ desire to live in area housing, she wants them to remember the reality of living in a community with people who operate on different schedules.
“We want students who live off campus to not treat this as a right, but an earned privilege,” Denton says.
While it remains unclear where the university would provide students with additional on-campus housing, the Thomas & Dorothy Leavy Hotel and Conference Center is a possible option, says Stacy Kerr, a Georgetown spokeswoman. The school had previously agreed to put additional beds in the Leavy Center.
Kerr emphasized the importance of providing students with an attractive place to socialize, in addition offering to basic amenities. There will be a community meeting tonight to discuss more details about the plan.
“We seem to have a win-win situation,” says Denton, a West Georgetown resident and professor at Georgetown. “It’s thrilling to see that we’ve been able to reach a mediated settlement that both parties feel gives them what they need.”
Additional reporting by Shani Hilton
Photo by Stephanie Haven