Georgetown University is taking a new critical look at its on-campus space to identify additional opportunities for increased density in student housing. So, those next 100 acres GU has been touting may not be used for student housing.
At a "Planning 102" meeting on campus Tuesday, representatives from GU and its master planning team discussed moving students out of the surrounding community and creating a more social and residentially-oriented campus environment where students would want to live.
GU's team identified seven potential sites on the current campus for student housing where it hopes to accommodate 450 more students in the short-term and a total of 700 more students in the long-term to meet the requirements set forth in the most recent campus plan agreement.
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None of them includes converting the existing hotel at the western edge of the Leavey Center in dorms for students, a move that was suggested during the most recent campus plan negotiations.
"It’s certainly an expedient solution," Gregory Janks, director of Sasaki Strategies and a planning principal, said about putting dorms in the hotel.
"It’s the wrong location," he added.
Sasaki is part of a team with Forest City Washington that is helping Georgetown address near-term goals related to the campus plan and to develop a long-term framework for future growth.
Janks said the goal for growth in on-campus residential is to create "concentric rings" of housing density, starting with the most dense at the center of campus and decreasing outward.
Additionally, the growth, he said, should follow existing student movement patterns. These include a north-south pattern from the hospital area south to the library area along the red square path and an east-west pattern from the library to the dining hall area.
Dorms at the western edge of the Leavey Center are not near these natural patterns of pedestrian traffic and could isolate students, Janks explained.
“Why would we take something that is sort of revenue positive and important to our academic programs to create a housing use in the wrong place with the kind of beds that long-term we probably don’t want,” Janks asked rhetorically.
Options for Near-Term Student Housing
The first and preferred option for additional near-term student housing is a "grassy knoll" opposite the Rice Science building labeled for now as the Northeast Triangle. The planning team opined it is underutilized.
Janks said building a new dorm could increase the number of residences at the northern edge of the campus, which he said lacks a critical mass of students to make it lively. There are currently 778 beds in the north campus, compared to 3,124 beds to the south and 1,151 in university housing outside the main gates.
A new dorm there would potentially have a ground floor space with active uses, perhaps a retail space or open classroom environment. Additionally it would be located along a major pedestrian path south to red square.
The second option is either the re-use or demolition and replacement of the existing Kober-Cogan, also at the north end of the campus. This option is tricky, largely because GU does not own that property—it belongs to MedStar Hospital.
However, this propsed increase in student life at the north end of campus, brings to the forefront the Leavey Center.
“We would politely suggest that the building isn’t functioning at its maximum possible benefit to the institution today,” Janks said to quiet chuckles among the audience.
The Leavey Center could be a new center of student life, potentially with dorm rooms itself, an addition and maybe even a dining hall. It could serve to "reinforce" life in the north campus.
But Janks said changes to the Leavey Center would be complicated and time-intensive. While its future has a potential, its renovation and complete rethinking could "jeopardize" the current campus plan timeline, Janks explained.
A third appealing site, according to Janks, would be re-use of Harbin Terrace at where recylcing and facilities offices are housed. Harbin is at the center of the concentric rings of density the team was using to evaluate housing locations.
"It really is the sweet spot...you could get a lot of beds in that location and still have minimum impact on community," Janks said.
Additional locations for more housing include Henle Addition, Southwest Quad Infill and the McDonough Lot, which all posed their own challenges to future growth.
Satellite Campus and Challenges
One meeting attendee, a Burleith resident, expressed concern about the lack of conversation about a satellite campus.
A new campus is "completely still on the table" explained Janks, who said it could meet needs for athletic and academic uses.
"The long-term challenge with the residential piece is that again you want it to be integrated into academic life because it's about much more than just beds."
Lauralyn Lee, associate vice resident for Community Engagement & Strategic Initiatives at Georgetown University, said the in progress Georgetown downtown campus is part of the solution to reduce the impact of the school on the community. According to Lee, entire process is three-pronged and involves looking at maximizing the existing campus, adding space for continuing studies off-campus and evaluating sites and uses for those future 100 acres.
"The take away from this is that there are many good options even within constrained boundaries of the campus."