Foggy Bottom Residents See GWU Expansion as a Threat

Article excerpt

Byline: Matthew Cella

Residents in the District's Foggy Bottom neighborhood say George Washington University's plans to expand into two neighborhood hotels are part of a bigger pattern that threatens the character of their neighborhood.

The university announced this month it had signed a 15-year lease to house students in the St. James Hotel at 950 24th St. NW. It also announced a three-year pact with Pennsylvania House at 2424 Pennsylvania Ave. NW that will make available about 80 of that hotel's 143 rooms. The remaining rooms at Pennsylvania House will continue to be rented as extended-stay suites.

"It's another large building that's now part of the campus," said Foggy Bottom Association board member Michael Thomas.

Mr. Thomas laments the loss of the St. James as another amenity the neighborhood has had to sacrifice to the campus but says the more serious problem is the university's failure to provide adequate on-campus dormitories. He said students forced to live off campus add congestion to the neighborhood and erode the stock of middle-income housing.

"It does change the nature of your community," he said.

"It's not a community anymore. It's not a residential neighborhood," said Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Maria Tyler. "It makes the streets look like a campus."

University Vice President and Dean of Students Linda Donnel defended the university's expansion, saying the agreement with the hotels won't hurt residents.

"This is not taking away apartment living from people in Foggy Bottom," she said.

She said parking will be unlikely to be affected because students live so close to campus they don't have cars, and the administration will ensure students behave well in the neighborhood.

"Our code of student conduct extends to the properties in addition to our residence halls," she said. …