- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2001

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. "We fully intend to help our students be terrific neighbors."
The 180-year-old university has been located on the Foggy Bottom campus since 1912. In the fall of 2000, it had 16,217 full- and part-time students.
In March, the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment responded to residents' pleas to preserve their neighborhood by ordering the school to cap undergraduate enrollment at current levels and to make accommodations to house 70 percent of undergraduates in on-campus facilities.
The university reacted with a lawsuit, contending it is illegal for the city to restrict the university's growth. The suit is pending, but Ms. Donnel said the university plans to build a 200-bed facility and a 700-bed facility on campus to meet the 70 percent requirement.
The university's current dorm capacity is 4,243 students.
She said the immediate need for the extra space arose when the university realized in May that students had returned the highest yield of admissions offers in the university's history. The freshman class, which last year was about 2,050 students, this year is 2,350 students. But while the hotels are meant to accommodate the freshman class, they will be occupied by older students.
In 1999, the university bought the Howard Johnson's hotel across from the Watergate complex in Northwest and turned it into a freshman dorm. Last year it bought a stake in the Columbia Plaza apartment and condominium complex on Virginia Avenue and houses students there. The university also owns the George Washington University Inn and the One Washington Circle Hotel as investments. No students are housed at those locations.
Undergraduate enrollment jumped dramatically between 1995 and 2000. In 1995, the university had 5,800 full-time undergraduates; by 2000 that figure had increased to 7,562.


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