Georgetown University looking to Forest City Washington to chart expansion

August 26, 2012

Georgetown University officials want to identify and develop a new campus of as many as 100 acres in coming years and are close to landing a partner to help them do it.

Last week the school was in negotiations on a deal to name developer Forest City Washington as a long-term adviser to help Georgetown both maximize facilities on its existing 104-acre campus and determine how to develop another location of perhaps the same size.

The anticipated partnership signals a commitment from Georgetown’s leadership to expand beyond the campus where it was founded in 1789. After a bruising battle with neighbors, the school agreed to provide housing for 450 more students on its current campus, while beginning a search for land where it can grow over coming generations.

Chris Augostini, chief operating officer at Georgetown under university President John J. DeGioia, said Forest City Washington, a unit of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, would advise Georgetown on every aspect of its real estate decisions in coming years.

Augostini said that with complex mixed-use projects such as The Yards, near Nationals Park, and Waterfront Station in Southwest D.C., Forest City had demonstrated expertise in long-term planning, finance and development.

“We needed a partner and a company that understood that we are an organization that when it comes to these decisions is going to need some time. And that was one of the characteristics that I think made Forest City stand out,” Augostini said.

Georgetown, the District’s largest private employer, recently expanded its footprint off of its main campus when its School of Continuing Studies inked a deal to move its more than 1,100 students to a 91,000-square-foot location in Mount Vernon Square, to be dubbed Georgetown Downtown. Georgetown’s hospital, operated by MedStar, could also relocate.

Augostini said an adviser would help the school assess all the offers it receives. “People call me all the time saying we’ve got 20 acres, we’ve got 50 acres, we’ve got 80 acres and we need to have a way to process that,” Augostini said.

Georgetown selected Forest City Washington after issuing a 12-page request for proposals seeking help evaluating large blocks of land in the area, specifically Hill East, a 50-acre site next to RFK Stadium, and Poplar Point, a 110-acre swath of parkland in Ward 8. Forest City knows the parcels closely, having been a finalist in competing for the rights to Poplar Point under Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).

“FCW has in-depth market knowledge of potential sites in the region that can feasibly accommodate this scope of expansion,” President Deborah Ratner Salzberg said, through a spokesman.

Forest City also has experience with university projects, having developed research facilities for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Pennsylvania. The company’s $2 billion Yards development involved converting former Navy industrial buildings on a federally owned 42-acre plot. Forest City stuck with the project through the recession and its first apartments, called Foundry Lofts, are complete. A Harris Teeter grocery store and new restaurants are under construction.

Finding 100 acres in Washington will not be easy. Salzberg said a location requires long-term growth opportunities, several modes of transit, the possibility of spin-off development and a blending of the District’s and university’s goals. “The list of sites within the area capable of accommodating such a significant, long-term campus expansion for GU is certainly not a lengthy one,” Salzberg said.

91,000

Square feet recently leased in Mount Vernon Square for Georgetown Downtown, the school’s first move off of its historical home base.

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