American University has unveiled an ambitious plan to construct at least seven buildings -- including a parking garage, a dormitory, a law school and a library -- during the next decade, causing some neighbors of the 77-acre campus to fear the end to tranquility in their Northwest Washington neighborhood.
University officials, however, see the proposals as a key part of their plan to keep enrollment steady at the 94-year-old institution and to attract more full-time resident students.
Both sides will get an airing today as the District Board of Zoning Adjustment holds a special hearing to consider the university's "Campus Plan: 1987-2000."
The board had asked for an outline of AU's future in 1985 when it approved construction of the Khashoggi Sports and Convocation Center that is due to open in January. Even if the board endorses the general plan, each building would be subject to public hearings and board approval before the university can begin construction.
Since he took over as university president in 1980, Richard Berend-zen's plans to modernize and spotlight the university have generated controversy. One was the 1984 appointment to the board of directors of Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, who donated $5 million for the sports center that bears his name.
In the current proposal, residents of the Spring Valley neighborhood, which hugs the campus on the west and southwest side, have formed Neighbors for a Livable Community and hired an urban planner, a traffic consultant and a lawyer to present the neighborhood view to the zoning board. On the north side of the campus, Fort Gaines homeowners have charged that their Advisory Neighborhood Commission failed to inform them of the workings of a community task force on the campus plan and its progress.
"We were absolutely shocked" at an AU Park Citizens' Association flier announcing a vote on the plan, said Alan Pollock, a resident of Sedgewick Street on the campus' north side. He said his neighborhood had no idea that a task force was working on the plan until early this month.
Task force members rebut that claim, noting that the campus plan was listed as an ANC agenda item several times in schedules published in various media and that notices of meetings were tacked on neighborhood telephone poles.
"We've made a concerted effort to extend an invitation to anyone who wanted to participate," said Donald L. Myers, AU's treasurer and vice president for finance, who said that AU also mailed meeting announcements to neighbors.
According to AU vice president Myers, the university hopes to change its demographics during the next 12 years by attracting more full-time students who would live on campus. Because of a projected 10 percent decline over the next decade in the number of high school graduates, the university must strengthen its appeal just to maintain its current enrollment levels, Myers said. The report estimates a full-time enrollment of 7,999 in the year 2000, up from 7,590 now.
Among the proposals in the master plan are a new 150,000-square- foot law school, a 60,000-square- foot arts center, a 100,000-square- foot library, a 70,000-square-foot addition to the chemistry building and a 15,000-square-foot addition to the administrative building.
Also proposed are a 50,000- square-foot academic building, a 15,000-square-foot addition to the School of International Services, a 150,000-square-foot research center, a 460-space parking garage, a 100-bed dormitory and the conversion of four academic buildings to housing for 300 graduate or law students.