For some residents of the Foggy Bottom and West End neighborhoods of Northwest Washington, "developer" is a pejorative word. It is one they often use when talking about George Wshington University.
They describe GW as an aggressive real estate developer -- one whose development is engulfing town houses, apartment buildings and small businesses and wiping out the character of Foggy Bottom.
As GW has built up its campus in recent years, relations with some of the 14,000 people who live in that area of Northwest have soured, disgruntled neighbors contend. They charge GW hs become a conglomerate in which education is only one of several subsidiaries..
Community leaders say they do not challenge the univeristy's plans to purchase all of the property within the campus area -- 19 blocks near Washington Circle that is zoned for university use -- but they object to the way the university goes about buying property. They also charge the community is not allowed adequate comment on proposals and say they are unhappy with the way the new buildings look.
Jon Nowick, chairman of the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 2A), criticizes the university for its "practice of expanding within the full extent of its boundaries without fully taking into account the impact on the neighborhood."
Robert Alcorn, a resident of Foggy Bottom for 20 years, also faults the university for its building policies: "I wouldn't say much if they were constructing school buildings, but for every one school building they build, they put up two office buildings or two parking lots.
"I once could look from Washington Circle and see only houses," he said. "Now I can see only parking lots."
In interviews, other neighborhood residents expressed dismay at the university's construction projects.
"In 1970, I thought the university was an asset," said Ann Loikow, a GW law school graduate and former member of ANC2A. "It was great to walk through. Today it's a battlescarred environment of fortresses." g
University officials defend the school's aggressive acquisition of property within the campus plan area, bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue and 19th, F and 24th streets NW. Officials say the acquisition is necessary because the university is prohibited from expanding beyond the designated area.
CHARLES E. Diehl, GW vice president and treasurer, said the university's goal is to purchase all the property in its designated campus.
But GW owes a great deal of its neighboorhood reputation as a developer to the commercial office buildings it has built, notably the Joseph Henry and Thomas Edison buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue NW. GW officials say the buildings, and the money they earn, help keep the university going.
"Our land is our endowment," said Robert Dickman, a GWU assistant treasurer. He said the university's monetary endowment from almuni and other donors totals $21 million -- a small figure compared with other large universities endowed "into the hundreds of millions of dollars." Harvard's endowment, for instance, is $1.4 billion.
As a result of the university's meager endowment, Dickman said, "we have methodically, consciously, over the years acquired as much property as we could afford to."
But Loikow charged it is precisely GWU's development policy that has alienated the university's alumni, cutting off a needed source of endowment funds. "Many GWU graduates remain in the area and are dissatisfied with (the university adminsitration's) development policy," she said. As a result, she said, they do not contribute to the university.
Joseph Miller, a student and ANC member, said he feels the university does little to encourage student allegiance to the school.
He contends "people are upset with GWU being run as a property company and not as an educational institution." Miller's ANC district has shrunk from several thousand registered voters to a handful in the past four years -- the result, he said of commercial development wiping out homes.
"Of course, my alienating many of the students now, they're not going to have much of an endowment in the future," he said. "I feel like I've got that atitude now."
ANC vice chairman Steve Levy said of GWU's endowment problem, "they make a big bone of contention about their lack of an endowment and they say 'well, our land is our endowment.'
"The university, if it simply wants to invest in commercial property can do it anywhere in the city. It shouldn't take residentially zoned land and convert it" to commercial, Levy said.
He charged the university's construction policy has been unfair to the community because "it gradually depletes our housing stock, our services and the atmosphere we've had over the years."
Now during the summer months, when students go home, the GW area becomes unsafe at night, Levy said. "Part of the safety, part of the attractiveness of the community is the activity . . . the fact that you can find students around at all hours of the night."
Negative community sentiment toward the university has, in some instances, lead to formal opposition to university projects. A recent drawn-out case before the city zoning officials revolved around the university's attempt to gain approval to build an annex for the World Bank on university-owned land. GW will own the building.
The land, between 19th, 20th, F and G streets NW, was sold by American University to GW a decade ago.
"As one of its last acts before leaving, American University -- apparently at GWU's request -- tore down buildings to save GWU the heat," Levy said.
GW bought five remaining houses on the G Street NW side of the lot two years ago after preservationists failed to get the houses designated historic landmarks "and the protection for the houses vanished," Levy said.
The original World Bank plans called for the 1925 F Street Club (the Alexander Ray House) to be cut in half. The front half was to be moved to 21st Street NW, making way for a 130-foot office building facing the Thurston Hall dormitory on F Street NW.
The new office structure would have been built in a "T" shape, with part of it behind the Concordia United Church of Christ at 1920 G St., NW and the Lenthall Houses on G Street NW. There would have been a small park on the corner of 19th and G streets NW. t
The proposal also called for linking the facades of the remaining houses on G Street NW to the north end of the building.
Opposition by the ANC, campus organizations, a preservtion-oriented group called Don't Tear it Down and the Committee for the Campus led to several major changes in the original plan, including a smaller structure than the university wanted.
The building now planned will be 130 feet high on 19th Street, 110 feet on F Street and 60 feet on the G Street side. There will be an open garden area and a number of small shops, features demanded by residents who felt the building would not offer any services to the community. The Ray House, which is on the National Register of Landmarks, will be preserved at its original location.
Another controversy in the World Bank plan arose over the fate of the Lenthall Houses, which were built in 1808 on G Street between 19th and 20th streets NW by John Lenthall, an assistant to Capitol architect Benjamin Latrobe.
When GW first submitted its plans for the World Bank property to the zoning commission, it owned one of the houses and was seeking to purchase the other, owned for many years by Mildred Obear.
ANC member Levy, who was involved in his neighborhood commission's fight against the World Bank plan, said: "One of the reasons Mrs. Obear was so vehemently against this was that when Mrs. Noyes, the woman who lived in the town house next to Mrs. Obear, was up in years, the university came to her and said, 'If you leave this house to us as a donation, we'll make this a center for the arts or a place for visiting dignataries.'"
Noyes left her house to the university when she died. "Her mistake was not getting a binding contract from the university that said specifically how the house was to be used," Levy said. "They allowed it to be rather rundown. They'd rent it out to various faculty members or various nonuniversity associated people."
Obear, fearing the university would tear down the house, sold only after the university agreed to move and preserve the Lentall Houses. The university moved the houses on Aug. 5, 1978, to their present location at 606-610 21st St. NW -- at a cost of more than $250,000.
Evacuation on the World Bank site will begin in July, with construction scheduled to start in January 1981, said bank spokeswoman Sundaram Sankaran. s
More recently -- and despite divided community feelings about the issue -- the advisory neighborhood commission has opposed GW's attempts to block the owner of the Dave Margolis men's clothing store 2145 G St. NW from converting the store into a 76-seat restaurant. The Board of Zoning Appeals recently decided in favor of the property owner, Sidney Margolis.
Margolis applied for permission three years ago.
GW assistant treasurer Dickman sais the university opposed Margolis' plans because it feels a restaurant does not belong in the "academic core area" of the campus.
Dickman said it did not think it would be a hardship "if somebody has to walk an extra two blocks to get a hamburger." The campus plan does not call for commercial development on G. Street NW, he said.
Diehl said because the university is constrained by a campus plan, it should receive some help from the city in protecting the school's interest.
In its backing of Margolis, the neighborhood commission pointed out there is a "minimal number of restaurants in the area."
The president of the West End Citizens Association, however, opposed the plan and told the BZA he believed the restaurant would cause environmental problems for the neighborhood.
Margolis charges that the university has been throwing technicalities in his path in an attempt to stop the conversion of his building, charges university officials deny. He said he has had to go before the BZA three times, interrupting renovation work at the building because of the university's efforts.
Margolis, who sold two town houses in the 2100 block of G Street NW to the university to help pay the costs of his zoning battle, said GW's lawyer told the BZA last month there is no commerical use the university considers acceptable for his building.
The biggest conflicts between GW and the neighborhood have arisen over resident evictions brought on by univesity expansion. Only one of GW's seven dormatories, Strong Hall, was built by the university. The others, once privately owned apartment buildings, were purchased by GW.
Now, there are three apartment buildings left on campus which GW is attempting to buy: the West End, 2124 I St. NW; the Schenley, 2121 H St. NW and The President, at 2141 I St. NW. Tenants there have until May 23 to match the university's offer, which they are allowed to do under city law.
Community leaders trace much of what they describe as tension over GW apartment aquisitions back to the late 1950s when the university was first interested in acquiring the All States cooperative at 514 19th St. NW.
The building, which has a cafeteria that was popular among neighborhood residents, was home to a number of retired women.
ANC member Levy said: "Over the years, whenever one of the people in the All States dies, the university would either buy that person's share in the building directly" or would go through "blinds," asking "friends of the university" to buy the shares. When GW or its agents had purchased 51 percent of the building, the new shareholders evicted the remaining residents and the entire building was formally sold to GW, Levy charged.
"It's a traditional ploy of the university to be warm, friendly and nice -- up until the point where they have you by the throat," said one source who wished to remain anonymous, descriving the All States purchase.
"Some of the women at the All States were more vocal because they were being thrown out of the place they loved," GW historian Elmer Kayser said.
One resident was so opposed to moving out she would throw water on workmen and real estate agents whenever they knocked at her door, Kayser said. w
City records show the building was bought from the All States Hotel Co. in April 1966 byAlbert Small and others for $2 million and was sold to GWU in June 1967.
GW Vice President Diehl said the purchase, made before he came to the university, was completely ethical.
He said he had "heard this charge on numerous occassions," but said he was "not aware of, not have I been able to discern from any of the reading in the files . . . any truth to this allegation."
In the case of The President, university officials have promised if they acquire the building, they will not evict residents for at least eight years.
However, Robert Alcorn, who helped form the tenants association at The President, is skeptical.
"The (GW) Vice President (Charles Diehl) came to the building and said they weren't going to touch it, but I've seen too many apartments go down like Milton Hall," said Alcorn. "The line they use is 'Don't worry folks, we're not going to tear you down.'"
But residents of Milton Hall -- the former Milton Apartments at 2222 I St. NW, purchased by the university in 1970 -- were evicted two years later, Alcorn said.
Richard Churchill, a resident of the Foggy Bottom area for three years, is concerned about what will happen to people who live at The President, more than half of whom are elderly. "If they can't buy their building, there's no place else for them to go," he said. Tenant association members, however, are hopeful they can complete the purchase. Financing has been arranged with Fiedlity federal Savingsand Loan Association of Baltimore.
An ANC member, who asked not to be identified, said: "From what I understand, the university has put pressure on all the banking institutions with whom it does business or with whom its board of trustees have relationships, to not grant funding for the tenants to buy the President. They are really putting the screws on."
GW's Diehl said the allegation is "flatly untrue." He said the university "does not have that kind of power with the banks. The university has talked to no banks or with anyone connected with the banks with regard to the loan to The President. The facts are that unfortunately, the banks are just not making those kinds of loans at this time. All one has to do is call the bank to find this out."
The university has been cautious, however, in its newest development project involving the preservation of 13 Victorian town houses in the 2000 block of I Street NW, known collectively as Red Lion Row. GW plans to build an office building behind the houses and has held several informational meetings with area residents.
The university has hired a marketing concultant and has asked the ANC and community groups to come up with a list of needed businesses the new development could house.
"The retail that we hope to put in," Diehl said, "we hope will be of such quality and character that it will service not only the office community located nearby, but more particularly the community of students and neighborhood residents that have need for different services."
"The Red Lion Row development is probably going to be accepted better than other things the university has done," John Landgraf, president of the Foggy Bottom Association, predicted. "I was favorably impressed with how interested they were" in community opinions, he said.
Landgraf said GW is trying to avoid the problems of the past by keeping the community friendly toward the project, which will displace six businesses, including restaurants and a dry cleaner.
Both university officials and community leaders seem to understand the "town and gown" antagonism that exists between the neighborhood and the university.
Some activists in Foggy Bottom and theWest End say the university's efforts with Red Lion Row are a step toward improving relations. But a number of neighbors continue to be skeptical.
"I realize they have a responsibility to provide a quality education to the students, but they have to become more sensitive to residents," said Foggy Bottom resident Churchill. "We have to live here, too."