The master plan for development of George Washington University has been a source of controversy since it was adopted 10 years ago, and the controversy promises to continue in Foggy Bottom for years to come.
Already, the university has had to fight civic associations in its neighborhood opposed to the way GW is developing its campus, which lies between 19th, 23rd and F streets south of Pennsylvania Avenue NW. University officials believe the battle is far from over.
As the university began expanding in 1969, the administration commissioned a consulting firm, Marcou, O'Leary & Associates, to devise a guide for campus development.
The consultants came up with this plan, which the university adopted:
The campus will be built at relatively high density, because of its central location.
The special character of the campus will be preserved with open space. This will include landscaping and walkways.
Buildings of architectural and historical interest will be preserved -- if possible.
University buildings that are used the most will be centrally located. These include the library, the university center, classrooms and faculty offices.
All other buildings, such as dormitories, administrative offices and athletic and parking facilities, will be on the periphery.
The medical school will be built near the university hospital.
Karen Gordon, a GW graduate student in urban planning and development, says the plan has two major objectives.
The first, already accomplished, was to describe the boundaries of the university to prevent GW's outward expansion. The second, now under way, is to provide a source of revenue -- since the university can't live on its endowment. GW officials say the income from properties helps minimize tuition increases.
The university's development plan is unfolding in three stages, with classrooms, library facilities and faculty offices surrounding open space.
The first phase, to end next year, calls for the construction of six buildings, three of which -- the library, a garage and a faculty office building now under construction -- are at 22nd and H streets NW. Buildings constructed during the second phase of the master plan will accommodate an increased enrollment. The new buildings will include additional medical facilities, a fine arts center, a fourth law school building, additional classroom space and two more parking garages.
In the third phase, the campus is to be completed, possibly using sites not now owned by the university.
The main obstacle to development continues to be the university's location in a settled city neighborhood.
To help overcome this problem, the planners proposed that much of the main campus be housed in facilities that were above sidewalk level, with the campus connected by a series of sidewalks and raised walkways.
But Robert E. Dickman, GW's assistant treasurer for planning and development, now says that raised walkways are a low priority, because the university must first complete its facilities, and would have to apply for air rights to construct the walkways.
Dorn G. McGrath, chairman of GW's Department of Urban and Regional Planning, said the administration essentially has ignored this proposal, however. GW had a chance to build an elevated walkway system during the 1970s when it constructed such buildings as the library, he said.
For nearly every project GW has undertaken in recent years, there has been a history of conflict -- over zoning, preservation of historic landmarks or the continuance of retail businesses serving students and residents. As a result, the university has been careful to find out the desires of the neighborhood concerning the development behind Red Lion Row, a stretch of Victorian houses on I Street between 20th and 21st streets NW.
Neighborhood groups are concerned about the lack of small retail establishments in the area and want to restore the residential character of Red Lion Row. The planners of Red Lion Row hope to provide an acceptable mix of small businesses and commerical office space.
A GW office building will rise behind the I Street houses. Dickman said the university is also discussing closing off I Street and extending the existing park on Pennsylvania Avenue, but said this may take several years.
McGrath said the plan offers "feeble gestures" toward giving some relief from the congestion, pollution, traffic hazards for pedestrians and inconvenience that automobiles impose on the campus.
Neighborhood concern over Red Lion Row stems from the university's propensity for wiping out small business in the Foggy Bottom area. Among the recent victims have been Quigley's drug store at 21st and G streets NW and the GW Cleaners at 2145 I St. NW.
Six other businesses will have to relocate because of the restoration and construction at Red Lion Row.
In an interview, McGrath expressed further concern about street closings. "The plan subordinates the needs of pedestrians to those of automobiles on the campus" by not rerouting traffic away from the campus, he said.
Dickman said that streets cannot be closed until the traffic there is studied to see if patterns justify closings.