Greater Greater Washington

Universities' role in real estate development grows

As DC determines how to repurpose 68 acres of the former Walter Reed hospital campus, one thing seems clear: the new development will include at least one university. Citywide, universities are playing a greater role in the regional real estate scene, partnering with developers and moving beyond a "behind-the-gates" approach to education.


Roadside plan for Walter Reed.

3 groups of developers presented plans for the campus last Thursday, and each integrated an institution of higher education in its plans: Forest City with Georgetown University, Hines-Urban Atlantic with George Washington University and MIT, and Roadside Development with GWU and Howard University.

For years, area universities have encouraged students and faculty to engage with the federal government and local communities, whether through internships, service-learning projects, law clinics, or mobile medical units. Lately, many institutions have taken it further by seeking new locations or by opening their existing campuses up to their surroundings.

Hemmed in, universities find creative ways to grow

Under the leadership of former president Stephen Trachtenberg, George Washington University began buying and developing property in Foggy Bottom to grow its campus and generate revenue to support its programs. The school recently built a $360 million mixed-use development on the site of a former hospital that has helped pay for a new engineering building.

The project, called the Avenue, also brought several neighborhood amenities to Foggy Bottom, including a Whole Foods, apartments, restaurants, and a bank. It's made the neighborhood more walkable, and serves as a great example of transit-oriented development.


The Avenue. Photo by Daquella manera on Flickr.

While George Washington has perfected the use of real estate acquisition for revenue, Georgetown University does it primarily out of a need for space. Georgetown's main campus is a compact 103 acres and can't expand due to agreements with DC and surrounding neighborhoods. The remaining parcels on campus available for new construction are fairly small.

To meet the demand for more graduate and professional programs, Georgetown has strong incentives to look across the District and the region. The school is poised to move its continuing education and many professional degree programs from sites on the main campus and in Clarendon to a new downtown campus near Mount Vernon Square.

University officials noted in a recent email to faculty and staff that Water Reed "has the potential to be a campus for innovation that could combine our institutional strengths with private sector, non-profit and other institutional entities, all focused on developing ideas and solutions for next generation global problem-solving."

Institutional benefits and community investment often align

While large projects like Walter Reed involve the acquisition of new land, universities with space to spare are also looking at ways to open their property to the community. Catholic University has partnered with Abdo Development to build Monroe Street Market, a development with retail and arts offerings in addition to apartments. The development will enliven the edges of CUA's campus, improve the pedestrian experience, and provide connections between the university, Brookland's nearby "downtown" on 12th Street NW, and the Red Line Metro station.


Monroe Street Market. Photo by Bozzuto Group on Flickr.

Around the region, schools and developers are also working together to build more robust communities. For years, the University of Maryland has planned a development called East Campus that would tie the sprawling campus to downtown College Park with shops, housing and a music venue. In Montgomery County, developer Percontee is reaching out to universities and research institutions from around the world to locate at LifeSci Village, a proposed biotechnology center with housing, offices and a town center adjacent to the Food and Drug Administration's headquarters.

These projects aren't without risk, as Howard Town Center in Shaw demonstrates. In 2008, Howard University traded some undeveloped property in its real estate portfolio with the DC government to acquire the nearby vacant Bond Bread factory. They partnered with the Cohen Companies and Castle Rock Development to create a mixed-use development, which would generate revenue for the university while creating amenities for students and nearby residents.

Historic preservation issues and other concerns delayed the project several times, leading Howard to end their relationship with the developers, who have subsequently filed a lawsuit for $100 million in damages. For students and neighbors, the ongoing litigation means it will be several more years before they see improvements to this block.

Expanding into new neighborhoods lets universities contribute to communities

As universities expand into new locations in the District and beyond, they can and should work to provide expanded educational and career opportunities for nearby residents. Many universities are already working to expand educational, training, and career opportunities for local residents, through their own programs or partnerships, or through larger initiatives like Raise DC, but all can do more.

Mayor Gray's Five-Year Economic Development Plan included higher education (with health care) as one of seven sectors that will drive economic development and jobs. An important part of that economic development strategy should involve helping to grow the skills and capabilities of residents who wish to fill those jobs: as educational institutions, universities can offer expertise and resources to help neighboring residents help themselves.

As local universities continue to grow, we can expect to see additional developer partnerships as schools pursue opportunities to strengthen their programs and their neighborhoods in the District and across the region.

Originally from Rhode Island, Jacques Arsenault holds a masters in public policy from Georgetown and has lived in the DC area for the past 15 years. He works as a policy analyst for the federal government by day and grows mustaches for kids by night. He also blogs at Jacques of All Trades. The views expressed here are his own, and do not reflect those of his employer. 

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*While large projects like Walter Reed involve involve the acquisition of new land,

by Richard B on Jul 25, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

Georgetown should really be looking for land in annacostia rather than near Mt Vernon. While it might not be as prestigious they will get a lot more bang for their buck there and with their nonprofit status they really should really be about helping their students by taking a cheaper option rather than using student $$ to further their name by building fancy buildings in Mt Vernon.

by Richard B on Jul 25, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

@Richard B. The new center opening in Mt. Vernon Square this fall will be a headquarters for continuing education and some professional degree and certificate programs. Almost all of those programs are offered to working professionals, often as evening classes and my understanding is that the location was selected for its central location, within easy walking distance of all five Metrorail lines.

by Jacques on Jul 25, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

I see, if it's profesional degrees then it makes sense to be near the action. Those students got $$ anyway(or their company is paying)
nevermind

by Richard B on Jul 25, 2013 3:00 pm • linkreport

As far as GWU making Foggy Bottom more "walkable" -- seriously? A Whole Foods and a few restaurants are welcomed, but it's a small concession after years of land grabbing.

by kob on Jul 25, 2013 3:24 pm • linkreport

I very disappointed in how College Park looks. As renowned as UMD is, RT. 1 should NOT look like it does today. That is a complete failure of the UMD admin, before Loh, the city council, and others. 35,000+ students and thousands of staff and the city and university have done nothing over the past 30 years. Only recently have they realized the potential and have started working on another level. But still, every time I drive through RT. 1, I just shake my head.

by adelphi_sky on Jul 25, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

Given Howard U's recent financial difficulties, their partnership role should be scrutinized carefully.

by Sarah on Jul 25, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

I'm wondering why local taxpayers must subsidize the universities by leaving all their property off the roles and providing a long and expensive array of essential services but without revenue in lieu of taxes. American University, for example, has taken millions out of the DC tax base. That has all been expansions or ownership (some donated properties) outside their campus. I think PILOTs would be appropriate and they are done in other communities. My CM, Mary Cheh, had once promises to introduce legislation in this regards but has not. It has not escaped my attention that she is employed at GWU.

by Tom M on Jul 25, 2013 3:54 pm • linkreport

Richard B, I agree in principle and I don't mean it as a slander but I'm having trouble seeing the average Georgetown student accept the idea of attending class EOTR.

Tom, considering the number of DC residents that moved here to attend a local university (undergrad or grad) and stayed, I don't think tax base is a huge issue. It could be for smaller cities, but DC has the size to absorb it. I mean the current debate is usually centered how how cities can use universities as an engine of growth. Perhaps this is currently less important in DC, but I don't think it's fair to completely discount the role of universities in keeping the city affloat considering how many people they employ.

by Alan B. on Jul 25, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

@Tom M --I am fairly certain that any portion of a university's property that is used for commercial activity (such as restaurants, bookstores, cafes, hotels) is subject to property tax. There may be some threshold (>10% or >50% of square footage used for commercial purposes) that triggers the tax due, but they are paying for commercial use. Those commercial enterprises are also required to collect sales taxes, and the thousands of university employees--at least those who live in DC, are subject to income taxes. Georgetown U is DC's largest non-government employer, and most employees are contributing to the tax rolls in at least one fashion.

As for whether the nonprofit uses should be taxed, would you broaden that to all nonprofits? Nonprofits of a certain size? Or just universities? PILOTs may be an appropriate measure, but I would want to see the economic justification for whether or how much would be appropriate, particularly given the positive economic impact of universities on the District.

by Jacques on Jul 25, 2013 4:27 pm • linkreport

Not to mention universities are associated with some of the best hospitals in the region.

by Alan B. on Jul 25, 2013 4:38 pm • linkreport

@ Jacques -- GU, GWU, and other universities and certainly nonprofits serve (reportedly) a national or international mission. They and their customers/financial supporters should carry the costs of providing essential public services. For profit entities pay property tax, their workers pay taxes (maybe in DC), and contribute to the tax roles. Why should they or large nonprofits be treated differently at the expense of local taxpayers. The President's salary at GU has skyrocketed in the last ten years. So too have the number of highly paid adminstrators at GU. Why should poor residents in Anacostia either subsidize that or forego some services as unaffordable due to so much property untaxed or services provided for free?

by Tom M on Jul 25, 2013 4:40 pm • linkreport

@kob -- I was referring to that development, not to the grand total of GWU's property acquisition. But as for that property, it allows people to shop for (some) groceries without having to get in a car or take a cab up to the Social Safeway--similarly, by providing a range of restaurants within spitting distance of the metro stop, it's much better than the brick walls of the old GW hospital and dozens of other buildings that used to dominate those blocks, so I would say it does add to the walkability.

by Jacques on Jul 25, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

I very disappointed in how College Park looks. As renowned as UMD is, RT. 1 should NOT look like it does today. That is a complete failure of the UMD admin, before Loh, the city council, and others. 35,000+ students and thousands of staff and the city and university have done nothing over the past 30 years. Only recently have they realized the potential and have started working on another level. But still, every time I drive through RT. 1, I just shake my head.

As are most of the student body. The city of college park council is the most anti development/anti student group I have ever seen. They want the students to pack up and be anywhere but the city of college park. They want their rural small town feel despite being inside the beltway, next to a metro station, and originally chartered to serve a class A research institution.

by Richard B on Jul 25, 2013 4:44 pm • linkreport

@Tom M -- How would you characterize nonprofit organizations that should be subject to property (vs. those that shouldn't).

Universities? Foundations? Thinktanks? Churches? National Headquarters of religious organizations? Charter schools? Private K-12 schools? Credit unions?

Should the distinction be made based on size? Or how many employees an organization has? If it's the size of a property, then many existing museums and historic homes would be subject to property tax, not to mention the National Basilica and National Cathedral.

Federal and local tax exemptions for nonprofits are extremely blunt instrument, used to provide benefits to organizations that are deemed to provide some type of public good or service, or are religious in character (whether or not their services are primarily or exclusively provided for local residents), and do it without the aim of enriching shareholders.

The problem with trying to make rules separating out which organizations should be eligible is that governments have to establish explicit criteria along those lines, which means making choices about which types of organizations or activities are worthy of designation, and which ones are not. At a federal level, the IRS designation of 501(c)3 serves that purpose, and most states and localities use that as a credential for tax exemption. If DC wants to parse the non-profit exemption further for local purposes, that is certainly within their rights, but it would also require the creation of a massive new bureaucracy--massive because of the sheer number of nonprofits in DC.

by Jacques on Jul 25, 2013 5:01 pm • linkreport

"If DC wants to parse the non-profit exemption further for local purposes, that is certainly within their rights, but it would also require the creation of a massive new bureaucracy--massive because of the sheer number of nonprofits in DC."

True. And not-for-profit institutions in Washington, DC are a HUGE part of the employment/economic engine in the city. It is sometimes, shall I say, "myopic" to view DC's economy as being just mixed-use buildings full of shiny new condos with wine bars on the ground floor. And many of the residents in such buildings probably work in the not-for-profit sector. To start beating up on the not-for-profit sector in the seemingly insatiable DC thirst for ever more tax revenue would truly be penny-wise and pound-foolish, particularly with two well-run jurisdictions available for institutional relocation/expansion right next door.

by Sarah on Jul 25, 2013 5:21 pm • linkreport

I'm more than a little disappointed that we've never had any serious proposals to establish a world-class PUBLIC university within the District's borders.

Let's face it -- GWU, AU, GU, and MIT serve a very very elite and wealthy crowd (most of whom are not from here). DC needs to seriously consider the educational needs of its own residents before it hands anything more over to these private universities.

by andrew on Jul 25, 2013 5:54 pm • linkreport

The issue Andrew hits upon is one of the reasons that 10 years ago I opted not to move to the District. In the intervening years I took advantage of opportunities to pursue a master's degree and significant community college level courses at in-state tuition rates.

by Bill Cook on Jul 25, 2013 6:47 pm • linkreport

Great piece Jacques - thank you! The George Washington University (GW) does have an excellent track record for development in DC, including the university-owned buildings and sites housing some World Bank/IMF offices, 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue (Red Lion Row - retail and offices) and more recently, The Avenue mixed-use development, which tranformed an entire city block (Square 54) from a tax-exempt use (old GW Hospital) to a dense mixed-use development across from the Metro. Millions of dollars of tax revenue generated by this project now goes to DC annually. GW is the logical partner for the Walter Reed site developer.

by Washingtonian on Jul 25, 2013 6:59 pm • linkreport

College Park sounds no different from most college towns (or the neighborhoods around GU, AU & GW). And having done postgrad work in college towns, I don't blame them--as "adult" places to live, they often have significant drawbacks (people barfing on your lawn, real estate inteersts holding too much sway, etc.).

GW has done some notable things of late with rspect to public health in the community, but if anything DC schools are not the contributors to community that other places of similar prestige are and their weakness in tech areas may account for their limited impact on the overall economic development of the region. DC is full of nonprofits owning prime real estate (not to mention the curches) and unless the employees live in the District, it's ultimately something everyone else subsidizes.

by Rich on Jul 25, 2013 9:15 pm • linkreport

@ Jacques and Sara - It would be easy to limit the "fees in lieu of taxes for supporting services" to larger institutions such as campuses. That requires no bureaucracy. Criteria not dissimilar to those in setting a higher minimum wage for large retailers is a binary decision in implementation. It is hardly "beating up" on nonprofits to ask them to pay a portion of the costs of providing them ample and numerous public services. Isn't it beating up on local taxpayers to require that we subsidize them?

by Tom M on Jul 26, 2013 7:45 am • linkreport

@Tom M -- again, I'm not opposed to the idea of PILOTs for universities, or other non-profits. I would just like to see some analysis of costs incurred by the city for services provided by each university, versus the economic or other benefits provided.

I know that Georgetown, for example, generates much of its electrical needs and pays PEPCO for the rest, runs its own bus system, police and EMS service, each of which offer some benefits to the surrounding community, either by offering direct service or by lessening the reliance of faculty, staff and students on the publicly provided services. GU also pays for MPD reimbursable details to provide additional safety in the community, allows residents to access lawns, libraries and other spaces, and has thousands of students that volunteer weekly at local non-profits. That is outside of the economic impact provided as an employer, or by bringing students (many current or future residents) to the District to add economic activity--and tax revenue.

Each university probably has its own mix of costs to and benefits for the District, and I don't think that a PILOT is a bad policy option to make up the difference. I just want to see the analysis that's used to calculate what a PILOT amount should be, and I would want to make sure it calculates both sides of the ledger.

Without that analysis in place, I wouldn't be clamoring for the institution of a PILOT. And from the way his administration describes higher education as a driver of economic development (through direct employment and as a lever to build workforce capacity), I don't think Mayor Gray is clamoring for it, either.

by Jacques on Jul 26, 2013 9:53 am • linkreport

@Washingtonian - do you work for GW or are in some way associated with them or their WR proposal? There's nothing wrong with that, of course. It's just that your comment reads like a press release: "THE George Washington University" (which no one uses in casual speech)..making sure to point out that it's abbreviated GW and not GWU, as is their standard. Just curious.

by 7r3y3r on Jul 26, 2013 9:56 am • linkreport

As long as ANCs and "civic assocaitions" are given so much power by the Zoning Commission, neighborhood expansion is all but impossible. The Campus Plan process is case in point. Even when attempting to building on their own property, universities are more often than not held hostage by neighbors who have absolutely nothing better to do.

by tatafornow on Jul 26, 2013 10:17 am • linkreport

The GW/Washington Circle development has been fantastic for the neighborhood. No matter what time you go by, there are people out there, hanging out and spending money. Clearly, there was a severe amount of pent up demand for a mixed-use development.It would be wise to spread that style throughout the city where appropriate.

by cmc on Jul 26, 2013 11:44 am • linkreport

Another benefit of students is that they can activate street life at other times of day. A downside is the summer lull but at least then more residents are likely to be out an about (at least on the sub 95+ degree days).

by Alan B. on Jul 26, 2013 3:15 pm • linkreport

I also thought it was funny that the GW shill above brought up 2000 Penn as an example of great mixed-use development. It actually does a very poor job of activating the street - it's not unlike the Georgetown Park mall in that respect, actually.

The same applies to all the other GW buildings in Foggy Bottom that weren't built in the past 5-10 years.

by Phil on Jul 26, 2013 5:07 pm • linkreport

It's good to examine how universities are refocusing on urban areas. Most of DC's universities have sprawl campuses in the hinterlands of the region. GWU, JHU, most recently Howard pushed through a plan to allow for a former agricultural area to be a new real estate development scheme. We need to keep universities, which are major employers, accessible.

by cherylcort on Jul 27, 2013 8:31 am • linkreport

CherylCort: your comment on DC's sprawling campuses in the "hinterlands" is factually incorrect.

GWU, Howard, and GU are all dense campuses located near Metro and major bus lines. Catholic is a larger campus, but also is on a metro line.

All the campuses are much denser than your average state school in the Midwest.
When I think "hinterland," I imagine a place like Harpers Ferry, Poolesville, or Woodbridge.

by Adam on Jul 27, 2013 3:33 pm • linkreport

@ Adam

The only universities in DC that are truly close to a metro station and a busstop are GW and UDC. Go look at Google maps to really see how close those Metro Stations and buses are to the actual campuses.

Howard, GU & Catholic are not so close to Metro Stations and bus lines when you take into account where buildings are. Where is the Admissions building, Gym, Dorms, Cafeteria, Class buildings and how far are each from the Metro station's entrance or Bus stops.

Howard has land that is near the reservoir not located near a bus stop or Metro Station

GU is 3-4 times further to a metro station than the rest are. The same could be said for American

Catholic has buildings that are closer to the Ft Totten metro than Brookland. Not a single Metrobus travels along Harewood Rd where a significant portion of the University is located off of.

------------

Has there ever been any talk about any of the Universities simply moving there entire campus to a place where everything undergraduate and post graduate could be in the same location. What about giving one of the Universities the Walter Reed, DC General, Poplar Point site if they move the entire campus there within 10-20 years.

It would be a massive boom to whatever area it moves to then you would also have new office space from where the university used to be.

by kk on Jul 28, 2013 2:32 am • linkreport

Why are universities are doing so much real estate development? As tuition rises exponentially they are flush with cash, and building brand new (often unnecessary) buildings is the only way they can think of to spend it all.

by Eric on Jul 28, 2013 4:16 am • linkreport

Also worth noting that Gallaudet is working on developing land along its edges (and land it owns just beyond campus) to integrate itself more fully with surrounding neighborhoods like Ivy City, Trinidad, and Near Northeast. It'll help town-gown relations and the school's bottom line.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jul 28, 2013 9:32 am • linkreport

Man, if Catholic has crappy Metro access then your definition of 'good' Metro access is too tight.

@Adam
cherylcort is talking about Howard's campus in Beltsville and probably GWU's tech campus in Loudoun County.

by MLD on Jul 29, 2013 8:26 am • linkreport

George Washington U. has had a philosophy since the 1970's when the first commercial buildings went up on Pa. Avenue that "one building builds another." The taxable investment properties generate revenue to help fund academic and student support facilities. The recent example of this is The Avenue (Sq. 54, old GW Hospital site) which was developed to provide revenue to help fund the new Science and Engineering Hall currently under construction. And "7r3y3r" and "Phil" - I am neither a GW employee/official rep. or a "shill." I am a GW alum and a certified city planner so I am very interested in these kinds of initiatives. I have been very critical of past university projects, in terms of design, location and scale, not to mention historic preservation issues.

by Washingtonian on Jul 29, 2013 12:24 pm • linkreport

Great piece, THB ;) Also, excellent comments in the discussion.

@Alan B.

I agree in principle and I don't mean it as a slander but I'm having trouble seeing the average Georgetown student accept the idea of attending class EOTR.

Depends for what purpose. Certainly it would not be very convenient to where students, especially undergrads, live, and not as 'distinguished' of circumstances. But many nursing students, undergrad and grad, already make the trek to EOTR or PG County for clinicals. I can think of several programs, existing or new, that could make a St. Elizabeth's location make sense.

@Sarah

And not-for-profit institutions in Washington, DC are a HUGE part of the employment/economic engine in the city. It is sometimes, shall I say, "myopic" to view DC's economy as being just mixed-use buildings full of shiny new condos with wine bars on the ground floor. And many of the residents in such buildings probably work in the not-for-profit sector.

100% agreed. This is probably my number one disagreement with otherwise fellow traveler urbanists: a tendency to slip into thinking that there is one ideal urban form - 20+ story mixed-use residential/commercial with ground floor retail - and it should be replicated to the greatest extent possible, with maybe the occasional allowance for a (dog) park every couple of miles. A critical part of cities' vibrancy and attractiveness lies in their diversity. Cookie-cutter mixed-use high-density may be better than cookie-cutter cul-de-sac stripmallia, but it's still undesirable, especially in a metro area with so many good locations for dense development.

@Rich

if anything DC schools are not the contributors to community that other places of similar prestige are and their weakness in tech areas may account for their limited impact on the overall economic development of the region.

Much of the region's economy is based on federal government and related services (management consulting, contracting, research & analysis, lobbying, law, political advocacy, etc.). To that extent, the government/poli-sci/IR/law heavy Georgetown/GW/AU/Howard/Catholic/SAIS do, in fact, contribute a great deal to the local economy, both in terms of education provided and in other ways.

@kk

Howard, GU & Catholic are not so close to Metro Stations and bus lines when you take into account where buildings are. Where is the Admissions building, Gym, Dorms, Cafeteria, Class buildings and how far are each from the Metro station's entrance or Bus stops.

Howard has land that is near the reservoir not located near a bus stop or Metro Station

GU is 3-4 times further to a metro station than the rest are. The same could be said for American

This isn't terribly accurate even at face value - the G2 stops right outside Georgetown's front gates and is very convenient to most of campus, while the D6 has multiple stops adjacent to the Medical Center and the north part of campus; AU and Howard have plenty of buildings very close to Metrobus routes, and AU is moving its law school to a block from the Metro in addition to its other Metro-accessible properties; Catholic's main quad and administration building is 0.3 miles' walk from the Metro station, etc. It is even less accurate when you factor in the extensive shuttle bus services that these schools provide. The GUTS, AU's shuttles, and Howard's campus and metro shuttles all stop along core parts of their respective campuses, at frequencies (during the week) far higher than any Metrobus route.

by Dizzy on Jul 29, 2013 4:50 pm • linkreport

Some questions about GW:

-How does a 1000-car garage located under the Square 54 project qualify as TOD or Smart Growth?

-If 80% of GW's Foggy Bottom land holdings are exempt from taxes but simultaneously receiving the benefit of all city services, how is that a plus for DC?

-Since GW has no campus (just an imaginary boundary) unlike the other universities mentioned, and has pushed out the residential community, what is the advantage to the city?

-In a related question, 85-95% of co-op and condo properties in the immediate GW neighborhood are not owner occupied (many absentee owners), hence a very small income tax base and the highest poverty rate in DC. How is this an advantage to DC?

by LongTimeRez on Jul 29, 2013 5:47 pm • linkreport

@LongTimeRez

I'll give it a shot. I'm not a huge fan of GW - I do think they tend to operate like a for-profit corporation/real estate developer as much as a university - but I think the charges you raised merit addressing.

-How does a 1000-car garage located under the Square 54 project qualify as TOD or Smart Growth?

Well, it qualifies as TOD because it's a big, dense development right on top of a Metro station, so it is very much transit-oriented. As for whether it is Smart Growth or not... I guess the question is, how much parking was the development required to provide due to parking minimum requirements? Hard to make a value judgment without knowing that figure. Personally, my guess is that the combination of having to dig a very deep foundation and having to provide a considerable amount of parking to satisfy the minimum meant that the marginal cost of filling it out with additional levels of parking was not that high. This is another negative side-effect of parking minimums.

-If 80% of GW's Foggy Bottom land holdings are exempt from taxes but simultaneously receiving the benefit of all city services, how is that a plus for DC?

That depends on the value that the University generates: payroll and sales taxes, the hospital, maintenance and provision of public spaces and venues, bringing thousands of educated people into the city, etc. etc. Is that value greater than the foregone property taxes? Personally, I think on balance it is, although some of that value is less tangible - and certainly less fungible - than straight-up cash.

-Since GW has no campus (just an imaginary boundary) unlike the other universities mentioned, and has pushed out the residential community, what is the advantage to the city?

Unless GW managed to obtain eminent domain powers for itself while I wasn't looking, I don't think it's fair to characterize their acquisition of property as "pushing out" the residential community. No one forced property owners to sell to the University en masse, any more than anyone is forcing 'LongTimeRez' property owners in Brookland and LeDroit Park to sell their houses to gentrifying hipsters and decamp for Upper Marlboro. The question of benefit to the city, as in the previous point, comes down to what positive externalities and benefits the University's presence generates.

-In a related question, 85-95% of co-op and condo properties in the immediate GW neighborhood are not owner occupied (many absentee owners), hence a very small income tax base and the highest poverty rate in DC. How is this an advantage to DC?

Do you have a citation for those statistics? In any case, taking them as a given...

This is a somewhat peculiar argument: 'we cannot afford to have non-income tax paying students living here because we have too many non-income tax paying non-students in the city.' Why are the former any less deserving of living in the city than the latter? From a purely self-interested, income-generating perspective, the students are much more likely to become income-tax generating high-wage earners than the individuals who make up that "highest poverty rate in DC."

I can see the logic that if these residences weren't occupied by non-income tax paying students and non-owners, they would be occupied by income tax-paying owners. Even if we assume that would indeed be the case, embracing this logic and privileging income tax payers over non has some serious (and negative) implications for equity and economic diversity, particularly for many long-term residents. Then one has to factor in the benefits that these non-income tax paying residents do nonetheless provide, including the fact that a non-negligible percentage of them will become high wage-earning income-taxpayers in the future (as is the case with my wife and I, who stayed here after college).

There is also the fact that the city's finances are in fairly strong shape as it is, and the city has the capacity to draw and house many more residents, meaning that this is not a zero-sum/either-or question - we can have both non-owners in Foggy Bottom and owners in many other places. Indeed, one of the things that draws people to living in a city is the presence of universities and their associated benefits and amenities. The high poverty rate in DC is a much more long-standing and bigger issue than the question of who is living on several blocks in one specific neighborhood.

by Dizzy on Jul 30, 2013 10:14 am • linkreport

Great responses Dizzy - thanks! Some additional background and context: NCPC and DC in the past approved much larger campus boundaries for George Washington in Foggy Bottom/West End. The approved campus area now is actually smaller in area than it was in the mid-20th century. Then the designated GW campus area was bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue, 19th Street E Street, Virginia Avenue to the Potomac River and K Street back to Washington Circle and Pennsylvania Avenue. So the GW campus has gotten smaller, not larger and now, as agreed to in the 2007 Campus Plan, there will be no new land purchases in the Foggy Bottom neigborhood west of 24th Street. Plus, the university will be ending its use of the City Hall apartment building at 24th & K when the new residence hall is completed on campus. As for parking/TOD/Square 54 - The Avenue: keep in mind that the new GW Hopsital has no parking and replaced the surface parking lot for the old hospital next to the Metro station. The Avenue project was required to provide parking by the District on site and it had to make up for lost parking across the street at the site of the new hospital. It also had to help make up for the removal of the 8-story 1,000+ space University Parking Garage on 22nd Street which has been replaced with the under-construction Science and Engineering Hall. Finally, The Avenue project was granted extra density since it is at a Metro station location in an urban neighborhood.

by Washingtonian on Jul 30, 2013 12:57 pm • linkreport

Thanks for your comments, Dizzy. In what he later claimed was a joke, Steve Trachtenberg commented publicly in the 1990s, "we're running a major buiness corporation here--we do management and real estate... and we do a little education on the side."

Most likely, I should have been less rhetorical and more specific in my observations. Unfortunately, I don't have time right now to elaborate, but will get to it ASAP.

by LongTimeRez on Jul 30, 2013 5:48 pm • linkreport

LTR - please... let's move on, Trachtenberg is no longer president (thankfully) and President Knapp has demonstrated far more sensitivity to neighborhood concerns - heck, he even had the president's residence moved to Foggy Bottom!

by Washingtonian on Jul 30, 2013 8:08 pm • linkreport

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Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

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