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GW redeveloping another square; second Foggy Bottom Metro entrance should be priority

George Washington University has begun early conversations with DC officials for another large redevelopment project on its campus. As the school, the DC government, and the public start discussing the project, all should think about how to make a much-needed second Foggy Bottom Metro entrance a reality.


Crowding at Foggy Bottom Metro. Photo by brownpau on Flickr.

The project will rebuild most of Square 55, between H and I from 22nd to 23rd. This is one block south of Square 54, home to a massive redevelopment project currently under construction. 55 contains three existing residence halls, which will remain, but most of the square contains enormous parking garages and a small unremarkable building on the 23rd Street side.

GW wants to build a new 61,000 square foot science and engineering complex on the site. It would remove 5 of the 7 existing curb cuts and widen the remaining 2 to create a parking entrance on H and a loading entrance on I.

When thinking about GW's growth, a huge issue is the Foggy Bottom Metro, one of the most common sources of rider complaints from overcrowding at the entrance. Foggy Bottom is DC's highest ridership station with only a single mezzanine; Rosslyn and Pentagon are the only two with more traffic and one mezzanine. Rosslyn is getting a second entrance, and Pentagon has two sets of escalators in an uncommon configuration.

WMATA studied possible locations for a second entrance. The most logical site is the corner of 22nd and I, at the eastern end of the current station and closer to most of the campus and downtown.

WMATA suggested the southeast corner of 22nd and I, which is mostly empty save for a small brick townhouse which the current GW Master Plan calls to remove. According to officials from the Office of Planning, GW has agreed to reserve space for this entrance when they eventually redevelop that square, Square 77, which is just to the east of Square 55.


Design for second Foggy Bottom Metro entrance. Image from WMATA.

I couldn't get clear information about whether the agreement includes actually building the mezzanine, which on WMATA's plans will go under 22nd Street and overlap pieces of both Square 77 and Square 55, or building the escalator entrance versus simply leaving empty space for it and demanding DC or WMATA pay part of the construction cost for the building.

Arlington has successfully asked developers to pay the full cost of new entrances as part of projects, though they can authorize far, far taller buildings than DC can. DC is very cash-strapped today, and has a number of other high priority capital projects including streetcars and the Union Station north entrance expansion.

GW is already going to dig down many levels for parking in the Square 55 project. Perhaps they can construct all or part of the necessary mezzanine now, while there's a big hole in the ground. A new entrance would benefit GW employees most of all.

This PUD will implement part of the existing campus plan, which unfortunately does not include a new entrance in its transportation section. However, according to Foggy Bottom Association director Greg Snyder, GW has been using PUDs to push for some extra density beyond that called for in the campus plan in some areas. If they want extra flexibility, OP and the Zoning Commission should ask them to give their employees extra flexibility as well and reduce traffic in the neighborhood by contributing to an extra entrance.

A new entrance won't happen without leadership from the DC government. OP and DDOT should keep this priority in mind as they discuss ongoing campus redevelopment with GW, and figure out how to best get the entrance built with minimal public money. Otherwise, development may proceed without an entrance, foreclosing the opportunity for a long time.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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If past GW-Foggy Bottom experiences is any indication, those expansion plans will be in for a rough going with the ANC and local community, especially if anyone tries to throw up "historic" designations for the two buildings that will need to be demolished.

by Fritz on Oct 25, 2010 12:36 pm • linkreport

Don't demolish women's studies!!!

by Simon on Oct 25, 2010 12:48 pm • linkreport

Is there any way to coerce (or make GW understand that it's in their best interest to) at least rough-in a new entrance? Many jurisdictions make demands on developers who want to develop certain parcels of property; oftentimes these are mandatory road costs like building a new highway exit, widening an access road, or building extra parking.

Is it possible, then, for DC to require any redevelopment of the plot to include a new Metro entrance? I personally think that the university has been a good neighbor and partner with the city, but unlike universities on a traditional campus setting there are little requirements placed on them for the maintenance of public infrastructure. I think GWU should be willing to at least maintain the possibility of an additional entrance to the station.

by Adam L on Oct 25, 2010 1:13 pm • linkreport

@ Adam L: Is there any way to coerce (or make GW understand that it's in their best interest to) at least rough-in a new entrance?

GW has decided to build the building and now needs to solicit M$200 from donors to get started. This is not pocket change. Can you imagine going to an donor with the question if they could please donate money for the expansion of DCs crumbling metrosystem? Or would you think that donors rather donate to see their money used for education and science? An extra entry that will not solve the problem of the terribly crowded platforms.

GW has been forced to allow retail at the ground level, thereby forfeiting a floor of very precious teaching and lab space [the space being precious die to height restrictions].

GW's new president has noted when he come into office that he was surprised that DC was doing very little for GW, even though it is the city's largest private employer. There is a point at which DC will push scientists from the downtown campus to the Loudoun campus. Mind you, the scientists that work at the Loudoun campus are not happy when they have to come downtown. Some new faculty would much rather work in Loudon than in DC.

All I'm saying is that it is very easy to keep making demands from universities in this city, but that universities don't have infinite funding either. GW has one of the highest tuitions because its endowment is rather low. One would think that DC would like to keep the universities within its borders.

by Jasper on Oct 25, 2010 2:01 pm • linkreport

"Arlington has successfully asked developers to pay the full cost of new entrances as part of projects, though they can authorize far, far taller buildings than DC can."

Hmm. Which entrances are these? The ones in Rosslyn are going to be built by government money. Courthouse -- maybe, but the main entrace already existed before a developed dropped a 3 story building on it. Virginia Square? Clarendon? Ballston? Pentagon City?

by charlie on Oct 25, 2010 2:04 pm • linkreport

@Jasper

I understand that. I would think that if they're raising the money anyway to pay for construction, design fees, etc. that public accommodations (especially those that benefit the university) are just part of the overall cost of a project. I'm not asking GWU to build a new metro station, just leave an area where a new entrance could potentially go.

In addition, as much as I like GWU, it being the "largest private employer" doesn't mean very much. The university is a non-profit and therefore doesn't pay taxes on its earnings or property. Many of GWU's employees do not live in the District either. Yet the District still pays for the upkeep of the public spaces around GWU's property and I'm sure the university expects city services. Even the GWU hospital (which employs most of the university's staff) is run by a for-profit company, United Health Services, which is located in (and pays its taxes to) Pennsylvania.

So I understand that are are thousands of other benefits D.C. gets from having GW located here like attracting for-profit companies to D.C. to be located near GWU or money spent by college students at local stores and restaurants. I get that and I certainly don't wish to drive GWU out of the city; however, I don't think leaving space for a new Metro entrance is too much to ask, especially since the university will be the prime beneficiary.

by Adam L on Oct 25, 2010 2:40 pm • linkreport

I assume this would be a "win" in the eyes of the ANC because it would take strain off of the 23rd Street entrance which is closer to the neighbors. It would also ease pedestrian traffic crossing 23rd Street.

It's interesting that the planned East platform exit only includes stairs (and not escalators) to the mezzanine level. It seems that would inhibit flow to the 22nd Street exit.

While GW is a non-profit, it does contribute to the district in other ways. For one, its thousands of employees (and alumni) certainly end up paying plenty of income taxes in DC. The university's continued campus development is a windfall for area construction and design companies as well.

by Fabian on Oct 25, 2010 4:02 pm • linkreport

While discussing the need for additional parking on Square 55 and an additional entrance at this location, GWU should encourage the District government to work with Metro to develop a University Pass program which would give students unlimited access to the transit system. Students at GWU and the University of the District of Columbia, along with other schools in the city, have been interested in such a program for a number of years. The university would contract with the transit agency to pay an annual lump sum based on expected student ridership and students are provided with a pass to ride on buses and trains. The annual payment comes from a fee the university would assess on all full time students.

Benefits to the unversity and students include reduced demand for parking, reduced transportation costs for students and improved student mobility. The surrounding residential community and the city benefits from congestion reduction, air quality improvements and reduced parking impacts on surrounding neighborhoods.

This best practice program has been implemented at transit agencies in a number of cities including Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Dallas.

by Douglas Stallworth on Oct 25, 2010 4:12 pm • linkreport

@Douglas

That's a great idea, and the District should encourage it - but why not have the Universities negotiate with Metro directly? Why have the District as the middleman? There are universities in the region that connect to the Metro system outside of the District.

by Alex B. on Oct 25, 2010 4:18 pm • linkreport

Arlington has successfully asked developers to pay the full cost of new entrances as part of projects

Well, they may have been successful in asking, but not very successful in having them built.

by Juanita de Talmas on Oct 25, 2010 4:20 pm • linkreport

@ Adam L: Many of GWU's employees do not live in the District either.

I think you underestimate the number of old (and therefore highly paid) faculty that live in the District. Young faculty can not afford to live in the District - GW actually pays less than the national average. The university refuses to even acknowledge this. [Insert rant about Ward 7 and 8 having affordable housing if you want, but it won't change a thing.]

Yet the District still pays for the upkeep of the public spaces around GWU's property and I'm sure the university expects city services.

GW would love to take care of those public spaces (which ones?). The city refuses to allow GW to put some decent road signs. Meanwhile, GW is required to fulfill its legal obligations of keeping "its" sidewalks clean. GW is not happy with this. I am not sure what city services you mean. UPD?

So I understand that are are thousands of other benefits D.C. gets from having GW located here like attracting for-profit companies to D.C. to be located near GWU or money spent by college students at local stores and restaurants.

Those are rather short-sighted benefits.

I get that and I certainly don't wish to drive GWU out of the city; however, I don't think leaving space for a new Metro entrance is too much to ask, especially since the university will be the prime beneficiary.

You act as if this is the first thing that would be asked of GW. But GW already has made space for a metro exit. GW has already created quite some ground floor retail. GW has accepted a cap on the student number. And I am sure that I am missing many more things.

Compare that to the things that have been asked of other Foggy Bottom occupants. Does the State Dept have a metro stop? No, they took a road lane. Does the Red Cross have ground floor retail? Dept of Interior? The Fed? Kennedy Center? IMF? World Bank? Anybody? Anything?

BTW: I am not necessarily representing my opinion here. Just trying to give a sense from the GW POV.

by Jasper on Oct 25, 2010 4:49 pm • linkreport

@Douglas Stallworth: I can confirm that Pittsburgh's version of University Pass is very popular and generally seen as very positive for the student and resident communities. The difference, though, is that Pittsburgh's transit authority encourages riders to subscribe to monthly unlimited ride passes. WMATA does not. Even high school students are not allowed to buy the SmartStudent Pass unless they can prove that they NEED to use Metro to get to or from school. The problem, in short, is not WMATA's student policy, but WMATA's anti-pass bias.

by tom veil on Oct 25, 2010 4:57 pm • linkreport

@Jasper

Yes, you hit the nail on the head. Life is unfair. The Feds and other non-for-profit international institutions don't have to play by the same rules as everybody else. Welcome to life in the District.

However, I don't think DC is singling out GWU by insisting to keep sidewalks clear or zoning laws that require a certain level of ground-level retail, since these apply to all local businesses. Despite disputes over signage, I'm pretty sure GWU wouldn't like to pay for the cost of maintaining its own roads, fire/EMS service, or contributing directly to WMATA (remember: the Metro funding formulas bases part of what city taxpayers owe by how many people use stations in DC regardless of where those people live).

by Adam L on Oct 25, 2010 5:29 pm • linkreport

In response to Tom's comments above, I was responsible for developing the SmartStudent Pass while working for DDOT in coordination with WMATA in 2000. In order to subsidize the program, city legislation requires that the student live in the District, be under the age of 21 except for special education students, and need to travel to and from public, private or parochial schools and to and from related educational activities.

In response to Alex above, the District is needed as a middleman to assist in establishing a University Pass program because the Metro Board must approve the program and the District has two voting members on the Board who must support its implementation.

by Douglas Stallworth on Oct 25, 2010 5:33 pm • linkreport

Slight correction to the above: Metro bases it's rail funding formula on the residency of the rider; but despite D.C. residents being only 25% of the service area population and 28% of the rail ridership, D.C. taxpayers manage to be on the hook for 34% of Metrorail's operating subsidy.

by Adam L on Oct 25, 2010 5:46 pm • linkreport

The IMF, world bank and IFC have tried to put in some ground floor retail. EU delegation kept the starbucks. Not sure it is fair to blame State Department for not having Metro access...they do run shuttle buses from Rosslyn. And they are talking about doing ground floor retail for the GAO offices. So there is some effort by other entities to play nice.

I'd rather see GW put in bike sharing stations at their expense. Far too many spoiled (foreign) kids in cars on that campus.

by charlie on Oct 25, 2010 5:51 pm • linkreport

It is difficult to believe that GW really pays its faculty less than the "national average". Do you have any references? Thank you

by Fred on Oct 25, 2010 5:55 pm • linkreport

As of 2006, GW's salaries were in the 80th percentile.

The average full-time professor salary at GW increased by 7.7 percent in January 2006 to $118,802 per year from the July 2004 mark. The average associate professor salary is now $84,307, a 4.5 percent increase and the assistant professor salary is $69,300, a 9.7 percent increase, according to a Faculty Senate report.

by jcm on Oct 25, 2010 6:40 pm • linkreport

@jasper: The IMF and the Kennedy Center obviously have ground-floor retail, for what it's worth.

by Herschel on Oct 25, 2010 7:39 pm • linkreport

@ Adam L: Life is unfair.

Just as long as you realize that your adding to the unfairness for your benefit.

However, I don't think DC is singling out GWU by insisting to keep sidewalks clear or zoning laws that require a certain level of ground-level retail, since these apply to all local businesses.

Within Foggy Bottom, it is. Nobody else is asked to do ground floor retail. Or at least, they're just refusing. Also, the Red Cross, no part of the Federal Government. IMF, nup. Worldbank, nup. The Fed, technically, no part of the government.

I'm pretty sure GWU wouldn't like to pay for the cost of maintaining its own roads, fire/EMS service, or contributing directly to WMATA (remember: the Metro funding formulas bases part of what city taxpayers owe by how many people use stations in DC regardless of where those people live).

I bet GW would be happy to be able to fix the neglected roads through its campus. EMS service? Run by the GWUMC.

by Jasper on Oct 25, 2010 8:13 pm • linkreport

the Red Cross, no part of the Federal Government. IMF, nup. Worldbank, nup. The Fed, technically, no part of the government.

Red cross was built prior to those zoning changes, and the others are international or otherwise exempt from local regs.

Also too, Fire/EMS comes as a package

by Adam L on Oct 25, 2010 8:41 pm • linkreport

@Adam L: I'm not sure what your point is regarding what is and isn't part of the Federal government, but the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System is most decidedly part of the Federal government. The Federal Reserve System as a whole, no; the Board of Governors, yes. And it's the Board of Governors that lives in Foggy Bottom.

by Herschel on Oct 25, 2010 11:38 pm • linkreport

@Herschel

The quote was from Jasper (above), I forgot to use the appropriate " " marks. Apologies.

by Adam L on Oct 26, 2010 12:26 am • linkreport

Corrections:

1. The current building on 23rd Street, #817 to be exact, is actually quite significant architectually. The former women's gymnasium, known as Building K, has a beautiful art deco facade consisting of a glass block wall and entrance marquee. Since the three surrounding art deco residence halls, Fulbright, Jaqueline Kennedy Bouvier Onassis and Munson have DC landmark designation, this gem of a building should at least have its facade preserved and incorporated into the new development.

2. GW does not have a small endowment, it is well over $1 Billion and it is the largest of all university endowments in DC.

by GWalum on Oct 26, 2010 10:55 am • linkreport

@ GWalum: GW does not have a small endowment, it is well over $1 Billion and it is the largest of all university endowments in DC.

You are correct that it is about G$1, but that is not a lot. Comparing only to DC schools is rather short-sighted.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_colleges_and_universities_in_the_United_States_by_endowment

Just sort on the 2009 column, and you'll find GW at the thrid lowest spot in the table. It does not appear in the endowment/student table, a based on ~25k students it's about ~40k per student, not a whole lot. This is one of the reasons why GW tuition is so high. Growing the endowment is the main job of the new president.

FYI: Georgetown's endowment is also about G$1, but Georgetown has only 15k students.

by Jasper on Oct 27, 2010 11:15 am • linkreport

Wait a second - the post shows a WMATA plan with a mezzanine under the intersection, and escalators running up to the SE corner or 22nd & I. So why does the WMATA plan need to be redesigned to move the exits to the SW corner? Why not the NW corner, where Boston Properties has a for profit development? Why not stick with the planned layout and wait for redevelopment of the SE corner?
As for "Arlington County being able to coerce developers to build additional station entrances", my old civic association lobbied for a West Ballston entrance for years. The county's effort was a fiasco. The Board granted millions of dollars of bonus density to JBG in return for a contribution towards WMATA design costs, and a building layout that reserves space for the future escalator. There was never any suggestion to have the developer pay the cost of building a mezzanine in the station under Fairfax Drive.

by John H on Nov 24, 2010 1:52 pm • linkreport

A transportation impact study for the Square 55 redevelopment is available here, as of November 20th: http://neighborhood.gwu.edu/campusdev/docs/sec/2010%20nov%20filing/Exhibit%20H%20-%20GW55%20-%20TIS.pdf

On page 22, it mentions a study (to be completed in 2012) being undertaken for an east entrance to the FB-GWU metro station. It isn't clear who, exactly, is commissioning the study - but the information came from the National Capitol Region Transportation Research Board.

by ED on Nov 25, 2010 12:40 pm • linkreport

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