News and Analysis

Rice Hall, GW's main administrative building, will be transformed into part of a new commercial development over the next few years. Hatchet file photo.

Rice Hall, GW’s main administrative building, will be transformed into part of a new commercial development over the next few years. Hatchet file photo.

GW will transform its main administrative building and its property at 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. into a new location featuring retail and commercial office space, officials announced Monday.

The redevelopment will be done in partnership with Boston Properties, which led the redevelopment of The Avenue property at 2200 Pennsylvania Ave. that features apartments and retail locations like Whole Foods. Revenue from The Avenue largely helped to fund the construction of the Science and Engineering Hall after original fundraising plans for the complex fell through.

The addition of The Avenue also marked a major economic victory for the University, as it drew in both local restaurateurs and national chains and proved itself to be a consistent and plentiful source of revenue.

The Board of Trustees had previously approved the agreement and officials finished negotiations with Boston Properties this month, according to the release. Community organizations like the Advisory Neighborhood Commission as well as District organizations like the Zoning Commission still need to approve the plans.

Lou Katz, the executive vice president and treasurer, said in the release that the additional revenue will be used to support academics.

“GW is excited by the opportunity to once again partner with Boston Properties to deliver a first-class commercial development that will activate the Foggy Bottom Campus,” Katz said.

Katz added that the buildings are under a long-term ground lease that allows landlords the authority to make improvements to the property once the lease expires.

Rice Hall, located at 2121 I St., currently houses University administrators, including University President Steven Knapp. Those offices will be moved to different locations depending on the purpose of the departments, and tenants in the 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. building will also be emptied out, including businesses like TGI Fridays.

Officials plan for Rice Hall offices to be cleared out by December 2018 and the Pennsylvania Avenue property to be emptied by June 2019, according to the release.

An architectural firm will conduct a study to find the best locations for GW offices misplaced by the redevelopment, the release said. The findings will be added to a current study aimed at reducing the amount spent on leased spaces.

The 2007 Campus Plan previously approved of utilizing the bottom floor of Rice Hall as retail space, but the change in plans will require an amendment to the plan, according to the release.

The University previously partnered up with the developing company Skanska in 2014 for a multi-million dollar development plan for GW properties along Pennsylvania Avenue, known as Square 75, that includes parts of 2100 Pennsylvania Ave.

The plan to revamp Square 75 was presented to a zoning board in 2012, and D.C. granted the project permits last year.

Ray Ritchey, the senior executive vice president of Boston Properties, said in the release that the company is “thankful” to complete another project with GW.

“We stand ready to accept that challenge and couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity,” Ritchey said in the release.

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Colonial Inauguration will be altered this summer to increase the orientation program’s focus on academics and to reduce costs for families, according to a University release Monday.

CI will be held more frequently with smaller groups of students and without parent programming starting summer 2017, according to the release.

Provost Forrest Maltzman said in the release that the changes will reduce costs for families traveling to D.C. and will help students feel more academically prepared.

“We want to ensure Colonial Inauguration best meets the needs of our students and their families,” Maltzman said.

The summer sessions will be for students only, and programming for parents will be offered online during the summer, move-in weekend in August and Colonials Weekend in October, according to the release.

The CI sessions for domestic students will be offered over six two-day periods in June, as opposed to three three-day periods as they were in years past, according to the release.

International and transfer students as well as first-year domestic students who cannot attend a June session will still be able to attend CI in August, according to the release.

Students will participate in additional programming during move-in weekend, according to the release. Administrators will continue to restructure parent programs and will release more updates this spring.

The Division of Student Affairs, which organizes CI, discussed potential changes with students as part of a review process, according to the release.

Student Association President Erika Feinman said in the release that they were happy administrators considered students’ input when making changes.

“We are eager to see how the new program plays out, and we hope it returns the expected results,” Feinman said.

Peter Konwerski, the vice provost and dean of student affairs, said in the release that CI is often the first time students are able to experience campus and begin their transitions to GW.

“So it is especially important for us to regularly review programs such as CI to help us continue to meet our students’ needs and set them up for success even before they officially start their first year,” Konwerski said.

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Updated: Dec. 15, 2016 at 12:16 p.m.

A man who had been barred from campus was arrested for unlawful entry in Shenkman Hall early Wednesday morning, according to a Metropolitan Police Department report.

MPD Officer Paris Van Burren was patrolling the area at 2:57 a.m. when he noticed the man in the closed food court after it had closed and concluded that he did not look like a student, according to the report.

The document states that after an investigation, officers determined the individual had been barred from the food court previously.

The man was then arrested and taken to the Second District station, the report said. There officers found that there was an open warrant for the man for failure to appear.

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Updated: Dec. 15, 2016 at 12:01 p.m.

University Police Department officers arrested a man Tuesday, who previously was barred from University property and was found sleeping against Ross Hall, according to a report from the Metropolitan Police Department.

After twice refusing to move, the man was placed under arrest for unlawful entry, the police report states.

UPD officer Joseph Sneddon noticed the man sleeping by the east side of the building behind a Metro bus shelter while patrolling the area shortly before 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to the report.

Sneddon remembered the man fit a description of an individual barred from University property and was known to be “violent toward law enforcement when contacted,” the document states.

The report said Sneddon then asked for assistance prompting the arrival of two other UPD officers, Christopher Coleman and Bengyella Doh.

After approaching the man, the offices found he was “not responsive to verbal commands.” UPD then contacted EMeRG, but the man told EMeRG he did not need help. He was arrested and MPD was contacted to transport the man to the Second District station, according to the report.

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A man who had been previously barred from University property was arrested for unlawful entry in Shenkman Hall Saturday, according to a public incident report.

At about 5:30 p.m., a University Police Department officer noticed the man in the food court and recognized he was barred from University property, according to the report.

The officer arrested the individual who was then taken to Second District police station for processing, according to the report.

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D.C. Fire and EMS responded to an alarm at the Letterman House on F St. Sam Hartgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

D.C. Fire and EMS responded to an alarm at the Letterman House on F street. Sam Hartgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

Residents evacuated the Letterman House Tuesday afternoon after smoke was detected the ninth floor, officials said.

D.C. Fire and EMS responded to an automatic notification from a fire alarm that was set off in the building on 21st and F streets at around 3 p.m.

Officers found smoke from burnt food on the building’s ninth floor, D.C. FEMS spokesman Vito Maggiolo said.

“The incident was under control,” he said.

Four fire trucks responded to the scene.

Residents were allowed to re-enter the building at about 3:25 p.m.

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Police are offering a reward of up to $5,000 to find a person of interest for an attempted bank robbery that occurred Thursday afternoon, according to a bulletin sent out by the Metropolitan Police Department.

A man entered Citibank at 2221 I St. at 2:41 p.m. on Thursday and gave the teller a note that said “got gun 7500 no dye packs,” according to a public incident report. After the teller went to give the note to her supervisor and came back, the man was seen leaving the bank and did not receive any money during the exchange, according to the report.

The offenses listed in the report include the attempted bank robbery as well as “incidental crimes [with the] value exceeding $1,000.”

The person of interest is described as a black male between 6’2 and 6’5 with a “thin build” wearing a hard hat, yellow safety vest, a black sweatshirt, black sweatpants and black gloves.

The MPD bulletin includes a photo of the person of interest but says the name of the individual is unknown.

MPD asks those with information to call (202) 727-9099.

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Monday, Dec. 12, 2016 4:55 p.m.

University sells GW Inn for $30.5 million

The University has sold the GW Inn for $30.5 million, the Washington Business Journal reported Monday.

The hotel group Westmont Hospitality likely bought the property because the address of the buyer’s agent was the same as the company’s Houston business office, according to the Washington Business Journal.

The sales report for the inn showed a $6.1 million loan for the property, specifically for building updates, indicating the potential for renovations, the Washington Business Journal reported.

Alicia Knight, the senior associate vice president for operations, told the Washington Business Journal that officials consistently consider the benefits of owning properties.

“GW considers the sale of assets in cases where market demand exists and it may no longer be strategic for the university to own and maintain a property over the long term,” Knight said.

The hotel, located on New Hampshire Avenue, was purchased by GW in 1994. Modus Hotels currently runs the 95-room inn, according to the Washington Business Journal.

The GW Inn is the most recent in a string of properties the University has sold this year.

The former provost’s house on W Street near the Mount Vernon Campus was sold in September for $1.725 million. Officials said money from the sale would go toward financial aid for students in the Women’s Leadership Program and the University Honors Program, which are both housed on the Mount Vernon Campus.

GW also sold the Hall on Virginia Avenue in August for $36 million and City Hall in June for $78 million.

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Joseph Cordes, the chair of the Faculty Senate's fiscal planning and budget committee, said that the layoffs announced in May helped GW to improve its operating margin ahead of schedule. Jack Borowiak | Hatchet Photographer

Joseph Cordes, the chair of the Faculty Senate’s fiscal planning and budget committee, said that the layoffs announced in May helped GW to improve its operating margin ahead of schedule. Jack Borowiak | Hatchet Photographer

GW’s operating surplus was higher than expected during fiscal year 2016, putting the University ahead of schedule on its five-year revenue projections.

Joseph Cordes, a professor of economics, public policy and administration and international affairs, and chair of the Faculty Senate’s fiscal planning and budgeting committee, said that the operating revenue increased by 3.7 percent from fiscal year 2015 to fiscal year 2016, and the operating expenses decreased by 0.4 percent, leaving the University with a positive operating margin of $30,466.

This follows two consecutive years of operating at a deficit – in fiscal year 2015, the operating margin was at negative $12,484.

“We did achieve something which we haven’t for a while, we were almost balanced in terms of the total sources used,” Cordes said. “We’ve had negative operating margins for some years, that’s been a matter of some concern. Last year it flipped rather dramatically.”

He said that although operating margin is not the only indicator of financial performance, it is an important indicator of the University’s overall financial health, particularly to credit rating agencies. Both Moody’s and S&P have maintained stable ratings of the University.

“The bond rating agencies care about this,” Cordes said. “They always mention the University’s operating surpluses in their ratings reports and for the last couple of years they’ve been pointing out they haven’t been as strong as in prior years. So this is good news.”

Cordes said that lower expenditures in personnel costs because of layoffs and vacancies in positions were the primary cause of the positive operating margin.

“In the last fiscal year which closed in July, revenue grew by 3.7 percent,” Cordes said. “What’s more important is that expenses decreased by about four-tenths of a percent. The latter number reflects the efforts that all parts of the university have been making to reduce costs by leaving positions vacant or in some cases layoffs unfortunately.”

Officials began the first round of 3 to 5 percent budget cuts last fiscal year, and those cuts will continue each year for the next four years. Leaders announced in May the consolidation of several offices as part of the cuts, as well as the elimination of 40 positions in May 2016.

Rene Stewart O’Neal, the vice provost for budget and finance, said in an interview that when the University switched to a five-year revenue projection plan in 2014, administrators identified about $100 million in cuts that would need to be made over five years.

O’Neal said that although fiscal year 2016’s operating surplus means that some of these savings were achieved earlier than expected, cuts will still have to be made.

“The overall message is that the University’s finances are healthy,” O’Neal said. “We have challenges, but we have plans in place and strategies to meet those challenges.”

O’Neal said that many of the savings came from delays in hiring for vacant positions, a situation that cannot happen every year because those positions need to be filled in order to make progress on University initiatives. She said administrators will continue to be vigilant with various divisions in helping them identify the best ways to leverage currently available resources and to be very “intentional” when hiring for new positions.

“It’s wonderful that the budget expenses reflected the fact that those initiatives worked,” she said.

Provost Forrest Maltzman said in an interview that the operating surplus is partly a reflection of the positive effect that the new budget model has had on finances in the individual schools. Fiscal year 2016 was the first full year of a decentralized budget model for the University, placing more power in the hands of the individual schools and deans.

“Last year all of our schools ended up fiscally in a really good spot,” Maltzman said. “The reason we did okay last year was because everybody really met their expectations, and the new budget model definitely gave incentive for some of the schools to meet their own.”

Maltzman said that barring any “dramatic” shifts in enrollment or expenses, the University is generally on track with its financial projections for the next few years.

The budget for fiscal year 2017, which was approved in May by the Board of Trustees, projects that the operating surplus will be positive again, at $27,578.

Maltzman said that because increasing tuition and enrollment are not feasible options for increasing revenue, central offices will have to continue to find ways to cut costs over the next few years to maintain good financial health.

“It is very very clear also that there are all sorts of things that are on the horizon, and we have to be very mindful of our budget, we have to keep investing in new areas,” Maltzman said. “The innovation that we do going forward is going to have to depend upon people making difficult reallocation decisions.”

Cort Carlson contributed reporting.

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Officials laid out their responses to student demands on protecting undocumented students in a statement Wednesday.

In the email, the University stated five principles to show their “commitment to the safety and success of all GW students.” This comes after students presented a list of demands to administrators in the wake of the incoming President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

The statement reads that officials will continue provide information to undocumented students on how to apply to GW and request financial aid, and will not require that admitted or current students provide proof of citizenship, according to the release.

The university will also assist undocumented students through GW Law School’s immigration law clinic and confidential student records regarding immigration status of undocumented students will not be released. Students will not be questioned, held or arrested by the GW Police Department on the basis of immigration status alone and UPD officers will not participate in joint immigration enforcement efforts unless required by law, according to the release.

Last month, University President Steven Knapp joined more than 180 other university presidents nationwide in a letter supporting a program that prevents the deportation of young undocumented citizens.

Students held several events in the days after the election, including a walk-out with more than 400 participants. The walk-out was a part of a national effort on campuses to demand that university administrators create a campus that is deemed safe for students of color, immigrants, undocumented students and members of other marginalized groups.

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