News and Analysis


2007 Campus Plan

The reception and help desks will be relocated to the entrance floor, from the basement floor. Sarah Ferris | Hatchet Staff Photographer

GW officially unveiled Gelman Library renovations Monday morning, showing off a glittering new entrance and expansive second-floor study space meant to modernize the 40-year-old building. A grand staircase now leads patrons to the building, instead of an opening that brought students downstairs into a “cave-like” atmosphere, as University President Steven Knapp had put it. As part of the $16-million renovations, students also will be able to find more space to work in groups, and new technology to aid research.

But the renovations are about six years in the making, after administrators, faculty and students pressured GW’s top brass to make Gelman a priority. Here’s a look back at how the Gelman renovations came to be.

Hatchet File Photo

2007: Plans outlined for library’s facelift

Gelman Library, built in 1973 during Lloyd Elliott‘s presidency, was flagged for renovations during GW’s sprawling 2007 Campus Plan. The plan, which also sketched construction for residence halls and the Science and Engineering Hall, put Gelman in a long line of GW priorities.

2009: Chief librarian says GW ignoring Gelman

Jack Siggins, who led Gelman until last summer,

Jack Siggins. Hatchet File Photo

admonished administrators and the Board of Trustees for failing to get specific on when they would begin dealing out funds to upgrade the library. He said library surveys had shown that students were fed up with a lack of study space and electrical outlets – and that Gelman had failed to keep up with GW’s expanded student body. “The senior administration of the University has other priorities,” he said. “This is not one of them.”

Plans for the renovations stalled again later that year because the library fundraising lagged.

The Senior Class Gift celebration. Hatchet File Photo

2010: Students step up to advocate for Gelman funding

Students began pressuring GW to accelerate efforts to refurbish the library – speaking up through student lobbyists, social media and their own wallets. About $31,000 of the money students raised for the Senior Class Gift was doled out to Gelman Library. Students took to Facebook to rally support for new library space, and Student Association leaders declared that advocating for more library funds would be their top priority.

2011: Board of Trustees allocates $16 million for Gelman renovations, blueprints unveiled

Renderings of Gelman renovations sat in the library in 2011. Hatchet File Photo

Gelman’s proposed renovations got an official green light in May 2011 when the Board of Trustees approved $16 million for the project. Administrators said they would pay for half of the project with fundraising dollars, though they would likely borrow and dip into their capital reserve fund to also pay for it.

Provost Steven Lerman said student demand for upgrades helped propel the project forward: “I wasn’t hearing from students or from faculty that we need a vast improvement in the collection. I was hearing the students say ‘We need better study space’ and they’re right. Gelman’s jammed, particularly around finals time.”

In fall 2011, GW revealed that the project would feature a new entrance in Kogan Plaza that would lead students up to the second floor of the building, which then housed administrative offices and event space. The work was done by Cox Graae + Spack Architects.

Gelman Library closed for two days in April due to sweltering heat. Hatchet File Photo by Delaney Walsh | Photo Editor

2013: Library continues to fight off funding issues, old age

As renovations to the new entrance floor of Gelman were winding down, the library still faced money woes in 2013. A pair of librarians from University of Virginia and Columbia University consulted on the library’s funding, telling a faculty committee that the library comes up short. Funding for the library’s collections has stayed at about $4 million for a decade.

“Apparently to objective outside observers, Gelman is in really, very bad shape and is in need of attention for funds for collections, as well as for staff, and so on,” English professor David McAleavey said at a Faculty Senate committee meeting in March.

In April, the library faced two days of shutdown, as temperatures inside soared to 90 degrees due to a failed cooling system.

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The University will demolish the interior of The Schenley, as well as Crawford Hall and The West End, to make way for the “superdorm.” Delaney Walsh | Photo Editor

GW is cleared to demolish three residence halls to make way for the $130 million “superdorm,” a D.C. agency decided last week.

The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs issued permits last week authorizing the University to raze in the interiors of  Crawford Hall, The Schenley and The West End, retaining nothing but the buildings’ historical facades.

The residence hall, which will house about 900 sophomores and juniors starting in 2016, will allow GW to expand its campus footprint by mandating on-campus housing for juniors starting with the Class of 2018. The “superdorm” will also include open study space, as well as shops and restaurants.

The University secured the permits for the demolition after overcoming a political hurdle this month. Foggy Bottom neighbors and local officials had tussled with GW over the closure of the public alleyway that sits in between the historical residence halls – a $2.8 million piece of land that University officials said they already acquired from the 2007 campus plan.

The D.C. Council unanimously approved the University’s application to close the public alleyway on July 10, but only after neighborhood leaders unsuccessfully petitioned the governing body to deny the University’s request.

In May, the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission sought to leverage the rights over the public alleyway to coax GW into contributing $700,000 toward constructing a second entrance to the Foggy Bottom Metro station.

While pledging to “leverage additional funds” to build a second entrance for the Metro stop, Ward 2 D.C. Council member and 2014 mayoral candidate Jack Evans thwarted the ANC’s efforts at the council’s July 10 meeting.

“I believe that this can be accomplished through a joint effort of everyone in the community, the University and other businesses,” Evans said. “That is the approach I will take.”

Construction crews began work this summer on the residence halls, which are set for demolition by late 2013.

The University will connect the three buildings into one by adding a 12-story, modern infill. The residence halls were built during the 1920s and deemed historic in 2007 when the University created its 20-year campus plan.

Colleen Murphy contributed to this report.

This post was updated July 29 at 12:14 p.m. to reflect the following:

Correction appended

Due to an editing error, The Hatchet named the cost of the “superdorm” as $130. It costs, of course, $130 million.

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President Steven Knapp speaks with Foggy Bottom Association President Asher Corson at one of the group's meetings Wednesday. Shannon Brown | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Cydney Hargis

University President Steven Knapp addressed community concerns about the 2007 Campus Plan at a neighborhood meeting Tuesday.

Knapp’s attendance marked his first visit to the Foggy Bottom Association, a local neighborhood group, since his introductory appearance at a 2008 meeting after he assumed his role as the University’s 16th president.

Multiple Foggy Bottom residents voiced apprehension regarding the University’s plans to keep tabs on its student enrollment cap, a population limit outlined in the campus plan.

“We monitor that obsessively throughout the entire admissions process,” Knapp said. “It’s a very tricky process every year because you can never be sure of who is going to come after we offer them admission.”

Foggy Bottom resident Michael Dudich asked that GW consider buildings’ appearances while redeveloping old structures.

“What happens inside the building doesn’t really affect us,” Dudich said. “The exterior of the building affects us as a neighborhood.”

Knapp said though he does not have a personal opinion on building appearances, he is happy to take suggestions.

Relations between GW and its Foggy Bottom neighbors were strained under former President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s 19-year tenure, when Foggy Bottom transformed from a quiet residential area into a bustling college neighborhood but have become less fractious in the last two years.

FBA President Asher Corson said the meeting did represent an improvement in relations between GW and the Foggy Bottom residents.

“I think fundamentally a lot of the same issues in terms of development are still there, but I do think the tone has improved,” Corson said, referring to large campus construction projects.

Matthew Kwiecinski contributed to this report

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