News and Analysis


Advisory Neighborhood Commission

Chief of Schools John Davis said School Without Walls students likely will never take classes at the Francis-Stevens Education Campus, an elementary school that merged with the high school. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Chief of Schools John Davis said School Without Walls students likely will never take classes at the Francis-Stevens Education Campus, an elementary school that merged with the high school. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Maeve Tierney.

D.C. Public Schools relieved parents last week after it announced that School Without Walls students will likely never take classes at a local elementary school, though concerns remain over how one principal will lead both schools.

The announcement comes two years after Francis-Stevens Education Campus, a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school at 24th and N streets, escaped closure by linking with the G Street school. With 400 students enrolled this fall, Francis-Stevens will not have room for high school students in its classrooms, according to a letter from DCPS.

The city had hoped the merger would easy pressure on the School Without Walls’ building, which was over capacity with 585 students enrolled last school year. Classrooms are supposed to hold 450 students at most.

The letter from Chief of Schools John Davis highlighted the “positive student interactions and benefits of the merger.” Davis wrote that high schoolers had offered to tutor students at the elementary school, and School Without Walls hired an art teacher and guidance counselor using money from the two shared budgets.

DCPS has now decided to split the schools’ budgets, though the letter encouraged staff to “create efficiencies.”

Richard Trogisch, who serves as principal of both schools, defended the merger last spring after more than 1,000 parents signed a petition against the plans.

Terry Lynch said his daughter, who graduated from School Without Walls last spring, was “significantly shortchanged by the merger.” He said without Trogisch’s full attention, he failed to properly manage the top magnet high school.

“Having a campus split by a mile makes it even that much harder to justify having one principal,” Lynch said. “Logistically, it makes no sense. It’s almost impossible to have students at the high school over at Francis-Stevens because they can’t participate in the array of other activities when they’re not a part of any one class at Francis-Stevens.”

In an effort to lift the reputation of Francis-Stevens, parents have held neighborhood meetings with prospective families.

“They have been going to a lot of public events trying to get word out about the school, calling it a hidden gem,” said Peter Sacco, a senior at GW and member of Foggy Bottom’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission.

Chris Sondreal, who has a kindergartener at Francis Stevens, said Trogisch has helped elevate the curriculum at the elementary school.

“He rehired some of the staff and brought in a lot of new staff, and is really pushing academic rigour and really pushing the teachers who push the students to get to the basics,” Sondreal said.

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The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission voted Wednesday to take no action on renovation plans until Hillel comes to an agreement with the neighboring St. Mary's Episcopal Church, which is concerned with how the construction will affect the neighborhood. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Foggy Bottom’s top advocacy group voted Wednesday to only support renovation plans if Hillel comes to an agreement with the neighboring St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Updated: June 22, 2014 at 10:40 p.m.

As GW Hillel prepares to pitch its renovation project to city officials, a dispute with a neighboring church is holding back local leaders from fully supporting the construction plans.

The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission voted Wednesday to give GW Hillel and St. Mary’s Episcopal Church one month to hash out their differences before Hillel starts a multi-million dollar renovation project.

Hillel and St. Mary’s, neighbors on 23rd Street, entered negotiations early this year after church leaders raised concerns that construction could damage the 147-year-old church and affect the air quality inside the building. The two organizations have yet to settle the disagreement, throwing off the ANC’s plans to back Hillel’s zoning application.

The commissioners said Hillel and St. Mary’s need to first agree on how to pay for structural engineering and air pollutant consultants before the ANC’s July 16 meeting, or the group could oppose the plan altogether.

“The Church didn’t ask Hillel to build the building, and it feels that to the extent that it has to protect the building, Hillel should pay the cost of experts the church doesn’t have,” said Stephen Marcus, the church’s attorney.

Hillel will present plans to D.C. Zoning Commission on Monday to demolish and reconstruct the building, adding two stories for a total of four. GW will lease the top two floors for student space.

Representatives from St. Mary’s pushed to delay Hillel’s zoning meeting by a month, which Patrick Kennedy, chair of the ANC, said could push back construction.

Kennedy, an alumnus who was elected to the ANC as a student two years ago, said St. Mary’s was a “treasure in our community” that needs to have its interests protected.

“No one wants to see Saint Mary’s and their invaluable property damaged in any way by this construction,” he said.

Hillel announced in April that it will operate out of the University Honors Program townhouse until January 2016 while the building on the corner of 23rd and H streets is under construction.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the Advisory Neighborhood Commission did not take a stance on GW Hillel’s zoning application. In fact, the ANC voted to support Hillel’s plans – on the condition that the Jewish community hub comes to an agreement with St. Mary’s Episcopal Church by July 16. We regret this error.

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Alumnus Asher Corson and senior Jackson Carnes, ANC commissioners, are sending a letter to the D.C. Council demanding the University pay for its alley reconfiguration. Emily Benn | Hatchet Photographer

Jackson Carnes, left, and Asher Corson, center, want the D.C. Council to demand the University pay for altering an alley. Emily Benn | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet Staff Writer Rachael Gerendasy.

Two leaders of Foggy Bottom’s top advocacy group claim the neighborhood would lose half a million dollars in public land if the University alters an alley to construct a new office building.

Advisory Neighborhood commissioners Asher Corson and Jackson Carnes said at a special meeting Tuesday they will lobby the D.C. Council to prevent the University from reconfiguring the alley, which is one step in GW’s construction project on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Corson, an alumnus, and Carnes, a senior at GW, want the University to compensate the neighborhood for the $520,500 value of the alley.

Corson said when the alley proposal first came before the ANC, a surveyor had not completed a property value report.

“We think the city should be gaining something concrete and something that is representative of the value of the land that is being given away,” Corson said. “These are taxpayer resources, and they should not just be given away.”

The alley will shift closer to I Street as part of the construction project, an adjustment that creates more property value, Carnes said.

The University has yet to pick a developer for the project, which will tear down several townhouses and local businesses to build an 11-story office building. As part of the plan, the University agreed to pay $4 million in neighbor perks, including affordable housing on F Street and a real-time Metro transit information board.

The ANC supported the alley change last fall, and the ANC as a whole, which weighs in on neighborhood issues like zoning, business licenses and construction plans, did not overturn its decision at Tuesday’s meeting.

Patrick Kennedy, a senior at GW who was recently elected chairman of the group, said he didn’t think his colleagues’ argument was credible because GW purchased the land that includes the alley.

“If the District or federal government owned the land, it would be a different matter. Because they didn’t do that, asking GW to pay for the differential in land value is like asking them to pay twice,” Kennedy said. “If the alley was needed at all, I would support holding this up.”

GW closed another alley in August to construct the new residence hall known colloquially as the “superdorm.” Carnes’ complaints about that arrangement spurred a preliminary ethics investigation into Foggy Bottom’s Council member Jack Evans after Carnes said Evans gave away the alley in exchange for GW’s support of his mayoral bid. The investigation never turned up evidence of Carnes’ claims.

“What Jackson is alleging never happened. It’s honestly absurd,” Evans said then.

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Patrick Kennedy, a senior, was elected to lead Foggy Bottom's top advisory group this week. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Photographer

Patrick Kennedy, a senior, was elected to lead Foggy Bottom’s top advisory group this week. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Rachael Gerendasy.

Foggy Bottom’s governing group elected one of its youngest members as its top leader Wednesday.

Senior Patrick Kennedy, 22, was elected to the Foggy Bottom Advisory Neighborhood Commission in 2012 after ousting a 10-year incumbent. One of three students elected to the board, Kennedy is also one of the youngest representatives in D.C. to lead an advisory group.

“I think people are comfortable with me taking that step, and I am grateful for their support,” Kennedy said at the Wednesday meeting when he was elected. He added that he feels prepared for the role after serving as second-in-command of the commission in 2013.

The transition to chairman was a “natural step” for Kennedy, said fellow commissioner and alumnus Graham Galka, who praised Kennedy’s “thoughtful approach to the issues.”

“I’m very happy and pleased he was elected and is going to be serving. He’s knowledgeable and engaged in the community, and he has a deep respect for his fellow commissioners and for the community,” Galka said.

Another senior, Jackson Carnes, who was elected to the ANC in 2012, was named the group’s treasurer.

The ANC meetings, held in different neighborhood spots each month, are key ways to hear concerns from Foggy Bottom residents, Kennedy said, adding that he will look to preserve the community’s fervor for open dialogue.

“I think its a great opportunity to convene, not just the commission but also the neighborhood. Its a great opportunity to bring people together,” Kennedy said. “Our meetings can definitely take on a tenor of being one that is really open to public participation, and that is what I will strive to continue.

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Patrick Kennedy, one of three GW students who serves on the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said the local governing body has had "perennial concerns" with the K Street nightclub Shadow Room.

Patrick Kennedy, one of three GW students who serves on the ANC, said the local governing body has had “perennial concerns” with the K Street nightclub Shadow Room. Hatchet File Photo

Foggy Bottom’s governing group is protesting a local club’s liquor license, part of a historically tense relationship.

Scott Acott, co-owner of the K Street nightclub Shadow Room, had approached the neighborhood leaders about changing the terms of its agreement with the city.

But the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission voted no. A key concern is a mandatory police detail, which one commissioner said would be the sticking point during discussions about renewing the license.

“The ANC does not want to see the settlement agreement ended, and instead amended to also include the police detail,” commissioner and GW junior Peter Sacco said in an email Sunday.

The ANC gives preliminary approval for liquor licenses of nearby bars and clubs, regularly raising concerns about noise, security and operating hours.

“Neighbors use these [agreements] as a way to protect themselves from rowdy establishments,” said Asher Corson, an ANC commissioner and GW alumnus, in a phone interview Thursday.

Shadow Room and the ANC have a contentious history. In 2010, the group also protested Shadow Room’s liquor license renewal, citing a complaint filed by residents over disruptive noise and behavior. Despite the ANC’s concern, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration renewed the license.

Shadow Room’s owner Swaptak Das previously told The Hatchet that some commissioners have taken up a “crusade” against his business.

GW senior and ANC commissioner Patrick Kennedy said the ANC has had “perennial concerns” about the establishment, which has a track record of causing disturbances in the neighborhood. Police responded to 22 incidents either at the club or on the block outside between January 2009 and January 2011.

Shadow Room, located at 2131 K St. near Washington Circle, has been in the neighborhood since 2008. Under the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, liquor licenses are up for renewal every five years.

This post was updated Oct. 22 at 9:50 a.m. with the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported which D.C. agency approves liquor licenses. We regret this error.

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Foggy Bottom representatives are pushing the D.C. Council to resolve a $2.8 million land battle over a public alleyway on campus, even if it means delaying construction on GW’s costliest residence hall.

The local leaders argue that the city gave away the public alley – which the University will absorb when it develops the 12-story megahall between H and I streets – and ignored its steep price tag.

During a special session of the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission tonight, members drafted a letter to the council that urges members to vote down GW’s application to close the alley this week.

The commission’s chair, Florence Harmon, said she’s seeking a “very brief delay” that would not derail the project’s construction – which is slated to start this summer. The $130 million, 800-bed hall would house mostly sophomore and juniors, starting with the Class of 2016.

But the commission’s more vocal members argued for stronger language that may push back the start but also single out the council members who approved the “sweetheart deal”: Foggy Bottom’s Jack Evans and chairman Phil Mendelson.

Asher Corson, the group’s longest-serving member, said he’d rather see the city take a stand against “supremely inappropriate” hand-outs that robbed the city of nearly $3 million. He said he expected the council to reject their appeal, and that the commission should prepare for a campaign to spur action from the council by riling the community.

“No matter what we do here today, we’re gonna get rolled by the council, and then we have three months to take this to the court of public opinion,” Corson said.

“This community has stood in face of mayors and councils trying to do some horrible things and I think we’ll be successful in this fight, too,” he said.

The D.C. Council held hearings about the alley closure last month, with more than a dozen testimonies from local residents and students.

GW Director of Planning and Project Management Susi Cora said GW did not need to pay the $2.8 million because the city already approved the project – and the community perks – as part of its 10-year campus plan.

“We negotiated and agreed to amenities from the 2007 campus plan, so from our perspective, this has already been done and agreed to,” Cora said. “Additional amenities means paying twice, which is something we’re not willing to do.”

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Sara Amrozowicz

The city will add three Capital Bikeshare stations near campus, a newly elected member of Foggy Bottom’s top advocacy group announced Wednesday.

The District Department of Transportation will install stations at 20th Street and Virginia Avenue, 23rd and E streets and 21st Street and Constitution Avenue, junior and Advisory Neighborhood commissioner Patrick Kennedy said. The stations will be installed between February and March.

The posts are part of a 53-station expansion across D.C. and parts of Virginia, he said, and will be ready in time for the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

The bike rental launched in D.C. in 2010 and now has more than 175 stations around the Beltway.

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Junior Jackson Carnes talks to voters outside the School Without Walls polling station Nov. 6. Jordan Emont | Photo Editor

Juniors Patrick Kennedy and Jackson Carnes won seats on Foggy Bottom’s top governing body Tuesday, according to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

Kennedy ousted 10-year incumbent David Lehrman, a 66-year-old longtime Foggy Bottom resident. Out of 136 votes cast for the district, 96 went to Kennedy and 38 to Lehrman. Carnes ran unopposed and earned 90 votes.

Two other students – freshman Jevin Hodge and sophomore Peter Sacco – ran as write-in candidates. Sacco’s sought-after district received 22 votes and Hodge’s received 168 votes, but the election board website did not break down how many each candidate won.

Out of the city’s 40 Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, each is divided into about eight to 10 single member districts with elected representatives. The positions are typically held by local residents.

Following the election, the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission will comprise two students and two alumni. If Sacco is elected, he would make a third student.

Hodge ran for a position on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, representing the Mount Vernon Campus. The Somers Hall resident faced incumbent Penny Pagano, who also ran as a write-in candidate.

“It’s been very gratifying to have won, it’s been an amazing experience all throughout,” Kennedy said, adding that he received nods of support throughout the day from “mutiple professionals” at the voting center.

“It was really gratifying to get that message across the board,” Kennedy said.

Carnes said he is “very excited” for the next two years and that was glad to see voters turn out Tuesday.

Lehrman did not return a request for comment.

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fobogro alcohol, wine

Ward 1 D.C. Council member Jim Graham said the District could shrink its fiscal year 2013 budget gap with an additional $710,000 in sales tax revenue by lifting a ban on selling hard liquor on Sundays. Hatchet File Photo

The District’s liquor stores could gain approval to sell hard alcohol on Sundays as part of an effort to shrink the budget gap for fiscal year 2013.

Ward 1 D.C. Council member Jim Graham announced plans Monday to recommend allowing stores with Class A liquor licenses – which sell soft and hard alcohol – to operate on Sundays, a move he said could generate an extra $710,000 in sales tax revenue, according to The Washington Post.

All liquor stores in the District are banned from selling hard alcohol on Sundays but the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration modified codes last summer to allow grocery stores and wholesalers that exclusively offer beer and wine to sell until midnight every day. All types of retailers still are barred from selling hard liquor on Sundays.

The recommendation comes a week after Graham held a town hall meeting to gauge input from D.C. residents and business owners on Mayor Vincent Gray’s proposed extension for alcohol sales at bars until 3 a.m. on weekdays and 4 a.m. on weekends to bring in an additional $3.2 million in revenue.

Graham – who has voiced safety and noise concerns over the extension of bar hours and plans to vote against the proposal – said the revenue brought in from liquor sales on Sunday would go towards the gap in the budget if the increase in alcohol sale hours at bars gets killed.

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Pennsylvania Avenue, Froggy Bottom Pub, rendering

Rendering courtesy of the Office of Community Relations.

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Danielle Telson.

The University released detailed plans Friday for a new office building on Pennsylvania Avenue that will replace a cluster of townhouses and commercial space.

The detailed designs filed with the D.C. Office of Zoning bring GW a step closer to tearing down an office at 2100 W Pennsylvania Ave. and two neighboring University buildings, as well as Froggy Bottom Pub, Thai Place, Panda Café and Mehran Restaurant.

Sara Bardin, director of the D.C Office of Zoning, said the project is being referred to the city’s Office of Planning for review this week. GW must receive a green light from the zoning commission to move forward with the site’s development.

Developer selection for the sleek 255,550-square foot office building will begin in mid-2013, according to the documents. Construction is estimated begin in early 2014 and last 24 months.

The building will include sustainable features, like a green roof, and will collect rainfall. It will also include 183 below-ground parking spaces and 50 bicycle spots.

The project follows a model similar to that of The Avenue – redeveloping a property for commercial use to draw in more revenue for the University’s academic programs, facilities and financial aid. A price tag has not yet been determined, University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said, adding that costs are typically calculated after meeting with a developer.

GW first announced plans to demolish buildings along the block in November, after learning that health care center Kaiser Permanente, the tenant at 2100 W Pennsylvania Ave., plans to relocate in late 2012. The 2007 Campus Plan outlined future demolition of the townhouses but the University must gain approval from the zoning commission to redevelop the building where Kaiser Permanente operates.

Alumnus and Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Asher Corson railed against the project then, calling the commercial property a profit-maker that strays from GW’s academic mission.

He suggested the commission bring on legal counsel to evaluate GW’s development projects, a request that led the group to allocate $2,000 at its February meeting to hire an attorney specializing in zoning laws.

“I can remember as a student I had classes throughout every year when I was a student at GW that were blocks and blocks off campus,” Corson said. “The student health center is off campus still. Here is a major building on campus and instead of using it for the needed classroom space and instead of using it to house a student health center, which I would say should be on campus for the sake of the student body, GW is going to go and use this property to make money.”

Corson said the redevelopment of the block would eliminate several affordable neighborhood restaurants and the University should seek out dining options that are low-cost – on which young professionals and retired individuals in the area rely – when the building is erected.

Sherrard said GW is committed to maintaining a positive relationship with neighbors.

“The process of engaging with nearby building tenants and the community has begun and will continue throughout the planning process,” she said.

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