News and Analysis



Builders at the construction site at 2112 Pennsylvania Avenue, also known as Square 75, will begin controlled blasting activities starting in mid-June, according to a University alert.

Based off weather and soil conditions, the blasts will happen once daily during weekdays, either between 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m to 2:30 p.m. These blasts will last for approximately six weeks to three months, according to the alert.

“Controlled blasting activities are common in D.C. where rock formations lie near the surface,” the alert said.

The development firm Skanska is leading the multi-million dollar construction project, converting the former offices, restaurants and university buildings into an 11-story office building with retail and restaurant space. The area was previously home to Froggy Bottom Pub and Thai Place, popular restaurants for students that have since moved locations.

The blasts, which the alert said are comparable to “a door slamming or a large truck,” will cause limited sound and vibration in the area for a few seconds, and will be noticeable to individuals within a few blocks of the construction site.

An air horn, which the release compared to the noise of an ambulance, will sound at 15, five and one minute before the blast, and once immediately afterwards to indicate “all clear.”

At the sound of the horn, the release said individuals should follow directions from site personnel and signs around the area. The sidewalks adjacent to the site will be closed to pedestrian traffic during the blasts. Pennsylvania Avenue between 21st and 22nd streets will also be closed to non-emergency vehicles during blasts.

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Trustee Emeritus A. James Clark died of congestive heart failure in his Easton, Md. home Friday.

Trustee Emeritus A. James Clark died of congestive heart failure in his Easton, Md. home Friday. Photo courtesy of GW Today.

Trustee emeritus and construction magnate A. James Clark, the former chief executive officer of construction company Clark Enterprises, died Friday of congestive heart failure. He was 87 years old.

Clark died at his home in Easton, Md., the Washington Post reported.

Clark served on the Board of Trustees from 1988 to 1993, according to a release from University President Steven Knapp, who awarded Clark an honorary degree at University-wide Commencement in 2010.

“Mr. Clark’s generosity and friendship to our university will be greatly missed. We can take solace from the fact that his legacy here will live on for generations to come,” Knapp wrote in the release.

Clark Enterprises is one of the country’s largest construction companies and has also often served as GW’s construction company of choice, building South Hall, Shenkman Hall and the Science and Engineering Hall. The company also built FedEx Field, Nationals Park and the Verizon Center, the Post reported.

Clark was worth about $1.37 billion, according to Forbes. He was a notable philanthropist, creating the prestigious Clark Engineering Scholars program at GW in 2011 with an $8 million gift. The program awards scholarships to top engineering students. The Post reported that he also donated tens of millions of dollars to the University of Maryland, which named its engineering school in his honor.

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Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015 2:43 p.m.

Merriweather Hall evacuated after gas line damaged

Merriweather Hall was evacuated Tuesday morning after a construction worker hit a gas line near the W Street gate.

The students who live in the hall were evacuated to the Webb Building, University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said in an email. Washington Gas assessed Merriweather, and Csellar said it would take at least 24 hours to repair the damage.

“We are working with the 42 residents of Merriweather Hall to offer them temporary, alternative housing,” she said, adding that the rest of the Mount Vernon Campus was not affected.

Csellar said there were no injuries reported after the leak, and that the heat in the building would be turned off.

Residence Hall Association President Ari Massefski said the incident has been a “great bonding experience for the residents of Merriweather.”

“Staff from Mount Vernon Campus events have been giving them food, keeping them updated and taking care of them very well,” he said.

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Monday, Dec. 29, 2014 11:23 p.m.

The biggest story lines to follow in 2015

In the last year, GW sent the men’s basketball team to the NCAA tournament, launched a $1 billion fundraising campaign and welcomed Stephen Colbert and President Barack Obama to campus during finals week. And in D.C., the city voted for a new mayor and to legalize marijuana.

Here’s a look at what we think is sure to make headlines in 2015:

1. Now hiring

Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Michael Morsberger stepped down in October. Hatchet File Photo.

Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Michael Morsberger stepped down in October. Hatchet File Photo.

GW always seems to be hiring, and 2015 doesn’t look to be any different. Officials are searching for leaders of two schools – the Elliott School of International Affairs and the School of Nursing – after their deans stepped down in the fall.

Mary Jean Schumann, the interim senior associate dean of academic affairs in the nursing school, will take over Jan. 1 until a permanent leader is picked and replaces former dean Jean Johnson. Provost Steven Lerman said in December that the search for the new dean is wrapping up, though the search committee has kept details quiet since it formed last year.

Dean Michael Brown will step down from his position this spring after leading the Elliott School for a decade. He is the last dean appointed by former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.

The University is also searching for someone to spearhead its $1 billion fundraising campaign after former Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Mike Morsberger left at the end of October.

2. Open for business

Campus favorite Captain Cookie will open a store in The Shops at 2000 Penn. Hatchet File Photo

Campus favorite Captain Cookie will open a store in The Shops at 2000 Penn. Hatchet File Photo

GW students will get to spend time in some brand new spaces in 2015.

The Colonial Health Center will open on campus Jan. 5 after students pushed to bring health services closer to where they live and study. The space will bring Student Health Service and the University Counseling Center to the Marvin Center and link them with the Center for Alcohol and other Drug Education.

On a sweeter note, student favorite Captain Cookie will set up shop at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave., filling the void left by ice cream parlor Cone E. Island, which closed last spring.

3. Classes in the most expensive academic building on campus

The Science and Engineering Hall will open in January. File photo by Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The Science and Engineering Hall will open in January. File Photo by Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The $275 million Science and Engineering Hall, the crown jewel of GW’s construction blitz, will open for classes and research in January.

That opening hasn’t come easy for GW. Officials revamped their plan to pay for the building in November after acknowledging for the first time that the original payment scheme would not work.

GW will count on rent from high-end commercial properties at The Avenue to make up about $250 million, after officials weren’t able to fundraise enough money to cover construction costs.

The building will also have a tenant who’s no stranger to GW: Celebrity chef José Andrés will use retail space on the ground floor for a veggie-based eatery called “Beefsteak.” Andrés headlined University-wide Commencement in May 2014.

4. Campus security updates

UPD, university police

The University Police Department is up for an accreditation review, which could be tested by pending complaints. Hatchet File Photo

There could be a lot in store for the University Police Department over the next year. Officials are looking for a police chief after the department’s former leader, Kevin Hay, retired suddenly last semester.

UPD is up for an accreditation review and could lose its high marks if accreditors are concerned about three complaints filed against the department since March for gender-based, racial or age-based discrimination.

Officials will also release the results of a campus climate survey in the upcoming semester, Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed said at December’s Faculty Senate meeting. The anonymous survey, which was conducted last spring, asked students whether they felt safe on campus or had ever engaged in sexual misconduct.

Issuing an anonymous climate survey is one of several benchmarks that a White House task force has touted as an effective way to prevent sexual assault on college campuses.

5. Steps forward for peer counseling

Student Association President Nick Gumas pushed for a peer counseling program at the Board of Trustees meeting in October. Hatchet file photo by Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Student Association President Nick Gumas pushed for a peer counseling program at the Board of Trustees meeting in October. Hatchet File Photo by Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

A peer counseling program, one of the key areas of focus for Student Association President Nick Gumas, could move forward in 2015.

Gumas pushed for the program at a Board of Trustees meeting in October, though administrators have not yet formally committed to the idea. Details still to be decided include creating a training program for students and finding space to house the call center.

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GW signed off on final agreements with the Corcoran College of Art + Design Thursday. Hatchet File Photo.

GW signed final agreements with the Corcoran College of Art + Design on Thursday. Hatchet File Photo.

GW and the Corcoran College of Art + Design finalized their landmark merger Thursday, several days after a D.C. Superior Court judge approved the plans.

The deal, now complete after a month of hearings in D.C. court, will bring about 180 undergraduate students to GW. The Corcoran will no longer charge admission to its 17th Street gallery starting Friday, according to a release.

Corcoran students will continue to take classes, which start Aug. 27 for them, in the Corcoran’s building. They will also have access to GW services and facilities.

GW has offered housing to freshmen and sophomore Corcoran students in University residence halls, while juniors and seniors can choose to have their names placed on a wait list, according to the Corcoran’s website.

“These inaugural activities, as stated in the February partnership agreements, are just the beginning of the implementation of the agreements, which ensure that the historic building remains a showplace for art and a home for the Corcoran school and its programs, creating a global hub for the arts at GW,” the release from GW, the Corcoran and the National Gallery of Art read.

The National Gallery of Art, the third player in the merger, will renovate the second floor of the gallery, which will host exhibitions of modern art and works from the Corcoran’s collection, according to the release.

The gallery will close Oct. 1 for construction. GW will pay $25 million for initial renovations to the building, though total costs could eventually reach $80 million.

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The bankruptcy could delay construction on the Science and Engineering Hall. Hatchet File Photo

The bankruptcy filing could delay construction of the Science and Engineering Hall. Hatchet File Photo

Updated: Aug. 1, 2014 at 7:55 p.m.

A subcontractor hired to complete electrical work for the Science and Engineering Hall filed for bankruptcy last week, which could delay the project and cost thousands of dollars a day.

Truland Systems’ bankruptcy filing could cost Clark Construction, the company GW hired, about $7,000 a day. An attorney representing Clark gave that estimate in a motion he filed in bankruptcy court to replace Truland, the Washington Post reported.

“The delay in completing the critical path electrical work will not only result in late delivery of the project, […] but, it will impact the other trade contractors on the project, resulting in potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in trade contractor delay claims,” Clark’s attorney Patrick Potter wrote.

Truland, a Reston, Va.-based electrical contractor with about 1,000 employees, filed for bankruptcy on July 23. The company’s employees stopped work two days before, the Post reported.

University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said GW does not expect the bankruptcy to affect the building’s 2015 opening. The University is working with Clark to “mitigate any potential impacts related to the recent bankruptcy,” Hiatt said.

Truland would be liable for the costs of the delay because of the provisions in its contract with Clark, Potter wrote in the motion.

Two former Truland employees filed a class action lawsuit against the company Wednesday, claiming they did not receive written notice of their termination 60 days in advance as required by federal law.

Construction for the Science and Engineering Hall is expected to cost $275 million.

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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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Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 12:58 p.m.

Silver Line construction faces more delays

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Rachael Gerendasy.

The opening of the Silver Line was pushed back again this week because of more snags with the ambitious project’s construction.

The project, which would extend the Metro rail system an additional 23 miles and eventually connect to Dulles Airport, has already faced substantial delays. The first phase of the project, which would extend the Orange Line to Reston, Va., was initially slated to open last year.


Construction on the Silver Line has been delayed again. Hatchet File Photo

Dulles Transit Partners, project’s contractor, has failed to meet seven of 12 criteria set by the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, including safety features, according to a Washington Post report.

“Today it is our determination that [Dulles Transit Partners] failed to achieve substantial completion based on the documents we’ve reviewed,” Pat Nowakowski, executive director of the rail project, told the Post.

Trains will not start taking passengers on the line until the summer, though the added delays should not bump up the cost of the $5.6 billion project.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will meet with Dulles Transit Partners Tuesday to discuss the remaining issues, which include automatic train control system, elevator and escalator problems, water leaks, and incomplete paperwork.

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Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013 6:02 p.m.

Lights on Washington Monument will soon go out

The 488 lights that have illuminated the Washington Monument since July will be turned off this Sunday. Photo used under the Creative Commons license.

The 488 lights that have illuminated the Washington Monument since July will be turned off this Sunday. Photo used under the Creative Commons license.

The nearly 500 lights that have illuminated the Washington Monument since July will go out on Sunday.

Scaffolding will start to come down Nov. 11 and crews will finish the removal in about three months. The monument will reopen in the spring – just in time for Commencement.

The monument was damaged in an August 2011 earthquake and has been closed for repairs since. The National Park Service said in a release that external work is about 80 percent complete, and interior fixes are about 30 percent done. The restoration will cost a total of about $15 million.

Lights will soon appear a few blocks down the National Mall when workers begin repairs on the Capitol building in November. The dome will be illuminated while work is underway. The upgrades should take about two years to complete and will cost $60 million.

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