News and Analysis


Square 75A

Pennsylvania Avenue, Froggy Bottom Pub, rendering

The 11-story building will have a quarter-million square feet of office space and 7,000 square feet of street-level retail. Rendering courtesy of the Office of Community Relations.

The University announced Tuesday that it had chosen a developer to begin a multi-million dollar renovation project at 2100 Pennsylvania Ave.

Skanska USA Commercial Development Inc. will convert an office, two University buildings and four restaurants into an 11-story structure with a glass curtain exterior overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue.

Headquartered in New York, Swedish-owned Skanska announced that it would also serve as a general contractor and self-finance the project, which will include 250,000 square feet of office space and 7,000 square feet for restaurants and shops on the ground level. Gensler will serve as the architect.

Skanska has not yet determined when the project will break ground, the Washington Business Journal reported. It also has not yet estimated how much construction will cost.

“The opportunity to bring a new development to Pennsylvania Avenue doesn’t come along very often,” Robert Ward, Skanska executive vice president and regional manager, said in a release.

The building will receive a stamp of approval for its environmentally friendly design, earning a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certification.

The renovation means the restaurants currently lining the block will have to close shop soon. The Froggy Bottom Pub moved to a new K Street location last year, and the owners of Thai Place opened a new restaurant on L Street last month. But the Thai Place owners have said that they don’t know when they need to clear their Pennsylvania Avenue store.

Lou Katz, the University’s executive vice president and treasurer, said in the release that the project would enhance the Foggy Bottom neighborhood.

“We are certain that Skanska will deliver a world-class office building at the edge of our campus on Pennsylvania Avenue,” Katz said.

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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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Updated Sept. 20 at 7:08 p.m.

Strife with neighbors over a public alleyway has once again put a hitch in GW’s construction plans as Foggy Bottom representatives decided to hold off on approving the University’s latest project.

Stephen Joyce, chairman of the President Condominium on I Street, said Wednesday that tenants are concerned with GW’s plans to widen an alley behind their building. He said construction in the alley could impact parking and trash collection, and said the University hasn’t been clear about its timeline or plans.

“We haven’t really had much discussion,” Joyce said. “We got a nice presentation last November, but the University began prioritizing other projects.”

His concerns threw a wrench into the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission’s plans to support GW’s plans to build an office complex on Pennsylvania Avenue. The representatives were about to sign a resolution backing the University, paving the way for D.C. Council to also allow GW to move forward.

Florence Harmon, the chair of the ANC, moved to delay the group’s statement until Joyce’s concerns were addressed.

The conflict comes after a skirmish this summer between Foggy Bottom leaders and GW over closing an alley to start building a 12-story megahall on H Street.

David Avitabile, GW’s land use counsel, said the alley widening would allow construction trucks to enter the alley more easily. He said city agencies, like Pepco and D.C. Water, have already signed off on the plan.

Avitabile said all the other surrounding properties have given their thumbs up, and the President Condominium made a written agreement with GW about the alley last year.

“To be honest, I’m surprised to hear all of this,” Avitabile said at the meeting. “I don’t think we’re going to be able to work out the issues in any more detail that they already are now.”

Residents had complained construction would cause noise, traffic and pollution when GW presented its plans for the office complex last year.

The Square 75A construction project, which will demolish a block of buildings and townhouses on Pennsylvania Avenue, comes with a $4.1 million benefits package for neighbors. The University has promised to pay $50,000 to landscape the area around the President Condominium. Construction is slated to begin in 2015 at the earliest.

This post has been updated to reflect the following correction:

The Hatchet incorrectly spelled the name of Stephen Joyce. It also misidentified a quotation from David Avitabile. Additionally, The Hatchet misreported that Florence Harmon moved to delay the ANC resolution to next month’s meeting, but that approval only hinges on Stephen Joyce’s concerns, not a timeframe. We regret these errors.

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Pennsylvania Avenue, Froggy Bottom Pub, rendering

Rendering courtesy of the Office of Community Relations.

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Rachael Gerendasy. 

The D.C. Zoning Commission unanimously approved GW’s proposal to construct an office building along Pennsylvania Avenue Monday.

The Square 75A construction project, set to break ground in 2014, includes plans to demolish an office, two University buildings as well as Froggy Bottom Pub, Thai Place, Panda Café and Mehran Restaurant. In their place, the University will build a glassy 11-story structure that will house retail on its ground floor facing Pennsylvania Avenue.

The University has put forward a $4.1 million benefits package in community perks to appease neighbors and local groups, who have continued to express concerns about ground-level retail that will dampen the street’s nightlife.

Commissioner Robert Miller encouraged GW to select types of retail that would stay open later in the day, like the coffee shop and yoga studio that designers featured in a rendering of the building last fall.

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Undergraduate-At-Large Senator Elizabeth Kennedy pushes forward with a bill asking for the University to include local establishments in its Square 75A development. Jordan Emont | Photo Editor

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Chris Hebdon.

Student Association Senate leaders are pressing the University to think local when choosing retailers for its Pennsylvania Avenue office complex.

Senators passed a bill at the body’s Monday meeting, 22-4, that urged GW not to bring big chain stores and restaurants into the Square 75A office complex, which will relocate establishments like Froggy Bottom Pub and Thai Place.

Sen. Elizabeth Kennedy, U-At-Large, said mom-and-pop joints, like Froggy, help students connect back to GW and could potentially lift the school’s low donation rate, which she attributed to students being “unhappy with their GW experience.”

SA President Ashwin Narla added that GW should avoid signing on pricey venues that would not interest most students.

“We hope that the decision to find a new retailer is focused on student-friendly, low-cost establishments,” Narla said.

A similar bill hit the floor last month, but it was shot down because some senators feared it was too adversarial to the University.

Senators also voted unanimously for a bill urging the University to adopt the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s college shopping sheet, a online tool championed by President Barack Obama to help students understand the total cost of attending school. The bill saw no questions or debate.

The shopping sheet outlines each school’s cost of attendance, graduation rates, and student loan options.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Omeed Firouzi, CCAS, said it has drawn support from student groups including the College Democrats and the College Republicans. More than 300 colleges nationwide have signed on to create the one-page outline.

“It’s a very simple tool,” Firouzi said. “It really makes it a whole lot easier for students.”

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