Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

GU Drops Plans for Wormley School

By Colin RelihanHoya Staff Writer

After a series of meetings this summer, Georgetown University and neighborhood residents continue to disagree over the fate of the Wormley School building.

Georgetown purchased the building, located at 3225 Prospect St., in 1997 to house its graduate-level Public Policy Institute. The university originally proposed to renovate the building, which had not been used as a public school for nearly a decade. The plan included classrooms, computer labs and office space for the program’s administrators and students.

The university also originally intended to build a one-story addition to the school and a separate two-story structure on the site. This proposal, according to former ANC commissioner Jonda cFarlane, was far more extensive than what the university had previously promised, both in a letter to residents and in the deed to the former school.

“There was a little bit of confusion,” said cFarlane, referring to the university’s agreements concerning the project. “The community based its opposition on the university not honoring its commitments.”

In a letter to McFarlane in October 1997, University Architect Alan Brangman wrote that Georgetown was buying the property because of a “pressing need on campus to provide office space for administrative and academic uses.”

Recently, Brangman said the university agreed not to use the building for student housing or as a performance space or build on open areas in the site. In response to objections from the nearby community, Georgetown scaled back its proposal, eventually eliminating plans for building the separate two-story addition.

At the heart of much of the disagreement are the differing interpretations of Georgetown’s original written plans for the building. According to Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E06 commissioner Bill Starrels, when the ANC approved Georgetown’s purchase of the site in December 1997, the university stated it would not use the building for classroom space.

In response, residents, led by Bob Leithauser, head of the Wormley School Neighborhood Association, have objected to the presence of classrooms in the building and also to plans for building over the school’s parking lot. These two issues were at the center of debate during the last informal meeting between community and university representatives, held in late July at the Car Barn.

Leithauser was unavailable for comment.

After the meeting, the renovation plan retained classrooms and the one-story rear addition. Brangman said negotiations are continuing over the issue. However, according to Judy Feder, dean of the Public Policy Program, the removal of classrooms could limit the effectiveness of the institute.

“I can’t run a program if I can’t have students in the building,” said Feder.

While many residents have voiced opposition to the proposed renovation, not everyone in the neighborhood is against the Wormley project.

“Georgetown has backed off about three steps backwards,” McFarlane said of the university’s proposal. Because the university is not doing as much as it had planned, she says she thinks, “the renovation would have very little impact on the life of the community.”

“The only addition possible is one that would have, at worst, a minimal effect on the neighbors at the Wormley School,” Starrels said.

Also of concern to the neighborhood is the condition of the school, which the D.C. public school system closed nearly 10 years ago.

Both university and community representatives have noted the increasingly dilapidated state of the building.

“That thing still sits there and is falling apart,” ANC 2E04 Commissioner Justin Wagner (COL ’03) said.

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