The Office of Planning and Facilities Management announced a long-term plan to construct two new buildings and two add-ons to campus as a part of the university’s 2017 Campus Plan.
The buildings will be located on Regents lawn, Harbin patio and on top of the Leavey Center. The add-ons on top of the Leavey Center will serve as academic and residential spaces, while the Regents lawn building will serve as academic space and the Harbin patio building will serve as a mix of both. While the plans for the buildings are not finalized, construction will most likely begin by 2020, Vice President for Planning and Facilities Management Robin Morey said.
The 2017 Campus Plan, which will be slated for approval in December 2017 after the expiration of the 2010 Campus Plan agreement, is being developed by university administrators and the Georgetown Community Partnership. The GCP, a group that was created as part of the university’s 2010 Campus Plan to engage the community in the planning process, includes six working groups of students, faculty, senior university officials and elected neighborhood leaders.
The Office of Community Engagement helps coordinate the GCP’s development of future campus plans within its master planning steering group. The Office of Planning and Facilities Management presented the plan at a Planning 301 meeting Nov. 20, the latest of a series of community forums hosted by university administrators in an ongoing process to develop new student spaces on campus.
Morey said that the buildings were proposed to fulfill students’ expressed desire to live on campus and to strengthen the university’s living community. The proposed spaces will also help fulfil the requirements of the 2010 Campus Plan, which includes a commitment to house 90 percent of undergraduates on campus by fall 2025.
“We know that students want to be here on the Hilltop,” Morey said. “Last year, the students did a survey and that survey said that we want to be on the Hilltop on campus. We want to strengthen the residential living and learning environment on campus and we want to make it a place where students want to be. So those are principal in our planning factors.”
Morey said that the two proposed construction locations, the Harbin patio and the Regents lawn, were chosen based on a complete analysis of infrastructure and available empty spaces.
“We’ve done a complete analysis and study of all the potential spaces to locate housing,” Morey said. “We look at factors like can the surrounding infrastructure support it and where do we need to strengthen community. … We want to keep true to districts, athletic, humanities core, sciences and residential. Quite frankly, when you look at the campus, where else would you put them? It gets challenging when we have limited land use.”
According to Morey, the two new construction projects are close to being confirmed, although some details remain undecided. Morey said that the administration will be open to student feedback in the upcoming years about these construction projects.
“We think of those [projects] as pretty solid,” Morey said. “We are planning 20 years on. … We might not start construction on the Harbin one until 2020. No decision has been made. These are literally concepts that we still have to go around and engage with in the next two years.”
Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson stressed that no decisions have been made and that Planning 301 was an opportunity for representatives to provide feedback.
“I will note that no decisions have been made — these are concepts that are being explored for the long term,” Olson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The planning presentation last Thursday was an early opportunity for members of the university community, including students, to see these ideas and share feedback.”
Morey also said that students saw the construction as opportunities for better apartments.
“These ideas have been well-received by the students,” Morey said. “Students recognize that we do need more apartment-style complex, high-quality apartments. Certainly this should be one of them.”
Georgetown University Student Association President Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) helped develop the 20-year plan with the GCP, as the student body’s representative to the organization. Tezel suggested that the neighborhood community likely had an influence on the dorm project and pointed to the partnership’s efforts in these negotiations.
“The neighborhood community does have an interest in ensuring [that] students are housed on campus,” Tezel said. “We as the Georgetown Community Partnership hoped that our proposed project based on our main campus finances will convince neighborhood leaders that the university needs much stability and not deadlines in terms of building new dorms.”
However, Tezel said that the administration should prioritize dorm maintenance projects rather than starting new construction.
“From what I experienced from students, the administrators should prioritize the maintenance projects before building new buildings, whether dorms or academic buildings, on campus,” Tezel said. “For instance, projects like renovating Henle dorms or improving the elevators. These are all projects that the university needs to take on first. New buildings are always nice, but if we are not fixing something we currently have, that’s a problem.”
Although Morey admitted the possible inconvenience brought by construction, he said that construction will bring about a better future for the university.
Currently, the university is constructing the Northeast Triangle Residence Hall, renovating the former Jesuit Residence to convert it into a residential space and working on small renovations of existing residential areas, including the Leavey Center hotel.
“It’s painful to go through construction,” Morey said. “But the university has been here 200-plus years. While it is painful to go through construction and I do recognize that the time frame is a short four years. But it will be a better place after construction. … If we wouldn’t allow construction, we wouldn’t have what we have now on the Hilltop.”
Morey said that he expected oppositions to the plans, but pointed to a series of student-engagement opportunities provided by Master Planning, including asking students to propose ideas and holding forums such as Planning 301.
“Planning is hard work. I suspect that there will be oppositions to some planning factors,” Morey said. “But we have a core set of principles. … Everybody has their opinions, thoughts and objectives. I think it’s our job that we set up the campus for the future of the university and make a sustainable effort.”
Lydia Brown (COL ’15), a student who attended Planning 301, said she was disheartened that the plan was approved without student input.
“It is incredibly disappointing but not at all surprising that students have not been consulted at all about these planned changes to the campus landscape and available spaces,” Brown said. “This announcement, presented as a given, should be a major point of contention. It seems that the administration presented this information quietly, hoping that more students would not notice.”
In the past, construction projects have been affected by student opinion. The construction of a satellite campus, which was a part of the 2010 campus plan, was squashed after more than 93 percent of voters expressed opposition to it in a student body-wide referendum in September 2013. In addition, student concern about lack of green space on campus led Northeast Triangle architects Sasaki Associates to incorporate greenery onto the building’s rooftop.
Kathleen Osea (NHS ’16) said that she is disappointed that the university is constructing over minimal available green spaces.
“It seems like they want to build essentially where anything green is,” Osea said. “We already don’t have green space, and we’re losing some in the Northeast Triangle. This is cutting out the green space even more. They’re trying to fit even more things on an already small campus. I think we already have enough classrooms.”
Rio Dijwandana (SFS ’16) said that he believes the new buildings could overcrowd campus.
“It would be an adjustment, but I don’t know if it would be a bad or good one. The campus will definitely feel more crowded with so much less space,” Dijwandana said. “I don’t know why we need any more buildings; why can’t we just improve the ones we already have? I don’t think we’re necessarily running out of classrooms, either.”