The university revealed pending plans to construct a dorm across from Reiss Science Building at two planning sessions on Tuesday with design firm Sasaki Strategies and developer Forrest City Enterprises.
The plan will likely replace the university’s original proposal to convert the Leavey Hotel and Conference Center into student housing.
“The more we explored it, the more roadblocks we encountered,” Vice President for Planning and Facilities Management Robin Morey said. “It met the idea of expediency, but it didn’t meet the long-term goal of what would be the best student life available.”
Morey also cited the hotel’s strong cash flow as a contributing factor to the decision to abandon the project.
In the planning session, Morey and other university administrators proposed seven potential locations but noted that the site across from Reiss, which would be triangular in design to match the shape of the plot of land and feature glass facades, is the frontrunner.
Plans to build the dorm on campus are part of the university’s effort to meet the requirement of the 2010 Campus Plan agreement that 90 percent of students be housed on campus by fall 2015.
Some members of the audience were concerned that the new dorm would eliminate open spaces on campus.
“Of the things you’ve presented today, the thing I hate is the triangular new dorm [across from Reiss],” Yates Field House Director Jim Gilroy (COL ’72) said. “Somebody brought up the need for more energy on campus. I don’t think we need more energy. The idea of building another canyon to walk through for more energy — I just don’t see it.”
Sasaki Strategies Director Gregory Janks acknowledged Gilroy’s concerns but said that he was confident that the plans would leave all parties satisfied.
“I think if we have a very nuanced, very sensitive, very thoughtful design approach, we really think that there are possibilities to…advance and enliven the space. The building can make a significant contribution,” Janks said. “The overall point is each site has its challenges and opportunities, and of the 100 people in the room I’m sure there would be 100 different opinions about what would be the best site.”
Administrators also proposed repurposing student group offices in the Leavey Center for student housing, a plan that former GUSA President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) criticized.
“Granted, currently, [Leavey] isn’t structured very well to actually accomplish the goal of being a center for student life, and there’s a lot more long-term planning that would need to go into that, and so I agree with what was said about using other spaces currently to be more expeditious about getting more beds on campus,” Gustafson said. “I really, really do not like trying to convert offices because a lot of those offices are the only student offices on campus.”
Gustafson added that the New South Student Center renovation would already put additional pressure on organizations to find office or meeting space.
The other proposed options were to expand Henle Village or Southwest Quad, purchase the emptyKober Cogan Building — which has been vacant since May 2010 because of hazardous levels of mold following a steam leak — from MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and to construct dorms on the parking lot by McDonough Gymnasium or on Harbin Plaza.