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G'town-gown relations strained

Update: Georgetown response added, below.

Some in the community surrounding Georgetown University take issue with the school's 10-year Campus Plan, the latest point of contention in an occasionally tense relationship between the school and one of Washington's most upscale neighborhoods.

Georgetown is preparing its 2010 Campus Plan for D.C. zoning officials, covering 10 years' growth for the university and neighboring hospital.


Residents of the Burleith community are concerned about the university's plan to add more than 3,000 graduate and professional students, without adding housing. The plan "seeks to shift housing responsibilities to our neighborhood, which is already straining to manage its current 'town-gown' disagreements," states an editorial in the April edition of the publication Burleith Bell.

Burleithians are also concerned that Georgetown has no plan to add campus housing for undergraduates, "even though the University's own planners located sites on campus where 800 new beds could be constructed," the Bell states. There are recurring complaints of drunkenness, noise, public urination, bonfires and such from the rental properties surrounding the university, whose student tenants don't keep quite the same hours as the working mortgage-payers around them.

(Some context: Georgetown's 100-acre campus is relatively small, and that surely is a factor in all discussions about expanding programs and deciding where students will live. Unlike many other Washington-area universities, Georgetown has little room to expand, being hemmed in by water and expensive homes.)

From the Bell: "These problems still exist because (A) the number of undergraduates has remained largely constant, and (B) the University's programs for controlling off-campus student behavior has proven ineffective. This failure has occurred despite the Burleith Citizens Association's active efforts to work with Georgetown University and its students to improve the problem."

The association is also worried about a planned rebuilding and enlargement of the Georgetown University Hospital, which could aggravate traffic congestion.

Finally, residents are concerned over a proposal to raise the height of the smokestack at the GU power plant to 83 feet.

A citizens association meeting is scheduled for 7 tonight at St. John's Church, 3240 O St. NW.

Andy Pino, a Georgetown spokesman, said school officials have been "meeting with neighborhood leaders and members of the community since 2008 in an effort to get feedback and answer questions throughout the planning process."

Recent construction has added nearly 3,000 beds to the campus, Pino said. "As a result, the university now has housing on campus for 84 percent of the traditional undergraduate population. Gallaudet is the only university in the region that houses a higher percentage.
"We require traditional full-time freshmen and sophomore students to live on campus, and we are able to accommodate the demand for housing from our upperclassmen as well. We are not proposing to increase our traditional undergraduate enrollment over the ten-year period of the plan, and we have not seen any increase in demand for beds that would support the construction of additional undergraduate housing, particularly in light of several other competing projects including, for example, athletic, library and student activity facilities."

Pino said the latest 10-year plan includes a focus on managing the impact of students who live off campus.

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By Daniel de Vise  |  April 19, 2010; 3:15 PM ET
Categories:  Administration , Facilities , Public policy  | Tags: Georgetown 10-year plan, Georgetown Burleith, Georgetown Medical Center, Georgetown University, Georgetown expansion, Georgetown student drunkenness  
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