ANC Considers Fate of St. Mary’s

By Heather Burke Hoya Staff Writer

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission considered several zoning and planning items relating to the university at its Feb. 29 meeting. University officials, including Assistant Vice President for External Relations Linda Greenan and University Architect Alan Brangman, presented plans to renovate the interior and some of the exterior of St. Mary’s at a cost of $9 million. The renovation is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2002. According to ANC Commissioner Matt Payne (COL ’01), the commission, after some debate, decided the plans presented no serious problems and did not vote on any specific motions relating to St. Mary’s.

Currently, the School of Nursing has offices and classrooms in the building. A variety of other groups, including the Volunteer and Public Service Center, the Employee Federal Credit Union, Information Technology and Retreat Programs, also use the space.

St. Mary’s served as a residence hall until its freshman residents moved to the newly-renovated Darnall at the beginning of the spring 1996 semester.

Currently, the upper floors of St. Mary’s remain uninhabited, although various proposals have circulated over the past year to convert it to administrative and club office space.

Most of the renovations will be interior, with some whole sections of the lower floors of the building being gutted and renovated. VPS will move out of St. Mary’s. The building’s main inhabitants will be the School of Nursing administrative offices and classrooms, in one half of the basement and the main two floors, and the Employee Federal Credit Union at one end of the main floor. In addition, many University Information Services offices scattered around campus will be consolidated in St. ary’s.

St. Mary’s will receive new windows to make the building more traditional-looking and new canopies over the building entrances. A roof terrace and an entrance on the side of St. Mary’s facing the Cloisters will be closed off. The building will not be renovated to create dorm space, and no occupants will use the top floors of the building, which used to be dorm space.

According to Greenan, all campus planning must go through the ANC for approval before being presented to the Board of Zoning Adjustment. The BZA needs to approve all of the university’s plans in order for the university to obtain building permits. All of Georgetown’s construction, even renovations, need a special exception because the university is located in a residential area. “[The university] is trying to make sure that we don’t do anything out of line with what the ANC and the community want to see,” she said.

Some residents and commissioners expressed concerns over whether or not the consolidation of Information Technology offices in St. ary’s would increase the number of people of working in the building significantly. However, many residents urged that St. ary’s be recommissioned as a residence hall, especially in light of recent housing shortages in which 237 rising juniors were initially denied on-campus preference and expressed worries that more students were being thrust into the community to find housing. One resident complained that the university, in its last 10-year plan, promised to build 1,000 beds but have constructed none so far.

“This is the worst time to approve a change in the use of St. ary’s,” said ANC Commissioner Barbara Zartman. “[St. Mary’s] was last used to house students . make it adapt to the campus plan.” She added that doing so would move noisy students out of the Cloisters, which she represents.

“There is a crisis in dorm space, and they are getting rid of dorm space,” said ANC Commissioner Peter Pulsifer.

According to Greenan, the university committed to an increase of 925 beds in the last campus plan and have built 190 with LXR renovations a few years ago and freed up over 300 beds in other ways. With 780 beds expected to become available with the completion of the Southwest Quadrangle, the university will create 1,083 new beds, 120 over their commitment. “It is not true the community is being inundated with students and that the university has not fulfilled its commitment to the campus plan,” she said. Greenan added that the market in Georgetown and Burleith is drying up for student renters and that the university is conducting a new study to see how many and where students live in the community.

Current renovations will cost approximately $9 million. Brangman said that if St. Mary’s had been renovated as dorm space, it would have cost over $15 million. Instead, the university decided to invest this money in the Southwest Quadrangle.

“Who are we to decide how [the university is] to use [its] buildings?” asked ANC Commissioner Art Schultz. “If they say they need this space and are making accommodations for students to live, I think they are trying to keep this commitment.” In the end, the commission decided not to pass any motion in support of or opposed to St. Mary’s and let the matter proceed to the BZA.

Greenan also discussed the new 10-year Georgetown Campus Plan, which the university will present to the BZA in May. A Community Working Group meeting on the 2000 Campus Plan will meet Thursday to discuss how the plan will affect enrollment and housing.

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