For seven years now, Georgetown University has worked to bring much needed new facilities to campus.

The Southwest Quad offers students, faculty and staff unparalleled resources to build community that could reshape the campus dynamic. At the same time, it presents tangible benefits to the university’s neighbors, who have continued to press the university to control the off-campus population. Perhaps most important, the landmark project lays the cornerstone for both the Third Century Campaign and the 2000 Campus Plan.

Live and Learn

The Southwest Quad’s three residence halls, McCarthy, Kennedy and Reynolds Family Halls, were designed to deliberately encourage community in an environment that brought together the academic and residential, according to university administrators.

“With 92 percent of the student body living on campus, we have a chance for richer and more intense community, with some important facilities – great spaces in the dining halls, meeting rooms, music practice rooms, lots of common rooms – and a few great views thrown in,” Provost James J. O’Donnell said.

“All the different parts of the design of the residence halls are to promote interaction,” Vice President for Facilities and Housing Karen Frank said. Frank cited the layout of each floor, where the entrance to each residential floor, from the elevator or stairs, opens facing the community room. “It’s another opportunity to get people together,” she said.

In addition to the community rooms, which provide an informal lounge setting for students to relax or work, each floor has two study rooms, one with tables and desks and the other with study carrels.

“With the amenities provided in these buildings, we send an important message: we take students seriously,” Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson said.

The Southwest Quad further enhances community, Olson added, by putting Jesuits and students in adjacent residences.

The Southwest Quad aims to strengthen community and its new facilities may transform the campus dynamic the same way that the Leavey Center did when it opened in 1989. The residence halls house four soundproofed music rooms, three seminar rooms, a programming room, the McShain Community Room and a new convenience store, Hoya Snaxa, run by The Corp.

“I’m interested in how putting several hundred students in that location will change the shape of the campus – where people hang out, how they move around and where they spend their time,” O’Donnell said.

In addition to the residence halls and the Wolfington Hall Jesuit residence, the Southwest Quad offers a two-story state-of-the-art dining facility, the Leo O’Donovan Dining Hall. The dining hall’s design and view – the upper level looks out over the Potomac River – may generate renewed interest in on-campus dining.

“Leo’s makes me want to get a meal plan again,” Steve Alleva (COL ’05) said.

Mending Fences

The opening of the Southwest Quad could ease recurring tensions between Georgetown University and its neighbors by decreasing the off-campus student population.

The three residence halls will provide an additional 784 students with on-campus housing, increasing the percentage of on-campus students from 78 percent to 90 percent.

The addition of more student space to campus, in the vacated New South dining hall, and in new community rooms and program rooms, may also encourage more students to spend their free time on-campus.

“There’s real potential for the new residence halls to have a positive influence on town-gown relations because we’re moving not only beds but also common space to further promote community,” Olson said. “Academically, socially and recreationally we’re giving students more reasons to be on campus.”

Community leaders are hopeful that the decreasing off-campus population will translate into fewer headaches in dealing with noise and trash problems attributed to students.

In 1997, community members and the university clashed over a housing overlay that would have limited the number of students who could live in a single off-campus residence to three, which would have hampered the ability of students to find affordable off-campus housing.

“The housing overlay fight of five years ago got the attention of those at the university who made the decision to start to house their students on campus,” Bonnie Hardy, a Burleith resident who serves as the ANC administrator, said.

Hardy said that the high demand for on-campus housing, which forced the university to convert 123 doubles in the new residence halls into triples, shows that “the students want to live on campus and, of course, we in the community are thrilled with this outcome.”

“Our impression has always been that the students want and, more importantly, deserve a residential campus,” Hardy added.

Len Levine, ANC Commissioner for District 1, said he has been pleased with the level of attention that the administration has given to town-gown relations. “Georgetown University must be one of the few major U.S. universities, particularly in urban settings, to offer on-campus housing to such a high percentage of undergraduates.”

Nonetheless, residents’ optimism remains tempered by caution. Levine warns that with more students on the south part of campus, pedestrian traffic, especially late at night, could become a problem.

“We will continue to work closely with the university to make sure that one problem isn’t replaced with another, as 900 new on-campus residents can now walk to Georgetown along Prospect Street for night time activities,” he said. “All in all, however, opening of the Southwest Quad is a very positive event.”

Georgetown’s Third Century

In 1995, Georgetown University launched the Third Century capital campaign, which has raised $923 million of the target $1 billion. While the capital campaign will raise money for a variety of projects, the Southwest Quad is the most significant building project since the campaign began.

The Southwest Quad sits as the cornerstone to not only the next century, but, along with the Leavey Center, as the most significant undertaking since Healy Hall.

The university’s ten year campus plan hinges on the timely completion of the Southwest Quad. With the completion of the Southwest Quad construction can now begin on the Performing Arts Center, and once completed, other capital projects, such as the Graduate Business Center and Center for Science, can follow. The 2000 Campus Plan proposes additional renovations to existing campus buildings as well as relocations and improvements to athletic facilities.

“New buildings are always good for a community,” O’Donnell said. “[They are a] sign of life and growth.”

These new and renovated buildings will also provide 240,000 square feet of backfill, space left empty when departments move to new buildings.

The 2000 Campus Plan also markedly differs from the ten year plan submitted in 1989. The current plan calls for buildings based upon a quadrangle, a pedestrian friendly design that provides for open spaces, river views, courtyards and green space, while including new buildings that fit the character of the older campus.

By contrast, the 1990 Campus Plan based future construction on podia – multi-purpose buildings that maximize space and allow for green space only on rooftops. The Leavey Center was to be the first of several podia-style buildings that would stand shoulder to shoulder on lower campus.

“Anytime people can touch the ground, it’s definitely a more pleasant feeling. Standing on a green roof just isn’t the same,” Frank said. “The podia concept is a more modernistic approach, a creative approach to the use of space. But with the current plan we have found a way to use space wisely while maintaining an affinity to the ground level.”

With approval secured from the ANC for the decade’s building projects, and with financial support from the Third Century Campaign, the Georgetown that the incoming class of 2007 sees today may be markedly different by the time they graduate.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.