ALEXANDER BROWN/THE HOYA The trailers would be located by the hospital’s ambulatory surgery waiting area.
ALEXANDER BROWN/THE HOYA
The trailers would be located by the hospital’s ambulatory surgery waiting area.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E urged the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board to reject MedStar Georgetown University Hospital’s proposal for two office trailers Monday during its monthly meeting.

The trailers, which would provide 1,200 square feet of space for 10 to 12 staff members, would be located on an outdoor brick podium off of the Concentrated Care building outside of the ambulatory surgery waiting area.

“As our clinical programs continue to grow, we are faced with a number of space constraints,” MedStar spokesperson Marianne Worley wrote in an email. “In this situation, we need to accommodate our expanding transplant program.”

To deal with the hospital’s crucial space concerns, MedStar has already begun moving certain departments and offices away from the Reservoir Road main hospital building. According to Worley, some clinical departments such as psychiatry and non-clinical departments were moved out of the main location. In addition, the outpatient pediatrics department will move to a separate building, located at 4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW, and pediatricians will commute between the two buildings.

Although the hospital itself is not considered a historic building, because it is located on the Georgetown campus, which is located in the Georgetown Historic District, the Historic Preservation Review Board must approve any work. The project also had to pass through the ANC 2E before reaching the historic board.

ANC 2E Chair Ron Lewis found issue with the indefinite nature of the trailers’ lifespan. While MedStar representatives said at the meeting that the trailers would be strictly temporary while the hospital continues to pursue long-term options, it was unclear how long they would need to be used, with estimates reaching two years.

Lewis argued that the trailers run counter to the neighborhood’s historic nature. While ANC 2E has previously received requests for temporary trailers for construction, those were trailers whose timeline of use was specified, unlike those in MedStar’s proposal.

“These are just trailers to house staff that we felt probably should be housed somewhere else in the campus area because trailers just don’t fit with the historic district look, particularly when they could be there for years,” Lewis said. “We also think the hospital, if they looked at it, could come up with a better solution.”

While the passed version of the ANC 2E resolution rejected MedStar’s proposal by a 5-1 vote, ANC 2E Commissioner Peter Prindiville (SFS ’14) voted against the proposal. Although Prindiville said that he understood the council’s concerns about the historic nature of the neighborhood, the temporary space needs of the hospital outweighed this particular issue, particularly because the trailers would not be visible from street level.

“I think there was a legitimate case made that the trailers were necessary for the ongoing operations of the medical service of the hospital,” Prindiville said. “The real idiocy is that [the trailers] can’t be seen … perhaps they could be seen by the medevac helicopters, but I don’t know from what vantage point they could really be seen.”

Lewis, however, argued that whether the trailers could be seen or not was irrelevant to the discussion. If the trailers were visible from street level, the proposal would go in front of the Old Georgetown Board, instead of the ANC 2E.

“If it’s not visible … it’s not as bad, but it still doesn’t fit in the historic area as indefinite duration working space,” Lewis said.

Student commissioner Craig Cassey (COL ’15) was sick and not present at the meeting.

Lewis said that the Historic Preservation Review Board would most likely put a lot of weight into the ANC’s recommendation.

“The law says they … have to listen hard, and if they disagree, they have to explain in a rational way why they disagree,” Lewis said. “We think the principle is strong that this is not something that should not be encouraged or permitted in this historic area.”

If the Historic Preservation Review Board rejects the proposal, Worley said that MedStar would continue looking at other possible offsite locations and that it would work with the community to develop alternatives.

“MedStar Georgetown University Hospital always looks for ways to resolve issues with its community and its representatives in a cooperative and collaborative fashion.”

The Historic Preservation Review Board will review MedStar’s proposal Oct. 24.

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