by Barbara Kraft
Representatives of Howard University met this month with two representatives of a group of Upton Street and Tilden Street neighbors over Howard’s plans for its 22-acre West Campus, which includes its law school, and changes to the future land use designation the Office of Planning (OP) has proposed as part of revisions to the Comprehensive Plan.
The West Campus lies between Upton Street to the south and Soapstone Valley and Rock Creek Park to the north. It’s bound on the east by Levine Music and the Embassy of The Netherlands, and on the west by houses on the north side of Upton’s 2900 block and apartments on Van Ness and Veazey Streets, NW.
Upton/Tilden neighbors had met with Howard representatives in March 2020 after learning of the proposed land use changes.
At that time, OP indicated it proposed to change the current institutional use to a combination of medium density residential and institutional uses.
At some point after the March meeting, and after neighbors expressed concern that medium density residential development would further aggravate increased traffic on Upton and eliminate open green space, OP changed the proposed uses to a combination of high density residential on the northern part of the property and low density residential on the southern Upton Street portion.
The neighbors’ group, upon learning of this change, drafted a statement asking OP and the University to limit high density development to the northernmost part of the property, retain green space on the remainder, including the Upton Street frontage, and preserve the historic buildings. The statement is the basis for testimony that Upton Street resident Milton Shinberg presented to the Council last week as it considered proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan.
Meanwhile, in response to Shinberg’s outreach to the university to better understand its plans, Joe Leonard, the director of the Howard University Community Association, convened the November 9th meeting. It included James Roberson, West Campus Facilities director; Derrek Niec-Williams, executive director of Campus Planning, Architecture and Development; Milton Shinberg and Barbara Kraft, both residents of the 2900 block of Upton Street; and ANC 3F Chair Monica Nemeth.
The Howard representatives assured Shinberg, Kraft and Chair Nemeth that the university was sensitive to the concerns of neighbors and would make its officials available to answer questions. They seemed favorably disposed to limiting high density development to the northern portion of the property and retaining an institutional use designation for the historic buildings.
At the same time, they emphasized that Howard would develop a campus plan for the West Campus in collaboration with neighborhood and community groups. Roberson was open to further discussion about caring for the historic trees on the West Campus, as well as attending to damaged or diseased trees on the south side of the property fronting Upton Street. Leonard indicated he would be available to speak about the West Campus at the ANC 3F meeting on Tuesday, November 17th.