ANC 3F has an opportunity in the coming weeks to craft a more robust partnership with the University of the District of Columbia, one that will benefit both the university and the surrounding community in the decade to come – and beyond.
Every ten years, universities in the District must submit a plan for the maintenance and development of their campuses. These campus master plans are of great interest to their neighbors, as the campuses serve as centers of research and scholarship, and arts and culture. And they serve as engines of economic opportunity and growth.
During the campus planning process, universities are required to engage the neighbors as well as their own students and staff. Robust community engagement has been a missing piece of the UDC process.
UDC and American University have each been crafting their campus plans for 2021-2030. UDC has hosted three community meetings. The AU steering committee has held 18. In addition, there are five AU campus plan working groups: facilities and planning, student life, engagement and communications, transportation and parking, and data and metrics. They have held more than 40 meetings total since March of 2019. And there have been three other campus planning sessions, and three “Planning 101” meetings. All included neighbors.
AU’s steering committee offers another contrast. Of its 15 members, eight are from the university, three are ANC commissioners, three represent community organizations, and one is a neighbor. UDC has an advisory committee of 21, all affiliated with the university.
Granted, AU is a much larger institution with more resources, but the community around UDC can and should play a much larger role in the implementation of the 2021-2030 campus master plan. And ANC 3F has the chance to ensure that happens.
Why does this matter?
An institution that engages our community as a partner would be a boon to all. UDC students, staff and faculty play an important role in the vibrancy of our community life. The university’s academic and cultural programming is easily accessible to the nearby community and to Greater Washington, with its 20 acres of prime real estate just off Connecticut Avenue and on Metro and bus routes. And, UDC controls about 20 percent of the ground floor retail space on Connecticut Avenue between Albemarle and Van Ness Streets.
On June 21st, the Zoning Commission will hold a hearing on the UDC campus plan. In the meantime, the Office of Zoning expects ANC 3F to collect community input, develop a report, and pass a resolution. The commission takes the input from the ANC and other community members into account for its recommendations and decisions.
As conditions of its support, ANC 3F could request regular renewals of a 2018 letter of intent which UDC submitted to the DC Council as part of the package of purchasing 4250 Connecticut. In that letter, UDC promised to activate the ground floor retail within the following two years.
The ANC could also request the creation of working groups with strong representation from commissioners and the community. These members could aid UDC in addressing its goals.
- UDC proposes some major changes to public space on the campus perimeter, including a proposal to close the Veazey Terrace vehicle entrance to the campus, and add landscaping along Connecticut, Veazey and Windom Place. This will significantly impact the experience along the Van Ness corridor and its side streets and require a great deal of coordination with DC agencies including DDOT. The ANC and other community members could provide assistance with this.
- UDC’s campus plan envisions increasing student enrollment from the current 2,359 to 7,000. The community could aid the university in neighborhood outreach to service workers, residents and high school students. UDC has potential ambassadors among residents who have enrolled in its graduate and certificate programs, or are auditing classes.
- UDC plans to retrofit Building 44 along Van Ness Street for student housing. There are members of the community interested in increasing affordable housing in the area and could work with the university to achieve housing for students, many of whom work full- or part-time and may come with families.
- Those in the community who have architectural and sustainability expertise could provide input in the design of proposed façade and sustainability improvements, such as green roofs and solar installations.
Ways to engage now
Again, community input is an important element in the approval process of UDC’s campus master plan. You can email your comments to ANC 3F chair David Cristeal ([email protected]), and to Crystal Myers ([email protected]) of the Office of Planning, who is working on a report and recommendations for the Zoning Commission. You can also email the Zoning Commission directly ([email protected]). And community members can sign up here to testify at the June 21st hearing. Reference the case ID number 20-33.