Rosslyn residents will be getting new neighbors from the across the river next fall, and Ken Marcus is worried. “It really looks as if the District of Columbia is trying to take an unpleasant situation in Foggy Bottom and push it out into Arlington County,” he said.
County officials found out last week that George Washington University had purchased The Gallery at Rosslyn, a 19-story, 317-unit luxury apartment tower located at 1800 N. Oak Street and plans to use part of the facility for student housing.
Marcus, the president of the North Rosslyn Civic Association, says the possibility of hundreds of undergraduates swarming over the Key Bridge could bring major changes to the neighborhood. “I’ve talked to a lot of people in the neighborhood, and there is a lot of concern about it,” he said.
In the District, GWU has run into trouble with DC regulations designed to limit the number of students in off-campus housing.
Ron Cocome, president of the Foggy Bottom Association, has been dealing with GWU and its students for years. “It’s terrible,” he said. “It’s like dealing with the worst of corporate America. They’re not educators, they’re a corporation—a real estate development corporation, and not a very ethical one.”
Cocome said university officials have used enrollment increases to take control of more and more property in the District and warns that they will do the same thing once they establish a base in Virginia.
Marcus shares that concern. University officials plan to use 125 one- and two-bedroom units to house juniors and seniors, while renting the remainder to the general public. But Marcus doesn’t expect that balance to last very long. “There’s a real question in the neighborhood as to whether the Gallery would become 100-percent dormitory,” he said. “Some of the units are very luxurious ones and they have been marketing them at a high price.”
Students will pay $1,750-$2,250 a month for a one-bedroom unit and $2,300-$3,100 for a two-bedroom apartment. Marcus said he doubts working adults will be willing to pay high rents if they have to share a building with college students.
DORM BEHAVIOR may be unavoidable, but the building cannot be operated as a dormitory under county codes, according to County Manager Ron Carlee.
In a memo sent to County Board members on Thursday, April 24, Carlee said the facility may qualify as a dorm if university officials allow students to sign leases of less than 12 months. If that happens, Carlee said, the county could use its zoning authority to pursue a violation.
At this point, though, the county has limited authority. GWU officials have not asked for county approval to move students into the Gallery, nor do they need to, unless they want to change the conditions of the original site plan.
University officials are making an effort to reach out to residents though. GWU President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg is expected to attend a meeting Sunday, March 4, with the North Rosslyn Civic Association and other local residents.
THAT MEETING COULD alleviate some of the apprehension, Paul Derby said. “I think if we were assured this was going to be run like adult housing it would be a little bit different than if it’s going to be run like a student dorm,” he said.
Derby serves as treasurer of the Highview Homeowners Association and the North Rosslyn Civic Association. He said he is concerned that GWU may simply be moving their overcrowding problem to a new location rather than coming up with real solutions. But he remains optimistic that with proper management, student housing could work in Rosslyn.
Mark Antell, chair of the Georgetown Vista Condominium Association, has lived in the neighborhood nearly 10 years. He’s already seen changes during that time, and the addition of GWU housing could be one of the biggest changes, he said. But he doesn’t want to jump to conclusions about possible effects.
“I’m concerned enough that I know we need to have a forum to talk it through. It’s a big deal, it may change the neighborhood considerably, but I’d like to hear about it,” he said. “We know there’s going to be more people here, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.”
Cecilia Cassidy, Rosslyn Renaissance executive director, says the plan could benefit some businesses. “Certainly students always add to the nightlife of a place,” she said, “and that’s always a good thing.”