Photo by ehpien on Flickr.

Georgetown University and leaders in surrounding neighborhoods have reached agreement on a groundbreaking campus plan that envisions a more residential campus.

Leading universities such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton have adopted a similar residential college model, which integrates students’ intellectual and residential life while creating fewer impacts on neighboring communities.

In the 1990 Campus Plan, the University committed “to create a residential college environment”.  I advocated a return to that vision last year, and am thrilled that Georgetown and its neighbors have reached accord on this vision.

Here are the specific elements of the agreement. Next, it will get comments from the public and go before the Zoning Commission for approval.

The campus plan will now last for a 7-year term, beginning January 1, 2011 and ending December 31, 2017, instead of a 10-year-term.  During this time, community and university leaders will work on a 20-year-plan.

The ten-year campus planning process is broken, as GGW contributor Jacques Arsenault explained last year.  It sets neighbors and Universities up to push as hard as they can once a decade because they know they won’t get another chance at talks for 10 years. 

Georgetown and its neighbors have recognized this and are defining their own process, to be approved by the Zoning Commission, which is more collaborative.  It makes a lot of sense.

The University and neighbors will create joint committees to design programs to bring the University and neighborhood communities together, and address issues when they arise.

Only 3-4 decades ago, the University and the neighbors formed a single community with extensive interactions and relationships.  Just watch the film The Exorcist to get an idea of what Georgetown was like in the early 70s - neighbors, priests, faculty and students interacted often.

There is significant desire among Georgetowners to return to this period of community and shared purpose.  Most neighbors actually care deeply about the intellectual and character formation of Georgetown students, and most students and professors care deeply about the families outside the university gates.  These committees reflect that shared feeling.

Students in “Magis Row” student townhouses on 36th Street NW will be housed on campus by Fall 2013 so that the “Magis Row” townhouses can transitioned to faculty and staff housing.

Central to the residential college model is faculty who live on or near campus, and thus interact with students in their residential life.  The high cost of housing in DC makes it hard to do this, but Georgetown University is making a commitment to house professors and staff in what is currently student group housing.

New emphasis on a living and learning campus that centralizes student social life on campus.

Two GGW contributors, Jake Sticka and Kara Brandeisky, penned an excellent appeal to improve social life on campus as a solution to the campus plan dispute.

Georgetown leaders are committed to improving social spaces on campus in order to create a true residential college atmosphere in which living and learning are not physically separated.

Living off campus will be treated as a privilege, not a right, and granted based on one’s disciplinary record.

In the 60s, priests walked the streets of Georgetown enforcing a curfew for students living off-campus.  Most universities now isolate students into large dorm complexes or off-campus quarters. 

Part of the residential college model is avoiding the wall that many universities erect between residential life and a student’s intellectual and character formation.  Georgetown University is taking more responsibility for the formation of students living off-campus with this measure.

450 additional beds will be created on campus.

As part of the commitment to the residential college model, University leaders will add 450 more beds to accommodate students moving on-campus.  Along with measures to improve social spaces and liberalize alcohol policies on campus, the addition of 450 beds will help shift the locus of students’ social life onto campus, where it is more integrated with the intellectual life of the University.

The University will propose significantly improved measures for relieving parking and traffic congestion in Georgetown.  Their first proposal is to not allow off-campus undergraduates to bring cars into Georgetown.

Topher Mathews, Kara and I posted a plea last year to the University to find innovative, progressive ways to better manage transportation demand on the campus of the largest employer in the city. 

Georgetown University has a serious commitment to environmental sustainability and is serious about joining the discourse over smart growth and planning.

There’s more to the plan, and you can read about it on ANC2E’s web site.  Leaders on all sides of the Georgetown campus plan dialogue are to be congratulated for this accord and the spirit it embodies.