Recommendations were made by an Urban Land Institute (ULI) advisory services panel following a recent visit to the Gallaudet campus and the surrounding area to gather information on how the University can fully realize its goal of serving as a catalyst for multi-use development, determine the appropriate use for land development opportunities that could result from current long-term revitalization efforts, and how Gallaudet can best position itself with developers and stakeholders.

Here is a video announcement regarding the ULI visit and recommendations. Below is the campus-wide memo issued by President Hurwitz on September 27, 2011.

Memo to the campus from President Hurwitz

To: Campus Community
From: T. Alan Hurwitz, President
Date: September 27, 2011
Subject: Urban Land Institute Activity Regarding GU's 2012-2022 Campus Plan

Let me tell you about conversations we had at Gallaudet recently.

As many of you know, the university is working on a 10-year campus master plan that is required by the District of Columbia, and that will be submitted for approval to the D.C. government in 2012. The process of developing the campus plan involves multiple phases, including information gathering, visioning workshops, space planning, and so forth.

As part of the phase in which we envision the future, the university sponsored an advisory services panel composed of eight volunteers with a variety of skills from around the country organized by the Urban Land Institute (ULI). The panel was tasked with providing advice on how to create a campus vision that integrates us with the community while facilitating o- and off-campus development and renewal.

The group spent the week of September 12th on campus, interviewing 64 people representing students, faculty, alumni, and staff of the university; local area merchants and individuals from neighborhood associations; officials from the D.C. government, including the Mayor's Office, Parks and Recreation, D.C. Public Schools, and city planners; local Advisory Neighborhood Commission members; local and citywide Chambers of Commerce members; representatives from other area universities and the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area; and other stakeholders.

These panels are a common practice for ULI, which since 1947 has conducted over 600 such panels for universities, towns and cities, developers, military bases, historic areas, sustainable development zones, and others. Panel members consist of urban planners and designers, architects, real estate developers and investment managers, among others.

The visit ended with a presentation by the panel and a written report. While the recommendations are informative and valuable to us for planning purposes, no final decisions regarding action on any or all of these recommendations have been made.

The panel's recommendations fall into five broad categories; each is listed below, with partial details of suggestions they made in each category.

  1. Pull the university closer to its historic heart, in effect moving back toward our core area on the south end of campus and reducing the feeling that the campus is too spread out. Pull away from Hanson Plaza, replacing those dormitories with housing elsewhere on campus- along 6th Street, along Florida Avenue, and so on. These actions will create a campus that is livelier and will reinforce Gallaudet's sense of community. They also recommend replacing the current library with an "Information Commons," on the current site of the EMG Building.
  2. Build bridges to surrounding neighborhoods and to the city by creating a new, dramatic, wide pedestrian entrance to the university-"Olmsted Gate"- from the corner of Florida and 6th Street, sweeping up to Olmsted Green with House One on the right. This may also involve creating a development on the southeast corner of the campus (Florida Avenue and West Virginia Avenue) that includes retail facilities and family rental housing. They ask us to consider including a university building in that area that would house our museum and archives, thus formally supporting, in a very public way, the deaf heritage that is such a prominent part of the fiber of our university. Other facilities that might be created there include an additional athletics building which might be shared with the community.
  3. Create a new great space on 6th Street by concluding an agreement with the developers for our property on the west side of 6th Street. This development will begin a dramatic transformation of the university. In the view of the ULI panel, the development potential in this area is strongest for neighborhood-serving retail and multi-family rental housing. They suggest we should obtain the baseball field on the east side of 6th Street owned by the city and mainly used by Gonzaga High School, and use that area for ground floor retail, possibly with student apartments and/or other market-rate housing above.
  4. Create the capacity to pursue off-campus ventures through a foundation run with an entrepreneurial spirit by a full-time, high-level staff member and supported by a board of its own to invest 5-10 percent of our endowment funds into real estate surrounding the university. This will, over time, give us control of the shape of development around the university, allowing us to control our destiny with our neighbors. The foundation might create prototype DeafSpace residential housing for faculty, staff, and students.
  5. Forge new partnerships to advance the university by working with the District to create a "MSSD/Bilingual High School" composed of deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing students in the current location of the Hamilton School of the D.C. Public Schools district. The Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) would relocate to this space and its current structure would be replaced by a large park on the northern end of the campus with sports fields and other recreation areas. These areas would primarily serve the proposed MSSD/Bilingual High School, but would also be open to the surrounding community, thus creating an enduring tie to a community currently without open spaces of any kind. Such a park would give the community what it has never had-an open space for park land for the Ivy City and Trinidad communities.

(NOTE: As with all of these ideas, there is considerable discussion needed before we move to initiate these changes. For example, there are mandates in the Education of the Deaf Act that control MSSD, and the program operates under the constant oversight of the U.S. Department of Education. We would, of course, not take any action without involving all needed parties-including our campus communities-regarding each recommendation.)

The ULI panel's suggestions included many other recommendations, such as: narrowing traffic on Florida Avenue and on 6th Street, redesigning Olmsted Green by removing the parking lot west of College Hall and creating a park area in its place, beginning a study of creating an innovation laboratory, and developing a landscape plan for the entire university. Multiple ideas were presented for dorms and dining halls which were described as out-of-date; generally the panel discussed ensuring students are pulled closer to the heart of the university as described earlier.

We intentionally began this phase of our campus planning process with the ULI panel because it allows us to inspire new thinking about broad possibilities. Now we will continue dialogue with key stakeholders on and off campus to test the viability of the planning ideas. At the same time, we are going through an inclusive on-campus process to quantify university and Clerc Center facility needs for all aspects of the campus. Early next year we will be looking at a more developed campus plan that will be a synthesis of the recommendations.

I encourage you all to watch for notices of opportunities to communicate your thoughts about the future of Gallaudet. We need the best of your thinking and the best of your suggestions as we complete this critical planning activity.


T. Alan Hurwitz