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Breakfast At Square 54

Washington DC

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Breakfast At Square 54

Okay, it’s not breakfast at Tiffany’s, but coffee at the moonscape off DC’s Washington Circle known as Square 54 is equally exhilarating, as GW’sEVP Lou Katz, below, showed me this morning. Everyone’s been buzzing about how quicker than expected action by GW and Boston Properties in response to Feb. 12 Zoning Commission concerns won tentative approval a couple days ago to proceed. I figured I should go to the scene and learn things you don’t read in the papers.

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Lou heads the business side of the university, and has really high energy. Now I know one of the reasons: he begins at 6 AM each day getting a café misto (the Italian equivalent of café au lait) from the Woodley Park Starbucks, supplemented at 730 AM by a venti regular from Einstein Bagels at the Marvin Center across from his office.

He needed the energy the last few weeks as he worked with the Square 54 Mod Squad (BP’s Peter Johnston and Jake Stroman; Pillsburylawyers Maureen Dwyer and Phil Feola; architects Rafael Pelli and David Hess; and KSI Residential’s Ed Marin) to bring down the heights of the planned 22nd and 23rd Street residential towers (apartments well suited to transients at the World Bank or State) from 14 to 12 stories, and the Circle-facing office building from 11 floors to 10. The magic, though, was preserving the amenity package of sustainable design, interior public courtyards, Eye street retail corridor, and affordable housing. These guys do think of everything: I noticed wood stockade fencing instead of chain link along 23rd and the circle, which Lou explained was because that looks prettier to those higher traffic public areas.

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Lou has been at GW since 1990, by way of growing up in Indianapolisand working first in the S&L industry, then at Tulane in the 80s. Above, also this morning, he showed me the towel he waves at Colonialsbasketball games to show enthusiasm (or distract opposing free throwers?). Also turns out he’s an exercise fanatic, working out twice a week at City Fitness and doing yoga two other days a week at home with a personal instructor.

But here’s the most important—and wonderful—thing I learned: The whole point of Square 54 is to support a science center across the street. That is, the dough that BP pays for a 60 year ground lease (amount undisclosed) is going directly to demolishing an existing parking garage (parking will be distributed around campus at a bunch of below grade sites), and then building thereon a cutting edge facility to serve three adjacent GW entities: the engineering school, medical school, and undergraduate liberal arts program.

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This is the sign Lou put up on Sherry Rutherford’s door down the hall on March 12, when the commission approved the campus plan. Sherry’s the property director who works for him, and his point was that after two and a half years of hard work, they gave birth to the all important PUD (which allows the university to get extra density and grow up, not out). By the way, congrats!