Permits now only obstacle to construction at Spring Valley Center

Construction is still on hold at the recently-purchased Spring Valley Center, new home to the Washington College of Law, and will not begin until construction permits are obtained.

"The city provides no specific calendar as to when the permit will be released," said Andrew Popper, WCL deputy dean of space and planning.

Purchase of the center was a major advance for the WCL, which has been planning to move off the main AU campus for several years. The school did battle with several neighborhood groups which have been opposing the move. The groups claim the Board of Zoning Adjustment decision which allowed WCL to move to the new location by altering AU's campus plan was "procedurally improper" because the community was not given a voice in the matter.

AU obtained a clarification order from the BZA in December that said commercially-zoned property could be included in the campus plan. The order allowed AU to purchase property at 4801 Massachusetts Ave. and start planning for renovations to convert the office building into an academic building.

Overcrowding led the university to search for a new site several years ago. Currently, personnel, law students and the law library are housed in a facility that is inadequate for its needs, according to university officials.

After successfully fighting protests that included a brief court battle with the neighborhood over zoning rights, AU purchased the property over the summer for $12 million.

Once construction begins, it should take no longer than a year before the actual move can occur, but depending on what contractors find inside the building, construction could take longer, Popper said.

"When you make renovations you often are surprised at what you find beneath the tiling," Popper said.

The parking garage underneath the building can accommodate approximately 300 cars, which will mean more than 250 cars will be off the main campus once the move is completed.

"Overall, the move will be an improvement for both the main campus and the WCL," Popper said.

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