George Washington University’s new president seeks top 30 ranking

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The new president of George Washington University plans to make a major effort to raise the school’s national standing over the next several years, he said at a recent meeting of the West End Citizens Association.

U.S. News & World Report currently ranks the school as No. 56 nationally, Thomas LeBlanc told residents. His goal is to reach the top 30 within a few years.

“We’re not going to be a Harvard,” LeBlanc said, “but GW can be better than it is today.”

Among the areas where he wants to concentrate are the sciences, engineering, the arts and the medical school.

A rendering of 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW shows the new office building there, depicted next door to another new building that remains under construction. (rendering courtesy of Boston Properties)

LeBlanc spent 20 years at the University of Rochester in New York as a science professor and later as dean of arts and engineering. He then went to the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., where he became provost and executive vice president in 2005. LeBlanc said this is his first time working at an urban campus.

Several attendees at the meeting expressed concerns about the state of retail in the Foggy Bottom/West End area. They were particularly anxious for help in landing a grocery store in the planned 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW project — a mixed-use commercial development the university is using as an investment property that is slated to include 30,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space. There was also a push for a bookstore and a dry cleaner.

Although the university owns the land, Boston Properties is the site’s primary developer and will make the decisions on retail tenants. Nonetheless, LeBlanc said the point was “well-taken” and pledged to mention the feedback. “I don’t know the retail plans for 2100, but I’ll plant the seed,” he said.