Staff Editorial: UDC’s student housing goal is worth pursuing

The office building at 4250 Connecticut Ave. NW is currently occupied by Fannie Mae. (Susann Shin/The Current)

As the University of the District of Columbia tries to boost both its status and its enrollment, officials identified a mediocre student experience as a key failing. To that end, the school identified two critical missing facilities: a student center and on-campus student housing. Both were approved by the Zoning Commission in 2011, and the much-delayed student center opened in early 2016.

But there’s still no housing option, aside from a few dozen apartments UDC leases at two nearby apartment buildings — a poor approach for all involved, including for other residents of those buildings.

Accordingly, we’re intrigued by the university’s effort to lease the office building at 4250 Connecticut Ave. NW, which new owner Bernstein Management would convert into apartments upon Fannie Mae’s forthcoming departure. This property sits directly adjacent to the university’s Van Ness campus, and its use by the university would avoid the costly, disruptive and time-consuming need for constructing a new building. It’s also surrounded only by institutional and commercial space, which ought to avoid the risk of student noise complaints.

Officials from the university and Bernstein have both emphasized that their negotiations are preliminary, and we’d want to ensure that the District is getting a good deal before giving our wholehearted endorsement.

But overall, we agree that student housing is needed. It’s a key part of college life for many students, and in particular could make the school more attractive to students from outside of D.C. — perhaps international students who’d like to study in Washington but would find it daunting to track down private housing. Whether it’s the Fannie Mae building or a newly constructed facility, we hope the school can create a viable housing option, providing momentum for this vital resource.