Gray’s Choice for the Franklin School: UDC School of Law
If the Fenty Administration doesn't make a decision on who'll get to develop the Franklin School on 13th and K Streets NW soon, it may be up to a Vince Gray administration. If so, we know what the chairman would prefer: At a meet-and-greet in Cleveland Park on Tuesday, he said that the University of the District of Columbia's David A. Clark School of Law would be the perfect occupant. Joe Browne, the who heads the Coalition for the Franklin School's steering committee, strongly endorses the choice.
The one most in favor of UDC's Law School moving to the Franklin School building, however, might be the law school itself.
"Our dream, our vision, is to have a law school downtown," the school's dean, Katherine Broderick, tells Housing Complex. "The Franklin School would be absolutely perfect for our students and our clients...this is Mecca."
The school's clients are predominantly homeless and low-income people who benefit from the school's public interest legal services. Students and faculty put in 85,000 hours per year serving 1,000 folks in need. Being in Van Ness doesn't serve that purpose very well.
"Upper Northwest is nice, but there aren't many poor people," Broderick says. "It's often two bus rides and a subway away." (And it seems like those protesting the closure of the former Franklin Shelter might be satisfied with having the law school there as well.)
The school plans to grow to 650 students–it's currently 325 students, squished into 60,000 square feet on three and a half floors at UDC's Connecticut Avenue campus. Broderick estimates that they'll need 225,000 square feet eventually, which is more space than the Franklin School has. But considering UDC doesn't have the dough to buy their own building, a District-disposed former school would fit the bill quite well.
The catch: The law school didn't answer last fall's request for proposal. But the Coalition suggested a "variety of educational uses," and the other options are a charter elementary school and a boutique hotel. The City Council would have to approve the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development's selection, and it seems unlikely they'd hand the Franklin School to a private interest with such a serious bid from UDC on the table. Even if he loses, Gray–who is a founding board member of the law school–could have significant influence in blocking any other selection in the four months before his lame duck term as chair ended.