Housing Complex

Manhattan Laundry to Become Startup Crashpad

New life for an old building. (Lydia DePillis)

In recent years, the art deco Manhattan Laundry building on Florida Avenue just east of 14th Street NW has been home to Meridian Public Charter school. Now, they're moving into the old Harrison School a block away, so owner Douglas Development has found a new tenant, at least temporarily: A loose coalition of tech startups that will use the building as a home base for their creative endeavors.

I'll be writing more about this in tomorrow's column, but essentially, it's been difficult for very small companies in D.C.'s newly energized startup scene to find shared office space; operations like New York City's General Assembly just don't exist here. So a few of them, led by Sponto founder Jamey Harvey, asked around to see if local developers had any empty buildings they weren't using. Douglas, of course, has lots of those, and offered the Manhattan Laundry for three months, rent free (which seems a little odd, considering that they owe $21,470 in property taxes on the building, but who am I to impugn their generosity?).

The collective plans to charge some rent to startups that want to hang out there, in hopes of finding a way to hang on to the building long term. In the mean time, they need to settle on a name. "Art Techo" is in the lead at the moment.

  • Chris

    Cool idea for creative and economic growth. What's the proposed timing? Meridian Public Charter School is just starting a $15M renovation of the Harrison School Building at 13th & V, NW but will be in the Manhattan Laundry Building for the full academic year 2011-2012.

  • ess

    well, if Douglas doesn't come up with the money, will the place be sold at tax sale? Maybe Douglas doesn't care about signing a rent-free lease if they're not planning to be around to collect rents anyway.

  • Typical DC BS

    @ess: Douglas WILL pay the taxes (plus interest and penalties) before the property gets sold. He's just letting whoever "wins" at the tax sale to become his new "lender" until he scrapes up the money to pay the taxes.

  • http://www.dcexecutivespace.com Caleb

    " it's been difficult for very small companies in D.C.'s newly energized startup scene to find shared office space"

    This is a true statement, which is why my firm launched http://www.dcexecutivespace.com to provide a list of all professional shared space locations in the DC metro area.

    We've organized it so startups can search for space by location, metro station, office provider, office solution, and by star rating.

    The best part is its free!

  • Peter Corbett

    "I love it when a plan comes together" -The A Team

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  • http://www.indiefeed.com Chris MacDonald

    Excellent idea. Count me interested if the loose coalition wants another member. Contact me at chris at the website domain I linked on this message.

  • Chris

    Meridian Public Charter is gathering its forces to leave the Manhattan Laundry building to make way for other tenants through a lease with Douglas Development or a sub-lease:

    Meridian Chairman Ron Ridker explained the school’s commitment to the U Street area. “The Manhattan Laundry building has served us very well since our inception twelve years ago. We could have found a good permanent home for Meridian in other parts of the city, but waited until an appropriate building close to our current location came along, so we could continue serving the community we grew up with. The Manhattan Laundry space will soon be available for other uses.”


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