Housing Complex

No Movement on the Horizon for J.F. Cook School

Dormancy continues. (Lydia DePillis)

For a second there, it looked like Youthbuild public charter school was about to start making progress again on its plan to make use of the vacant J.F. Cook School in Truxton Circle after neighborhood protest killed the participation of the Latin American Youth Center, which brought millions of dollars worth of funding from various sources to house at-risk youth. Now, they're back to the drawing board yet again: Nobody responded to Youthbuild's new request for expressions of interest in partnering to redevelop the school, and Youthbuild doesn't have the capital necessary to renovate the place on their own, meaning potentially years of uncertainty before anything happens at the site.

The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education hasn't made clear their intentions for the building; they could just decide to throw the school back out to bid. But local Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners' refusal to consider any housing or social services narrows the options quite a bit.

I hope they're happy.

  • er

    this area seems to be a hub for social services, schools, and liquor stores. is anything else going on there?

  • Skipper

    I'm sure they ARE happy. The neighbors pointed out for months that their area was already heavily saturated with social service agencies and didn't need any more. Ward 5 has no middle school; this school is right at the border of Ward 5 and could be used as a middle school, rather than another poverty warehouse.

  • DCCommish

    We should turn it into mixed income housing. That area is full of social services and schools. Residential for these schools in this area is the best option to maintain balance of various types of developmetn and zoning. THEY ARE VERY HAPPY!

  • TruxtonRes

    I am happy. I know a lot of my neighbors are happy as well.

  • bcc

    Lydia, we're beyond happy - we're elated! We've got far more than our share of social service agencies in this neighborhood. It's time for someone else to pick up the slack.

  • http://blog.inshaw.com Mari

    Happy? Yeah sorta.
    Seriously there will be a big honking low income old folks housing project adjacent to Cook. So as far as low income housing on that block goes, we already got it. Thanks.

  • http://marketurbanism.com Stephen Smith

    Are they refusing all housing options, or only all subsidized housing options? Something tells me they wouldn't be so upset if it were sold to a developer converted to market-rate condos. (I've even heard rumors that market-rate housing prices in DC are kinda high, and supply is kinda constricted?)

    I'll never really understand the attitude that everything that was ever government property should never again be allowed to fall into private hands.

  • Mike

    Stephen: Just the housing for at-risk youth*. Unlike Lydia would have you believe, the neighborhood was never against the school portion.

    Happy? kinda torn, glad to see no additional services, hopeful we will see something that will actually benefit the neighborhood. Sad because this whole debacle has left the building vacant for 3 years.

    * - youth was 18-15yr olds

  • M

    I, for one am happy. I don't know if the Washington City Paper believes the press ought to be objective, and, if not, then my next few sentences are irrelevant. If they do believe the press ought to strive for objectivity though, then why do they allow Lydia to continually write one-sided stories that chastise the Truxton Circle-Shaw/Dunbar residents for opposing this project? I must admit though, that her passive-aggressiveness ("I hope they're happy" lol!) is amusing!

  • Lydia DePillis


    Actually, in previous posts I've made clear that neighbors opposed LAYC's housing component, not Youthbuild. The thing is, LAYC brought 2/3 of the funding to the project, and as the lack of responses to RFEI shows, nobody else has both the interest and the capital to take up the slack (unless, as Stephen suggests, they finagle something with for-profit apartments or condos).

    @Stephen Smith

    The D.C. government typically doesn't share that mentality - it's disposed of many public buildings to private developers over the years.


    Washington City Paper has always believed in fairness, and has never been unafraid to share its opinions. In this case, I think neighborhood resistance to an organization with as long a track record of success as LAYC, with a mission and vision that compliment Youthbuild's so well, is closeminded. And now, it's why that spot will stay dark for years longer than it otherwise might've.

  • Mike

    Your contempt for my neighborhood is almost laughable. In your mind, if a social service is good there is no need for any impact on the neighborhood to be considered. This is clearly much more closeminded, naive and it has been this type of thinking that leaves the neighborhood where it is today.

    Take for example one of that school's neighbors. Within ONE block the following properties are owned by a single service, SOME.

    60 O st nw
    61 O st nw
    63 O st nw
    68 O st nw
    70 O st nw
    71 O st nw
    74 O st nw
    76 O st nw
    1509 North Capitol
    1511 North Capitol
    1513 North Capitol

    When you add these to the numerous neighbors (open arms housing, refuge of hope, transgender health empowerment, covenant house, ... ) that have also opened you start to see how the "it's a service with a long track record" attitude takes a toll, especially when the property in question occupies half a block.

    I know this won't have any impact on your layc good, neighborhood ignorant attitude, but maybe it will shed some light to others on the absurdity of your argument.

  • Ward1

    Oh, Truxton Circle. There is no market rate apartment or condo option for you right now. If any private developer had expressed interest in going to this site, the DC gov't would have already sold it to them (see: Hine School, then see: Stevens school.)
    That is how this game works. The private market has already said "no thank you". They've actually said it more than once.
    Now...maybe it is better (in the eye's of the neighbors) to leave it vacant for 3-5, maybe even 10(?!) more years, than have a social service there. But don't feed yourselves this fantasy about the private market coming to save you. That's almost as laughable as "Lydia's contempt for the neighborhood".

  • M

    Actually schools have first crack at ex-school buildings. So private developers haven't had a chance at the property. Also, I think its great how everybody who does not live in the area feels qualified to tell neighborhood residents what they should think about something that will be built in their backyard. I suppose you also feel qualified to decide what goes on in another person's bedroom, how they are allowed to worship in their church, which political party they have the right to support, etc.

  • Ward1

    "Actually schools have first crack at ex-school buildings."

    Theoretically, yes. But if you think that's how things really work in DC gov't, you should be reading City Paper a lot more often.

  • LongTimerinShaw

    It is a federal law (relatively new) that requires schools be given a first crack at vacant school buildings. This law was implemented *after* affluent neighborhoods were able to see school buildings converted into gyms, condos, etc.

    You sound awfully sure of yourself in your completely inaccurate assumption that "The private market has already said 'no thank you.'" Have you ever even visited our neighborhood to know what you're talking about?

    In the last few years developers have seized opportunities to build condos on empty lots with in just two blocks of the school site, so do your homework before you pontificate.

  • proactive

    This neighborhood has been stripped of many educational institutions and has a tremendous amount of non residents coming in for food, shelter and other services.
    Why import 50 homeless youth into a area that has it's share of crime, violence and homelessness. We have lost several public schools in this historical education cooridor known as Shaw, many are listed below:

    M Street High School
    Armstrong Adult Education Vocational High School
    M. M. Washington Career High School
    ARE Public Charter School
    John F. Cook Elementary School
    Slater Langston Elementary School
    Walker Jones Elelmentary School (Torn Down)
    Scott Montgomery Elementary School
    Bundy Elementary School
    Dunbar Sr. High School (demolition soon)
    Terrell Jr. High School (Torn down)
    Dunbar Recreation Center closed
    Terrell Recreation Center
    Dunbar Track and Pool

    Very few are against a Public School coming on line in this neighborhood, we are apposed to a large amount of unsupervised adult youth dropped in a neighborhood with very little or no supervision after school. We are opposed to the taxpayer paying to change our public school John F. Cook Elementary School to a homeless shelter or residential facility with closed registration or a long waiting list to the youth in our neighborhood. A waiting list system in DC means you wait and wait and wait. All of the charter schools in the neighborhood are specialized and many students are rejected and have to go out of their neighborhood to continue their education. What has happened to our neighborhood schools that children could walk to. Will all the new families moving in have to opt for private schools since we are losing all of the public schools as listed above. The planners need to go back to the drawing board and listen to the community.

  • trulee_pist

    Hi, I'm here to hijack this thread for Hine since *Ward1 10:35 am* mentioned it.

    *@Mike 2:34 pm*, the last day of school at Hine Jr. High was June 2008. It's been 4 years, and not one minute of that delay was caused by neighbors. The developer did request one year's delay in meeting its financing needs. The city and ANC6B are working through their own process, stopping at HPRB and now, on Thursday June 17, the Zoning Commission. Big day for Hine this week!

    DDOT will have a lot to say about the developer's inadequate traffic studies and management plans.

    Department of Housing and Cmty Development might shed light on the way the plans provide for an excellent, plentiful supply of new moderate- and low-income units, but put our new neighbors in a separate building across C Street from the rest of the development's market-rate units and amenities.

    Many details about height and massing--and what kind of windows should face 8th Street--are still being worked out. It's confusing. And these are professional real estate developers.

    A mere 3 years vacant for J.F. Cook, with Youthbuild conscientiously going after it the whole time, not requesting year-long delays, is a long time but not unusual.

    I hope the Truxton Circle neighbors stick with it and gets something great in that building, something they can be proud of. Sorry to be rude, but this J.F. Cook story sounds like another example of blindly blaming delay on the neighbors, when often it can be a developer's stumbles that slow things down. Sorry to butt in.