Housing Complex

For Franklin School, Will the Third Time Be the Charm?

The Franklin School, besieged by Occupy D.C. protesters in 2011. (Lydia DePillis)

A gorgeous old building at a desirable address ought to be a developer's dream. But the vacant 1869 Franklin School at 13th and K streets NW has so far proven a headache for administration after administration. Today, after a couple of failed attempts to return it to productive use, the city has issued a call for developers once again.

In 2004, Mayor Anthony Williams entered into a ground lease with the Western Development Corporation to turn the old school into a hotel, but it fell through. In 2009, Mayor Adrian Fenty again sought developers and nearly moved forward with another hotel proposal, but that deal fizzled, too. The school served as a homeless shelter until 2008, and as a temporary home for Occupy D.C. protesters in 2011 fighting the closure of the shelter.

Today's request for qualifications seeks to restart the process. According to the RFQ, the city hopes to serve as landlord to the school's new tenant for an initial term of 20 to 50 years with the possibility of an extension. Responses from interested developers are due May 23; the city expects to issue a request for proposals to selected respondents in June and choose a team late this fall.

While its location at Franklin Square couldn't be better, the site does present challenges to developers. According to the RFQ, it has 33,000 to 38,000 usable square feet—a relatively small space for a big development project. Because it has a historic landmark status, developers can't make major changes to the building's exterior, leaving them without a ton of room to maneuver. It'll be interesting to see how many teams actually pursue this opportunity.

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  • EP Sato

    I'd love for Franklin to get turned into a Charter or public school. The kids at Thomson don't have options nearby for Middle School, and there are plenty of charters seeking permanent space.

    Developers could turn those 38k square feet into 30 or so condos, so how about a building designed for DC City gov't employees? Set limits on maximum price for the condos and then have the city finance the loans. If it's city employees, there's no way they won't pay back their loans because the $$$ could be automatically deducted.

    Failing that, fine, turn it into something. But for real, can we get some efforts to fix Franklin Square?

    That park is a more embarrassing eyesore than the Franklin School itself!

    A walk through Rittenhouse Square in Philly can be had at 2 AM without fear of harrassment or crime. The park even has free wifi.

    To contrast, no one walks through Franklin Square at night because it's so spooky, and it's basically "hobo a go-go" all weekend long. Is this how we want the world to see our downtown?

  • Bac

    Downtown schools are great. Did you lobby for them not to close the truly historic Stevens?

  • Bac

    Love that "besieged" - if you needed any more evidence ...

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