Housing Complex

Slideshow: Franklin School Presents Challenges for Would-Be Developers

After years of neglect, two failed attempts to develop it, and a stint as a homeless shelter, the Franklin School is ready for development. At least that's what city officials are hoping. Earlier this month, the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development issued a request for qualifications for the 1869 building on 13th Street NW. Today, would-be developers took a tour of the space in advance of the May 23 deadline for developers to respond to the RFQ and the June issuance of a request for proposals.

The Franklin School is, to put it mildly, in need of some love. But not only is it in an advanced state of deterioration; its historic nature makes it difficult to adapt to a modern usage. Both the exterior of the building and parts of its interior have a historic designation, meaning they can't be significantly altered as part of development. The Historic Preservation Office's Steve Callcott tells me that the grand hall of the building and the stairway halls are historic and must be preserved. Additionally, if a developer applies for a federal rehabilitation tax credit, the preservation rules grow even more stringent. On top of that, many of the interior walls are load-bearing, so they can't be easily torn down.

Nonetheless, Nimita Shah, the DMPED project manager for the Franklin School, says she's gotten substantial interest from developers over the past few years. "I've have pressure to get this out because I know a lot of people are interested," she says. Because of the inflexibility and the lack of parking, Shah says conversion into a residential building "presents a huge challenge," but that a hotel or nonprofit headquarters would be more likely, with traditional offices as a possibility, too.

DMPED is seeking proposals that include a viable tenant for the space—either from a would-be tenant who would partner with a contractor or from a developer who'd partner with a tenant. The city is looking to issue a ground lease for the space. The building has 51,000 gross square feet, of which Shah says between 33,000 and 38,000 are usable (the rest being stairways, etc.).

The building, it must be said, is gorgeous. It's also in god-awful shape. We weren't allowed up to the fourth story because there are holes in the floor, but here are some images of the "good" parts of the building that we were able to see. Some parts are beautiful; some are decrepit; some bear remnants of the building's homeless shelter days; and some are downright creepy. Developers, have fun with this one.

Click on the photo below to begin the slideshow:

  • tim

    Hope it is used as something that will put people on the streets on nights and weekends. Since it sounds like residential is out, guess a hotel would be the best use.

  • Bac

    What about a school?

  • Logan Res

    This project would be ideal for high-end residential. The high ceilings and windows would make great loft spaces. I know of a lot of people, myself included, who would buy into a building such as this. There is absolutely no need to have parking in a prime downtown location such as this. Why do we keep thinking that parking is even an issue. More and more residents are ditching their cars.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AdamLDC Adam L

    @Bac

    It's much better, easier, and cheaper for the city to build new modern school buildings that actually meet today's needs. There are other uses for Franklin that can be paid for with private funds.

  • Bac

    Schools are today's needs.

  • Matthew

    Reminds one of the abandoned Wilson Building before it was remodelled -- all those 6+ foot tall partition walls. Of course the Wilson building was only empty 1992-2001 (DC Council held on for a while).

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  • katie

    the LAST thing we need in this city is more "high-end residential" living, @Logan Res. Seriously, the last thing.

  • maktoo

    There's a school right around the corner, on L St. And it's a bigger building. I think a hotel, with a thumpin' night club, would be fun. There are already 2 clubs on the park - a third would bring the action east a bit. And I speak as someone who does not frequent clubs. ; )

    Lovely building.

  • Bac

    What? No more luxury housing? No more fish tanks in the lobby and other very useful items!!!!

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