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5 Historic D.C. Schools Being Redeveloped To Other Uses

Mayor Muriel Bowser Monday celebrated the start of the renovation of D.C.'s historic Franklin School, which will become an interactive language arts museum. The project is one of several redevelopments across the city bringing life back to historic schools and repurposing them for other uses. Bisnow took a look at five schools undergoing redevelopment across the District. 

Franklin School

The Franklin School at 13th and K streets NW
  • Address: 925 13th St. NW
  • Year Built: 1853
  • Development team: Ann Friedman

The historic Franklin school, sitting across from Franklin Square and named after Benjamin Franklin, was constructed as part of the first comprehensive public education system in D.C. The 51K SF building is now being transformed into Planet Word, a language arts museum and education space. 

D.C. selected Planet Word CEO Ann Friedman in January 2017 to renovate the property, and construction began Monday. The $35M project will include 15K SF of exhibit space, an 1,800 SF auditorium, a 2,500 SF restaurant and 1,500 SF of classroom space. 

"Given the Franklin School’s historic role as a place of learning and exploration, it is fitting that Planet Word will continue using the space in such a unique way to promote creativity and knowledge,” Bowser said in a release. “This one-of-a-kind museum will fit right into the culture and fabric of the District and we are proud to be part of this exciting project.”

Crummell School

A rendering of the redeveloped Crummell School in Ivy City
  • Address: 1900 Gallaudet St. NE
  • Year Built: 1911
  • Development Team: StonebridgeCarras, Jarvis Co. and Profish

Named after abolitionist and educator the Rev. Alexander Crummell, the Crummell School was built to serve African-American children in the Ivy City and Trinidad neighborhoods in the early 20th century. The school closed in the 1970s and has sat vacant ever since. 

The D.C. government in April 2016 released a request for proposals seeking developers to repurpose the 20K SF building on a 108K SF site, which sits just south of the redeveloped Hecht Warehouse. In November 2016 it selected the StonebridgeCarras-led development team.

The developer proposed turning the school into a community center and surrounding it on three sides by a mixed-use development that would include 320 rental units, 22K SF of retail and 35K SF of industrial space, which will be used by seafood company Profish. The project is still in the planning stages. 

Grimke School

  • Address: 912 U St. NW
  • Year Built: 1887
  • Development Team: Community Three Development

The 130-year-old Grimke School on the U Street corridor was named after NAACP President Archibald Grimke. It currently houses the temporary home of the African American Civil War Museum in its gymnasium, and the rest of the building has sat vacant since 2013. 

D.C. released an RFP in 2014 for redevelopment of the property, which would include a permanent home for the museum. It initially awarded the project to Roadside Development, but that deal fell through in late 2016. It then tapped Community Three Development in March 2017 to redevelop the property. 

Community Three in January applied to rezone the property for its project. The developer plans to convert the building to include the 11K SF museum, 4K SF of cultural space administered by CulturalDC and 30K SF of office space, which will include the new headquarters of the project's architect, Torti Gallas + Partners. Next to the school building, the developer plans to construct 40 residential units, 12 of which will be set aside as affordable. 

Randall School

A rendering of the redevelopment plan for Southwest D.C.'s Randall School site.
  • Address: 65 I St. SW
  • Year Built: 1906
  • Development Team: Lowe Enterprises, Telesis Corp.

Built in 1906 as the Francis L. Cardozo Elementary School and converted to the Randall Junior High School in 1927, the building served the area's African-American community and is one of the last remaining vestiges of Southwest D.C.'s pre-urban renewal history. 

The Zoning Commission in 2014 approved a plan to build over 500 units on the site, but that plan has been delayed and slightly changed. Lowe Enterprises joined Telesis Corp. in May 2017 and the team modified the approved plan.

The plan now calls for 479 apartments in a new 110-foot-tall building behind the school. The school building would include 19K SF of commercial space — which could be taken by a coworking operator — 32K SF of museum space and potential restaurants. The Zoning Commission held a hearing March 29 on the revised plan. 

Hine School

The 700 Penn office building and the Residences at Eastern Market, photographed in 2017

The Hine Junior High School operated from 1966 to 2007, when it was closed and became a vacant property on a prime Capitol Hill site across from the Eastern Market Metro station. D.C. began seeking developers in 2008, received interest from 11 bidders and ultimately selected the Eastbanc-Stanton development team.  

After years of legal challenges and delays, the team completed the redevelopment of the property in the fall. The project includes 60K SF of retail anchored by Capitol Hill's first Trader Joe's.

The project's apartment building includes 128 units ranging from 948 SF one-bedrooms to 1,854 SF three-bedrooms, with amenities such as a clubroom, fitness center and conference room. The redevelopment also features a 165K SF trophy office building, where New York-based coworking provider The Yard opened its first D.C. space. 

CORRECTION, JUNE 5, 10:15 A.M. ET: Dantes Partners is no longer partnering on the Franklin School redevelopment, despite being included in D.C.'s January 2017 selection announcement. This story has been updated.