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It’s do-over time for the Franklin School. Three months after the administration of Mayor Muriel Bowser scrapped plans for a museum at the historic school building on 13th Street NW, awarded by previous Mayor Vince Gray, five developers have submitted new bids to bring the property to life.
Last February, Gray announced that he’d selected a team helmed by art collector Dani Levinas to turn the vacant building into a “kunsthalle” called the Institute for Contemporary Expression. But Bowser, as part of a broader rethinking of Gray’s contract awards, decided to scrap that plan, citing concerns about ICE’s finances.
She put the site out for new bids, and five developers have responded. ICE is not among them. In fact, just one of the four bidders from last year re-applied this time around: the CoStar Group, which previously pitched the site as its “primary global technology research and development center.”
Douglas Development, which had proposed a boutique hotel, and a digital hub concept from Lowe Enterprises, Bundy Development Corporation, and DC Innovates chose not to toss their hats back into the ring.
Instead, in addition to CoStar, there are four new bidders: the Aria Development Group, which has focused on residential and mixed-use properties; Dantes Partners, led by a former D.C. official who’s worked on the New Communities project; Friedman Capital, which has worked on the long-planned Adams Morgan hotel; and Thoron Capital, a D.C.-based firm that focuses on transit-oriented and mixed-use properties.
The respondents lack the big names of the earlier respondents, like Douglas, one of D.C.’s leading developers, and EastBanc, a partner in the ICE project and a dominant force in Georgetown-area development.
“All of these, we believe, are viable projects,” says Joaquin McPeek, spokesman for the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Brian Kenner, who’s in charge of choosing the project’s developer. “We’re working hard to select the project that will best benefit residents and create long-term economic impact for the District, including good-paying jobs for D.C. residents.”
McPeek says the city will evaluate the responses and issue a final request for proposals “in the coming months.”
Photo by Aaron Wiener