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The city is seeking a developer to transform a vacant U Street NW school building into a new mixed-use facility that will house the African-American Civil War Museum.
The Grimke School, located at the corner of Vermont Avenue and U Street NW, was built in 1887 as the Phelps School, and renamed in 1934 for civic leader and D.C. NAACP president Archibald Grimke. It now sits mostly vacant, after the city relocated the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services and the Department of Corrections to the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center at 14th and U streets NW. The school’s adjacent gymnasium hosts the African-American Civil War Museum, which received $5 million from the city to relocate there in 2010.
The office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development released a request for proposals today for a developer to overhaul the 52,000-square-foot main building, building out about 10,000 square feet within the building for a new home for the museum. The developer would then redevelop the current museum building as well, in addition to an adjoining parcel at 912 U St. NW that is presently leased as a surface parking lot and used for a flea market on the weekends.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to revitalize a property with historic significance in the U Street Corridor and to integrate both sites into the surrounding Uptown Arts District,” Victor Hoskins, the outgoing Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, said in a statement. “We are confident it will draw serious interests from developers, and we look forward to an expeditious solicitation process.”
The city did not specify what type of development it wants on the site, located in the high-demand U Street corridor, full of new pricey apartments and condos. The RFP does note that the space is zoned “ARTS/C-2-B”—-referring to an arts overlay established to encourage arts-related uses, and giving density bonuses for arts and residential developments. Some neighbors have expressed their preference for uses other than high-end residences and nightlife, both of which abound in the area. The RFP does not have any specific requirements for affordable housing, though a residential building would, like all new residential construction, need to comply with the city’s inclusionary zoning law, which requires a portion of the units to be set aside for low-income residents.
Interested developers need to respond by July 29. If the city short-lists certain developers, it will notify them this fall and require best and final offers from them by the end of the year. The city expects to select a development team this winter.
Design concept drawing by Howard+Revis, from the RFP