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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.