Here’s a tough question for some of the District’s increasingly deteriorated properties: Does anyone actually have what it takes to restore them?
Take the Langston School, at 45 P Street NW, which became a homeless shelter in 1997 but has been vacant for years. The District put out a request for offers from charter schools in 2008, but received no responses. In October, the Historic Preservation Review Board named it a D.C. landmark (read the nomination here), meaning that it has to be restored rather than knocked down—-at substantial cost, considering the depth of disrepair.
Then there’s the J.F. Cook School, with which regular Housing Complex readers will be familiar. The city also put this one out to bid in 2008, and selected a team of Youthbuild Public Charter School and the Latin American Youth Center, which brought substantial funding to the table in the form of grants, loans, and tax credits. But the neighborhood rejected their proposal for housing at-risk youth on the upper floors, and the project died.
Now, the city is starting the process over again, with a hearing on January 12th to ask whether the two buildings should be “surplused”—-deemed unnecessary for further District use. After that, the Department of General Services will invite more offers, choose their favorite, and as the D.C. Council to “dispose” the properties to whomever wins out.
This time around, a new proposal might stick. Having already taken the legally-required step of first offering the building to charter schools, the city can now accept bids from other kinds of developers, who might propose to turn them into apartments or condos. But the buildings, located right off North Capitol street, aren’t the most obvious home runs from a residential real estate perspective—-unlike, say, the Stevens School in the West End, which had people representing 87 different institutions sign up for a pre-response site tour—-especially with the millions of dollars it will cost to restore the Langston School. So we’ll see who, if anyone, wants to take them on.
Photo by Lydia DePillis