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The old H.D. Woodson High School building

I received the following e-mail from a source on March 25:

Have you been past the Woodson project lately…it seems relatively quiet over-there… It doesn’t look like much of construction going over there at this moment…considering it is supposedly to be open within 18 months? Rumor has it that and you didn’t’ get it from me that they had to scrap the design plans…Will this be an upgrade or a downgrade when it comes to the new design…the Ooops division is developing! Now who gets the blame Lew/Rhee or Gray/Fenty probably there’s enough blame for everyone.”

Ah, now if only I could get the number to this Ooops division office! That would be a scoop!

But my source’s tip was right. The Washington Post is reporting today the trouble was the design, after all. There is a comfort in knowing that whatever building goes up, it will undoubtedly be better than the old penitentiary-esque “Tower of Power.”  But the project appears significantly delayed. School construction chief Allen Y. Lew is prepared to start completely anew with a design competition:

Lew, questioned about Woodson at a council budget hearing Tuesday, described the problems as “hiccups” in the design and construction management process. He said that over time, the plans devised by the architects, the Texas-based SHW Group, seemed to drift from the original vision.

“It was going from a kind of transparency design, from more glass to a lot less glass,” he said.

Lew brought in another architectural firm to consult but said he still wasn’t happy. He said he is prepared to open the project to a design competition. He did something similar with the design for the planned modernization of Wilson High School in Northwest, vetting 21 proposals before selecting Cox Graae + Spack Architects of Washington last week. “If we’re going to proceed, we should proceed with something that’s special,” said Lew, who expected to have a new design by July.