For all the difficulty and anguish of closing under-utilized public schools, the process is likely to prompt excitement from at least one constituency in the city: real estate developers.
When Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced in 2007 that they would try to close 24 public schools, the interest from the commercial real estate industry was immediate, and for good reason.
Some of the schools Fenty and Rhee proposed shuttering — and which ultimately closed — held high commercial value. Hine Jr. High School on Capitol Hill, across from Eastern Market, and Stevens Elementary School, in the West End, topped the list. Hine is on its way to becoming a mixed-use project led by EastBanc, and Akridge and Ivymount School plan to turn Stevens into an office building and special education center.
What are the prospects for the 20 schools pegged for closure Tuesday by Kaya Henderson, schools chancellor Mayor Vincent C. Gray?
It is not clear. When Fenty and Rhee began closing schools, Neil O. Albert, then-deputy mayor for planning and economic development, did not take long to see empty school building as a redevelopment opportunity. Fenty and Rhee announced their plans to close the schools in November of 2007 and by December of 2008, Albert had analyzed the available properties and prepared 11 of them for commercial real estate developers to bid on (which they announced two days before Christmas).
Henderson, on the other hand, said Tuesday that she wants to keep all of the schools within the school system’s control and has already announced plans to re-use many of them.
Of the 20 schools (or 19 buildings), she suggests that 11 buildings be kept by DCPS, either to plan for future expansion of the school system or for expansion of other educational programs. These include: Francis-Stevens, Garrison, MacFarland, Marshall, Spingarn, Prospect, Shaw at Garnet-Patterson, Davis, Kenilworth, Ferebee-Hope and Johnson.
For three other schools, Henderson says she has set aside for possible use by charters schools. Those are Sharpe Health School, Hamilton campus and Malcolm X. That leaves five listed as “to be determined” and Shaw at Garnet-Patterson as possibly “to be determined.”
Jose Sousa, spokesman for Victor Hoskins, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said early Tuesday afternoon that he had not seen the list of proposed schools to close and declined comment.
Regardless of whether Henderson succeeds in closing the schools but retaining control of the buildings, there is nothing on the current list of closures that approach Hine or Stevens in terms of commercial real estate value. Nine of the properties, for instance, are located east of the Anacostia River, which has not traditionally been a magnet for new development.
But there are certainly properties that will attract commercial interest.
Although Henderson has it pegged for expansion of a high school for School Without Walls, Francis-Stevens Education campus, at 2425 N St. NW, is sandwiched between Rock Creek Park and neighborhoods in the West End. It’s down the street from the Fairmont Hotel and the Park Hyatt.
Garrison Elementary, at 1200 S St. NW, is just north of Logan Circle. Nearby, Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson, at 2001 10th Street NW, is just north of U Street, in an area in which the JBG Cos. is aggressively adding new apartments and retail.
There are some potentially attractive properties in Northeast as well, near the booming H Street corridor. Prospect Learning Center, at 920 F Street NE, is between H Street and Capitol Hill. Spingarn High School, at 2500 Benning Road NE, is along the first streetcar route planned by the city and has been discussed as a property on which to store the new streetcars. Henderson plans for it to be turned into a career and technical education center.
The education discussion comes first. But shortly thereafter, expect the real estate discussion to begin.
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz