Articles yesterday referred to the area bounded by 13th, 14th, I and K streets NW as both Franklin Square and Franklin Park. Franklin Park is the area of grass, trees and paths within those boundaries; Franklin Square is the name that owners and occupants of the nearby buildings, including the Franklin Square Association, use in referring to the area. (Published 1/17/88)

Historic Franklin Square, dominated by a graceful fountain and a statue of Revolutionary War hero John Barry, is becoming the center of a new downtown business district after nearly a decade of building and boosting by developers and the real estate industry.

New and renovated office buildings in a 15-block area around the square contain more than 5 million square feet of office space where about 20,000 people work. More buildings scheduled for completion in the next two years will add nearly 2 million square feet of space at a cost of more than $400 million.

The Franklin Square Association, made up of owners and occupants of the buildings in the area, held its annual meeting this week to claim success in cleaning up the shabby park on the square, where lunchtime concerts now are held in the summer, as well as much of the surrounding neighborhood. The group has driven out 16 of 22 sexually oriented businesses, most of them on the 14th Street strip, by challenging invalid permits and urging city officials to crack down on zoning and liquor law violations, according to William C. Smith, the association's chairman and an executive with John Akridge Co.

Smith said the organization spent two years and $30,000 in successfully challenging the liquor license of one bar. The Casino Royale theater at the corner of 14th and H streets still shows pornographic movies, and a few "adult" book stores and other businesses are still open across 14th Street.

Crime in the area has decreased sharply as law firms and associations -- more than 100 of each so far -- and other businesses have moved into offices in the area. The District now reaps $35 million in tax revenue from development in the neighborhood, Smith said.

City Council members and District government officials attending the meeting said they are delighted by the changes in the neighborhood, which has been shabby since the 1968 riots following the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

But Franklin Square's boosters have not been as successful in ridding the neighborhood of prostitutes, who have been active in the area off and on since Union soldiers camped there during the Civil War. According to local legend, women offering their favors to Gen. Joe Hooker's troops at Franklin Square during the Civil War were nicknamed hookers, a label that has lived on.

Developers began buying property around the square, bounded by 13th, 14th, I and K streets NW, in the early 1980s as space available for new construction became scarce in the central business district to the west. They hoped to draw business organizations looking for new offices.

But developers soon found "the merging of pin stripes with pimps wasn't working," and prospective tenants were slower to move into the neighborhood than property owners had hoped, Smith said. Although much of that resistance has faded and most of Franklin Square's new offices are occupied, prostitution is still "a thriving, 24-hour, seven-day business," he said.

Police Inspector Nelson Grillo said D.C. police "average about five to six arrests an evening" on prostitution charges, most of them in the areas around 14th and K streets, Vermont Avenue and Thomas Circle.

Franklin Square's fortunes have been up and down in the last century and a half. After the Civil War, the area became a fashionable residential neighborhood. In the mid-1930s it was a bustling weekend meeting place for residents of the apartment buildings and rooming houses north of K Street, and was surrounded by thriving retail stores, a long-time Washington resident recalled. The area declined again in the wake of the 1968 riots.

Homeless Washingtonians still spend their days, and sometimes their nights, in the park, but their numbers are dwindling. There are plans for more work, including better lighting, more plantings, improvements to the fountain and wider sidewalks, to be paid for by the National Park Service (which has jurisdiction over the park), the District government and developers who own property in the area, according to Smith.

Jay Bright, Washington manager for Manufacturers Real Estate, a division of Manufacturers Life Insurance Co. of Toronto, said he believes the blocks facing the park "will virtually change overnight" when three new buildings are completed on property facing the park.

Bright's company has started work on a 350,000-square-foot office building at the corner of 14th and I streets, and expects it to be ready for occupancy by early 1989.

A law firm, Spriggs, Bode & Hollingsworth, will leave its offices on 15th Street NW to move into 30,000 square feet of space in the building, Bright said, but no other leases have been signed yet.

Next door, Gerald D. Hines Interests, a Texas developer that recently completed the Columbia Square office complex in the District, will begin construction on a 505,000-square-foot building by the end of January, the company announced last week. A Hines spokeswoman said more than one-third of the space has been leased to two law firms, which will move from the central business district centered at Connecticut and L streets NW.

Across Franklin Square, at the northwest corner of 13th and K streets, Prentiss Properties Ltd. plans to start a 550,000-square-foot structure by the end of this year, according to Stephen Muller, Prentiss' development officer. The company expects to have some of the space leased by then, he said.

Muller and a spokesman for IBM Corp., which is a part owner of the property, would not discuss reports from industry sources that the two companies are near an agreement for IBM to occupy part of the building. The IBM official said his company has made "no decision on options for {use of} the land."

One occupant, however, is already signed on. The Almas Temple of the Shriners, which had faced Franklin Square on K Street since 1929, was demolished last year by Prentiss to make way for the new building. But the temple's ornate facade was removed blue tile by blue tile and will be put back together on the front of the new building, Muller said.

Behind the facade, the 3,000 members of the Shrine temple will have 40,000 square feet of space, according to William Blumenhauer, building committee chairman for the organization. The Shriners sold their land to the developer, but will retain ownership of the part of the building the organization will occupy, he said.

Developers in the area are generally mum on the rents they hope to charge, but Bright said the lease his company has signed for its Franklin Square building will yield an average annual per-square-foot rent in the "high $30s over the next 10 years." Most Franklin Square developers are asking for rents in "the low $30s," said Justin Hinders, a commercial leasing agent and investor. He said "a big, strong tenant" probably could negotiate for around $27 a square foot, with some concessions, such as subleasing rights, and a long-term lease without a rent increase.

Completion of the Franklin Square developments can be expected to increase the District's office vacancy rate, according to W. Cabell Grayson, vice president of Coldwell Banker Real Estate Services. That rate was 11 percent at the end of 1987, and is expected to hit 13 percent later this year, he said.

The Franklin Square Association, which includes buildings in its vacancy calculations when they are ready for occupancy, puts the vacancy rate in the 15-block area it represents at 5 percent, according to Arthur J. Schultz III, the association's executive director.