Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s economic development team plans to seek private sector partners this fall to develop five city-owned properties, including two historic former school buildings, the Stevens Elementary School in the West End and the Franklin School downtown.
In addition to the two schools, Gray and his deputy mayor for planning and economic development, Victor Hoskins, will seek partners for property the city owns at 7th street and Rhode Island Avenue in the Northwest – often referred to as Parcel 42 – as well as R.L. Christian Library at 1300 H Street NE and parcels at 2251 Sherman Avenue NW, according to spokesman Jose Sousa.
Sousa said Hoskins has been prioritizing the city's development portfolio and assessing its inventory of properties with an eye on which could be redeveloped.
“We received a significant amount of interest from the private sector on many of these parcels and we believe them to be developments that can be put in place without any District subsidy,” Sousa said.
Former mayor Adrian M. Fenty attempted to redevelop some of the properties, only to see the economy or community opposition scuttle the plans. Fenty initially picked developers for both schools, but the city later severed both relationships.
Stevens, at 21st and K streets NW, opened in 1868 to educate the children of freed slaves but was closed as part of former schools chancellor Michelle A. Rhee’s reform efforts. Fenty sought developers for the property and received interest from nine, including one from developer R. Donahue Peebles, who nearly ran for mayor after not being selected. Fenty picked Chicago-based Equity Residential to turn the school into apartments but later cut ties with Equity after opposition from neighbors and Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2).
Franklin School, overlooking Franklin Square, was built in 1869 and became the city’s first high school in 1880. More recently, it was used as a homeless shelter and fell into disrepair. Fenty received only two proposals for the property and considered Cana Development on a preliminary basis to turn the property into an extended-stay hotel, but the deal failed to progress.
Fenty’s team also chose a development partner for “Parcel 42,” near Howard University, and announced plans to build below-market-rate housing there with Horning Bros. When the deal stalled last summer, affordable housing advocates staged a weeks-long protest by erecting a tent city on the property.