Creative Minds International Public Charter School has signed a 10-year lease on a historic building surrounded by green space at the Armed Forces Retirement Home.
School officials hosted a “lease-signing ceremony” Monday afternoon at the site, also know as the Old Soldiers’ Home. Starting next fall, the charter school plans to open doors to 250 students in the Sherman building, a former dormitory used more recently as art studio space for residents.
Finding adequate facilities with outdoor space is a steep challenge for the city’s charter schools. In a statement, Golnar Abedin, the school’s founder, said the school community is “grateful for this wonderful opportunity.”
The history of the retirement home dates back to the mid-19th century, when Congress established an “asylum for old and disabled soldiers.” Today it’s home to more than 500 military retirees who have access to a nine-hole golf course, a pond, gym, and trails.
The home operates as an independent federal agency with a trust fund, but it has been struggling financially in recent years amid declining revenues and growing costs associated with residents who are living longer and require more specialized services.
In addition to leasing the Sherman building, the home has plans to lease 77 acres for a mixed use development, including retail, housing, and offices.
The community is gated, and visitors must come and go through a secured entrance.
Steven McManus, chief operating officer for the home, said he thinks that having a school on the property will “be a great fit,” because the site offers rich historical resources. The Lincoln Cottage, where the former president drafted the Emancipation Proclamation, is on-site. And students can learn from the residents who are veterans of the Vietnam and Korean wars and World War II.
And for the retirees, he said, “It’ just nice to have kids around.”
Officials posted the building for lease in December 2013, and interviewed at least one other charter school operator, McManus said.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) was scheduled to speak at the lease-signing ceremony Monday. In a statement she called the partnership “not only innovative but increasingly necessary in a city where land is scarce and the unoccupied space is often on federal land.”