Bowser quickly initiated a search for other companies or developers that were interested in the building, which was designed by Smithsonian architect Adolf Cluss and built in 1869.
When the deadline for responses arrived Monday, five companies had submitted proposals, most of them headquartered locally.
Among them is CoStar Group, the fast-growing commercial real estate data company that is headquartered on L Street N.W. It previously proposed turning the Franklin School into a center of CoStar’s technology training.
Andrew Florance, CoStar chief executive, said Franklin could sere as a showcase for software development in D.C. as the city becomes more of a hub for technology jobs. “I think it would behoove the District of Columbia to have more software culture in this city,” he said in an interview.
Another company, Thoron Capital, also of D.C., would develop the school in partnership with Georgetown University for the university’s arts and music programs, according to Robert T. Taylor, principal with Thoron.
“Along with our proposed tenant, Georgetown University, our development team is confident that the vision we have presented for the redevelopment and preservation of the Franklin School is innovative and inspired in ways that will honor this important building,” he said in an e-mail.
Other teams that made submissions have experience with mostly smaller-scale development in D.C. neighborhoods.
Dantes Partners, founded by former D.C. official Buwa Binitie, has worked on residential projects along Georgia Avenue and in Columbia Heights. Aria Development Group has invested in housing projects in D.C., New York and Miami.
The fifth, Friedman Capital, invests in real estate and other ventures, according to its Web site. One of its principals, Brian D. Friedman, has worked for years to try to turn a former Adams Morgan church into a luxury hotel.
Dantes Partners said it planned to use Franklin as an office building. Friedman said he planned to turn it into a hotel that would support art and museum programs.
The list of companies expressing interest with Bowser generally lacks firms with experience developing complex, large-scale projects involving historic buildings.
When Levinas was preparing to work on the building he was doing so with developer Anthony Lanier’s Eastbanc firm, which has redeveloped more than a dozen historic Georgetown properties including the transformation of a garbage incinerator into the Ritz-Carlton Hotel & Residences.
The Franklin School is considered a particularly difficult project in part because it is a National Historic Landmark, requiring special approvals for any dramatic changes or additions.
It is one of the few buildings in the city with interior features that are protected from significant alterations, including its stairwell, original mural paintings (frescoes) and a timber-frame roof truss system. It has no parking underground and its interior is damaged from years of use as a homeless shelter and subsequent neglect.
Estimates for the cost of saving the building and rehabilitating it to modern standards run from around $15 million to more than $30 million.
This is at least the fourth time in a decade that a D.C. mayor has tried to put the building back to productive use.
Bowser reconsidered how to develop Franklin as part of a wide review of development projects proposed by the previous mayor, Vincent C. Gray (D). For two projects near U Street, a Florida Ave. development that will feature Whole Foods and redevelopment of the former Grimke School, she negotiated an increase in the portion of affordable housing units from 10 to 30 percent of the total units.
She is also initiating a community-vetting process for how to proceed with Parcel 42, a lot in Shaw that has remained vacant for years.
Brian Kenner, D.C. deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said Friday that he was pleased with the interest in Franklin. Mayoral spokesman Joaquin Joaquin McPeek said the companies had proposed a variety of uses for Franklin and that the project represented a “huge development opportunity for the District.”
“At the end of the day, we want to make sure that this project creates jobs for District residents and ensures long-term economic success for the District,” he said.
Florance, the son of a longtime D.C. architect, said it was the third or fourth time he had made a proposal for the building.
“It’s a passion of love for us. We’re just passionate about it and we’re going to keep coming after it,” he said.