Local: Education

D.C.'s historic Franklin School awaits repairs, government action

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Local,DC,Education,Eric P. Newcomer

The Franklin School building sits empty and unused, an imposing, tasteful brick building amid a sea of cookie-cutter office buildings in downtown D.C.

Even though its last legal occupant, a shelter for homeless men, vacated the building in 2008, the historic landmark remains years away from being put to use.

Community advocates worry that delays have worsened the building's condition.

Terry Lynch, head of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, called the building "unsafe."

"This is a national landmark that this administration allowed to be even further endangered," he said. "The building continues to deteriorate."

Howard Marks, president of the 1150 K St. condominium board, said the nearby building at 13th and K streets NW has become a breeding ground for rodents.

"It's become like a garbage heap," he said. "I'd hate to see this building go to the wrecking ball. It's a neighborhood gem."

The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development said through a spokeswoman that it is preparing a formal request for redevelopment plans that should be ready by the end of this month.

The building, completed in 1869, has been slated for economic development since Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration.

In 2009, the city considered putting a hotel and cooking school in the space, but that didn't happen.

In March 2011, after three private development attempts had flopped, Mayor Vincent Gray's development office struck an optimistic tone.

"We've heard from some very interested parties about the space," Jose Sousa, a spokesman for the Office of Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, said at the time.

The building's historic designation may make it harder to find an appropriate use for the space.

"So much of the interior is part of the historic register you can't just go inside and gut the place," said Tim Christensen, president of the Logan Circle Community Association. He suggested the interior's historic designations should be re-evaluated.

Christensen, who hopes the building is sold to a private developer, said he understood the slow process.

"The repurposing of Franklin School is a very serious matter and ought to be taken very seriously," he said. "I think four years from now, it's realistic that something viable will be operating in the Franklin School."

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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