What to do about empty schools

Originally uploaded by In Shaw

There will be a meeting (isn’t there always a meeting about anything around here?) March 20th for Ward 5 from 6-8pm at McKinley Technology High School about reuse of school buildings like JF Cook (as seen in pix); Backus; Taft; Slowe; MM Washington and Young.
If nothing else pops up on my after work calendar (like another meeting for something else or emergency hair appointment) I’ll probably attend. I have some ideas of what I’d like the two closing schools in the TC to be:
Not residential housing- Takes too long, requires too many committees, red tape, and people get all huffy when it’s not affordable or it’s not luxury.
Office Space…. for a non-social services branch of DC govt- I can’t imagine it would take too much work to replace small desks with cubicles. I say non-social services ’cause folks get annoyed with the non-profit social service orgs around here and get into a tizzy when another one pops up (SOME and group houses).
Office Space-non-profits (non-social services)- for the same reasons stated above. However, it would require hoops and other pieces of red tape.
My main interest is finding someone, something that could move into Cooke or MM Washington as soon as the kids clear out. As when the city mothballs these buildings they allow for their slow destruction. The longer they are mothballed the more likely they will look like Langston or Armstrong and become de facto homeless shelters and crack ho bordellos.

7 thoughts on “What to do about empty schools”

  1. I agree that offices would be a good use for the buildings, but residential could be good as well (market rate with a workfoce-priced component). We could use some more density to support current and future local retail along the N. Cap St. corridor. The absolute worst case scenario would be a shelter or social service agency. I’m fully supportive of the important services that SOME and the methadone clinic provide, but we don’t need to become “social service central” here in the TC.


  2. Residential takes too long as you have to convert the building and configure the building, and there are too many cogs where if one gums up the building gets mothballed while waiting for some committee or contractor or department to do whatever. My main goal is to avoid the building being too empty too long. Take a look at the Langston School (across the street from Cook) as an bit of inspiration to see what happens when schools sit too long.

  3. they should all be luxury condo’s every last one of them. there’s enough office parks like bundy that contribute ZERO to the neighborhood except the car volume on our stressed streets.

  4. Do you think the Associates for Renewal in Education (ARE) could move into Cooke. They are currently leasing the Slater and Langston schools (with a long-long-term goal of rehabbing Langston and moving in there). If ARE could move into a better facility like Cooke, would that leave Slater and Langston up for redevelopment? I think that would be great. More residential density on that end of the block would be benificial to the retail establishments.

  5. Mari have you seen the Gage School conversion at 2nd and U? Unfortunately it came a bit late in the housing bubble (they are selling slowly) but the construction itself is beautiful, respectful of the neighborhood context, and at a reasonable (not luxury, not subsidized) price (starting in the low $200Ks for studios). I live across the street and while I am distressed at how slowly they are selling, I am heartened to see this building in such gorgeous shape (they spent $30M renovating the old school + constructing a new building on the old recess yards) and love seeing the truly diverse group of people walking their dogs and heading to work out of what was once a boarded up wreck.

    however based on this experience (it took years to get this permitted and built) and the real estate market today I wouldn’t put too much hope in residential for other schools as you rightly point out.

  6. sorry the above about gage school was from 2nd st (i’ve posted here before w/ that name)

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