Friday, November 27, 2009

Future of the Franklin School

The Franklin School, located at 13th & K Street NW, was designed by Adolph Cluss in 1869.  It is a National Historic Landmark. Photo: army.arch on Flickr.

Bill Gilcher from the Coalition for Franklin School - a new, ad-hoc group - will talk about the city's current move to redevelop this significant building at a meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2F on Wednesday, December 2, 7:00 pm, at the Washington Plaza Hotel, 10 Thomas Circle, NW. Help brainstorm how the building could be put to the best public use.

The next day, Thursday, December 3, from 10 am until noon, there will be a rare opportunity to see the inside of the Franklin School at an open house hosted by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED). Show your interest in the building and your support for educational and cultural use by showing up as part of the "Think Franklin Team."

The city is posed to turn the building into a boutique hotel.  I've said it before and will say it again... Franklin School should be put toward an educational purpose, as it was intended from the very start.  A community college campus?  A magnet high school for international studies?  A home for an innovative public school?  A satellite campus for undergraduate DC-semester programs?  Use of the Great Hall for guest lecturers on topics of interest to the public?  Let's bring life to downtown.  Let's turn Franklin School into the world class educational institution...once again! 

Past posts on the Franklin School:


DMV said...

I completely disagree. Why waste, yes waste, an architectural marvel in such a prime area of the city for a school? Same with Stevens. Other cities don't send kids downtown to go to school. It makes no sense. Send kids to school in actual neighborhoods, where they're not liable to get run over by speeding MD and VA motorists. School children by and large don't live around there, so why shuttle them downtown just to fulfill your fantasy? As for a college site, this is wayyyyy too small for such a use. Frankly, a boutique hotel would be too small as well. This building is tiny. Better to make it into offices and a restaurant/banquet/event hall. Or maybe a place for heads of state to stay?

Say NO to a school in this building. I know I will. Put the schools where kids actually live.

Cary Silverman said...

DMV, you raise valid points. He are some thoughts.

While it may be true that few people once lived downtown, that is, fortunately, no longer the case today. According to the Downtown BID, there are about 3,000 apartments and 2,500 condos downtown ( Not all of these are in the immediate area of Franklin, but some are, and more will be. For instance, 700 additional units are planned for the Old Convention Center site, just a few blocks from the Franklin School. ( While there may be few children in these buildings, if DC is going to have a sustainable and livable downtown, it will need schools there. As I write from thanksgiving in NYC, there's schools in the midst of downtown and not uncommon to see children in strollers and playgrounds next to office buildings and stores. It's becoming more common in DC to see families downtown and I think it is the right direction.

Even if there are not enough children downtown to fill a school (capacity of Franklin would be about 400-450 students), there are plenty that would send their children out of boundary. You ask why we should shuttle them downtown? Well, I'd respond that numerous parents already shuttle their children to places where they do not live. Private school. Others send their kids to a few successful public schools like Oyster and School Without Walls. Hardy Middle School, in Georgetown, is about 80% out-of-boundary. As someone who chose to go to a magnet high school rather than my local high school, because I believed it was a better fit and would provide me with a better educational experience, I think parents and their children should have choices.

I agree that Franklin would be too small to house an entire community college. I suggest only that it might be able to house a particular program for a community college, must as GW, for example, has separate buildings for its international, law, med, business, and other programs. Perhaps Franklin could provide a hospitality or construction management program?

Adam said...

Hey that's my photo (although my pseudonym is army.arch and not Amy Arch).

Just wanted to add my two cents to this discussion. I attended the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference in downtown Nashville back in October. There is a public magnet high school located there called Hume-Fogg High School. In 2009, it was ranked 24th for public high schools in a list compiled by Newsweek. The building is also on the National Register. So some cities do locate schools downtown for specific reasons. I think that it would be great for this to be a magnet school rather than another boutique hotel.

Cary Silverman said...

Great photo, Adam, I've used it in my past posts on Franklin as well. I have corrected the attribution.

IMGoph said...

dmv: sure, not that many kids live downtown right now, but people are moving back there. soon, there will be larger critical populations of students in this part of the city. and, the fact is, they're going to be coming from families with a fair bit of money, who will expect quite a bit from a school. why shouldn't we have a great school available for them in that part of the city?

Wes Grooms said...

How about using it as DC Mayoral Mansion? Plenty of space to allow for the family to live on upper floors, and plenty of space on first floor to use for any official mayoral needs. Right downtown so nobody can argue its location represents politics (as with the failed far NW proposed compound).