Development Dominoes: Four DC Landmarks Changing Hands

Downtown DC’s Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue—which Donald Trump is converting to a hotel—leads a parade of majestic landmarks ready for reuse.

By: Benjamin Freed

Photograph by AgnosticPreachersKid/Wikimedia Commons.

Franklin School

13th and K sts., NW

DC’s first public high school was so revolutionary in 1869 that it earned architect Adolf Cluss a trip to the Vienna World Exposition. By 2002, it was a homeless shelter. Four companies are vying to redevelop the 51,000-square-foot structure for an estimated $20 million, according to deputy mayor for planning and development Victor Hoskins. Says a potential buyer: “It would be pretty powerful in recruiting creative people. It’s not a place to slap up a bunch of cubes.”

Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

West Heating Plant

1051 29th St., NW

Drawn up by William Dewey Foster—who also designed the State Department’s Truman Building—this bulky 93,078-square-foot steam plant with an Art Deco soul provided heat to government buildings from 1948 to 2000, by which time it had become an eyesore. A team led by developer Richard Levy has submitted plans by architect David Adjaye to the Georgetown community for approval, calling for up to 80 luxury condos.

Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

Hecht’s Warehouse

1401 New York Ave., NE

Gilbert Steel’s bold horizontal bands and glass-block tower date to an era when even warehouses had panache. Douglas Development plans to convert the mammoth 1937 landmark into two floors of retail, four floors of apartments, and parking, likely breaking up the block-long floor plates with an atrium. When the project is finished next year, Douglas founder Douglas Jemal says, driving in on New York Avenue will be like “coming in DC’s front door.”

Photograph by David Monack/Wikimedia Commons.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

901 G St., NW

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s 1972 central library, like many of Modernism’s concrete-and-glass structures, is crumbling. After making much-needed minor improvements in the last few years, library authorities have spurred controversy by considering adding retail space and a two-floor residential addition to close the gap between the city’s budgeted $103 million and the expected cost of an update.

This article appears in the December 2013 issue of Washingtonian.

See Also:
13 Businesses Donald Trump Can’t Have at His Old Post Office Hotel