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Franklin School Will Become a Modern Art Museum

The historic school building in downtown DC will be converted into a new museum called the Institute for Contemporary Expression.

The Franklin School re-imagined as the Institute for Contemporary Expression. Rendering courtesy of Eastbanc.

Downtown DC’s historic Franklin School will become a modern art museum, the city government announced today, beating out proposals to convert the landmark into a hotel, office building, or technology campus.

The 1869 Romanesque Revival schoolhouse will be converted into the Institute for Contemporary Expression, an exhibit and studio space funded by the developer Eastbanc and the asset management firm Campbell & Company. Plans for the museum, the brainchild of collector Dani Levinas, include galleries for contemporary art, sculptures and installations, and performance art, along with classrooms, a café, and bookstore.

“With the completion of this selection process we are now a step closer to revitalizing Franklin School and giving it a new life,” Victor Hoskins, the deputy mayor for planning and economic development, says in a press release.

The winning bid beat out plans to turn the Franklin School into a boutique hotel, a hybrid of workspace and living quarters for start-up tech firms, or a new headquarters for the real-estate analytics company CoStar. The building, sitting at the corner of 13th and K streets, Northwest, has fallen badly from its once-ornate conditions and has been closed since 2008. (Save a one-day siege in November 2011 by members of Occupy DC that led to several arrests.) The city estimates it will cost at least $30 million to stabilize the structure before any renovations can be made.

The bidding process for the Franklin School began last April. Eastbanc’s vision for the site includes an eventual partnership with the National Park Service to program events in a revamped Franklin Square Park across the street. 

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.