Washington, DC Project Goes Old School

The transformation of the 132-year-old Grimke School will feature residences, office space, retail and a new home for the African-American Civil War Museum.
The Fold. Image courtesy of Community Three

The historic Grimke School in Washington, D.C., is being redeveloped by Community Three as a 133,000-square-foot mixed-use property to include residences, offices, live-work “maker” units and ground-floor retail. The first phase is slated to open in fall 2020.


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A full decade in the making, the $45 million redevelopment located on 9-1/2 Street near the corner of Vermont Avenue and U Street in the Shaw neighborhood.

The Fold, a new 30-unit, six-story condominium structure to be built on the parking lot of the former school, will open next autumn. Nine residences will be earmarked as affordable. That building will feature one-and two-bedroom condos with efficient layouts and floor-to-ceiling windows for abundant natural light. Also included in the building will be ground-floor retail space.

The 132-year-old school building closed in 1989 and deteriorated even as it was occupied by city government offices through 2012,” Grant Epstein, Community Three president, told Multi-Housing News.

At the same time, the surrounding neighborhood has undergone a renaissance with new residences and shops, a vibrant arts scene and enhanced job opportunities. The city government saw this site’s potential over a decade ago and launched a disposition process, seeking a development partner for this strategically-located parcel. After extensive planning with the community and various stakeholders, including the African-American Civil War Museum, we are finally ready to begin construction.”

Maker spaces to come

The 1920s-era gym of the Grimke School will be transformed into 40 residences in a Phase II development slated to break ground in 2021-22. A half dozen of these units will be distinctive “maker” studios featuring first-floor storefronts on 9-1/2 Street.

Community Three Development is partnering with CulturalDC to design and lease the live-work spaces. In Phase II, 11 residences will be set aside for households earning less than 80 percent of median family income.

The development will also include a new home for the African-American Civil War Museum. The first phase will feature an adaptive reuse of the 132-year-old Grimke School, yielding 65,000 square feet of loft-style office and cultural arts space. The museum’s permanent home will occupy part of that space, as will the headquarters of Torti Gallas + Partners, architect of the “9-1/2 Street Initiative” to include homes, work spaces and “cultural beacons.”

Approximately 24,000 square feet of office will be leased. The primary lender is Eagle Bank. The entire project is privately financed.