South by West

AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School first opened at Riverside Baptist Church in 2005, but will be leaving at the end of the 2013-14 school year.  Photo: William Rich 

Is AppleTree Vacating Southwest?

Currently, two out of seven AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School campuses are located in Southwest, serving nearly 80 three and four year-olds with a significant percentage of students being Southwest residents.  After the end of this school year, though, both of those campuses will close. The Amidon-Bowen campus at 4th and I streets, SW, in addition to the Riverside Baptist Church campus, located at 7th Street and Maine Avenue, SW, will be closing. The charter school has been at Amidon-Bowen since 2008 and Riverside Baptist Church since 2005.  AppleTree is leaving Amidon-Bowen because enrollment is up at the school and there is demand for classroom space for District of Columbia Public Schools children. Riverside Baptist Church may be redeveloped similar to St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church a block away.

A Proposal to Keep AppleTree in Southwest

In order to help AppleTree maintain a presence in Southwest, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Stacy Cloyd authored a resolution to urge the District government to allow the charter school to place a temporary trailer on the abandoned tennis courts at Jefferson Academy, located at 7th Street and Maine Avenue, SW. A second set of tennis courts on the northwestern part of Jefferson’s grounds at 9th and G streets, SW were renovated in 2012 thanks to the Washington Kastles Mylar World Team Tennis organization. There would be four modular classrooms to serve up to 40 children in the trailer. There is insufficient space currently inside Jefferson to house AppleTree since the Edgewood/Brookland Family Support Collaborative is opening a satellite office in the school building. The Collaborative currently has an office at St. Augustine’s, but the church building will be closing in June to make way for The Wharf project.

This trailer would be temporary, since AppleTree will be moving to The Wharf once phase one is complete in 2017. The main logistical issue is, though, that Jefferson Academy is scheduled to begin a multimillion dollar modernization in 2016, which could place AppleTree in limbo for a year between when they would need to vacate Jefferson and when they could move to The Wharf.

Debate at ANC Meeting

At the April meeting, the commissioners debated the issue and added amendments to the resolution, which would explicitly state that AppleTree would need to leave the tennis courts once Jefferson’s modernization begins and the school would need to report back to the community their exit plan for the trailers after one year.

Present at the meeting to support the plan were representatives from AppleTree as well as Principal Natalie Gordon from Jefferson Academy. While Principal Gordon was generally supportive of AppleTree’s plan, she expressed concern that the charter school’s presence in the tennis courts should not interfere with, or delay for any reason, the planned modernization of Jefferson. The modernization was already delayed once and Gordon does not want the project to be delayed for a second time. The resolution was passed unanimously by the commissioners.

Two Federal Triangle South Buildings to be Redeveloped

The General Services Administration (GSA) issued a Request for Qualifications on April 7 to interested entities that can provide construction and related services in an “Exchange Consideration” for GSA’s headquarters building at 1800 F Street, NW and for up to three buildings at St. Elizabeths West for use by the Department of Homeland Security in exchange for the Cotton Annex and GSA’s National Capital Region Regional Office Building in Federal Triangle South. This area south of the National Mall has a concentration of GSA-owned office buildings that the agency is looking to either modernize or redevelop.

Description of Federal Triangle South Parcels

The Cotton Annex is a nearly two-acre parcel located at 12th and C streets, SW, across the street from GSA’s Central Heating and Refrigeration Plant and cattycorner from The Portals complex. According to testimony given by the GSA in 2012, the Cotton Annex was built in 1937 and was used by the Department of Agriculture until 2007, when the agency vacated the space. The parking lot behind the building has most recently been used by the Federal Protective Service to inspect packages and trucks that visit the Ronald Reagan Building International Trade Center downtown. The building was considered to house the National Health Museum and the National Women’s History Museum was interested in the vacant triangular parcel north of C Street, SW. The six-story building is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

The second property is the GSA Regional Office Building (ROB), a three-acre facility located at 7th and D streets, SW, across the street from Housing and Urban Development’s headquarters and L’Enfant Plaza. It is a 942,000 square-foot, seven-story office building with one level below-grade that is currently occupied by GSA. These 1,600 employees would move to the F Street, NW headquarters once those renovations are complete. The rear of the ROB fronts on the L’Enfant commuter rail station and Reservation 113, both of which are recommended for improvements in the National Capital Planning Commission’s Southwest Ecodistrict Initiative. The office building is not eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, so any redevelopment at the site would be easier to complete.

Next Steps

Don’t expect activity on these sites to happen anytime soon; however, renovations to the GSA Headquarters and the St. Elizabeths administration buildings must be completed before the parcels are conveyed to the winning developer in Quitclaim Deeds. Responses are due for Stage One of the solicitation by May 22. After that, those that qualify will be invited to a second stage of the solicitation to submit specific proposals. Then, a winner will be selected sometime in 2015, followed by 18-24 months of construction. The current estimate for when the Cotton Annex and ROB could be transferred is sometime in 2017. An Open House was held on April 30 at the Southwest library to gather public input on the proposal. In addition, the GSA will be accepting comments through May 14 via email (cottonannexrob@gsa.gov).

Enrollment for DCPS students is up at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, which was modernized in 2012 and received new windows in 2014. Photo: William Rich
Renovations to the cupola at Jefferson Academy began last fall and a multimillion dollar renovation is scheduled to begin in 2016. Photo: William Rich

William Rich is a blogger at Southwest…The Little Quadrant that Could (www.southwestquadrant.blogspot.com).


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