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The historic Stevens Elementary School, abandoned in 2008, will be restored into a school for children with autism with a 10-story retail and office complex located next door. Hatchet File Photo

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Frankie Kane.

The city announced a developer and a special education group Aug. 30 to restore the historic Stevens Elementary School, which closed its doors in 2008.

A nonprofit school and outreach center called Ivymount School and Programs will lead classes for 50 autistic children when the school – located at 21st and K streets – reopens in the coming years.

Replacing the school’s playground next door, two District-based real estate companies – Akridge and Argos Group – will build a 10-story retail and office complex beside the school, according to a press release from Mayor Vincent Gray’s office.

The teams will share the costs of rehabilitating the school.

“Ivymount Schools and Programs will be an incredible asset to the D.C. community and help us to meet the demand for high-quality educational services for our children and youth with autism,” De’Shawn Wright, deputy mayor for education, said in the release. The special education group already works in public schools across the District.

Six development teams, including the firm renovating Gelman library, Donohue Construction, and six educational groups initially expressed interest in the project in March. Finalists made pitches to the Foggy Bottom and West End ANC, a group that pulls in community feedback about construction and development, in July.

The school, which was named a National Historical Site by the National Park Service, has been out of use and under much scrutiny as the city tried to restore the area. It was closed in 2008 as part of the reform efforts by former Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

Former Mayor Adrian Fenty tried to sell the location to Equity Residential in 2008 to create an apartment complex to replace the abandoned school, but the plan was scrapped after immense kickback from the neighborhood.

At an ANC meeting held in August specifically to discuss the Stevens School, the group voted unanimously to support the developer and education group.

Chairwoman Florence Harmon said the community feels that they were “definitely included this time” in the decision process for the school’s future – a stark contrast from 2009.

Members of an ANC committee devoted to the school called for GW’s graduate education school to collaborate with the Stevens School, such as adding a tutoring program.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said the University had not been involved in recent talks to work with the school. She said GW “would be happy to discuss a possible collaboration, however any such discussion would have to be initiated by the District or the winning party.”

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Monday, Oct. 26, 2009 7:00 a.m.

City representative skips Stevens School meeting

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This post was written by Hatchet Staff Writer Harald Olsen.

The stage was set for a showdown Wednesday night between the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A, which encompasses Foggy Bottom, and Valerie Santos, the city’s Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. The two parties have publicly disagreed for months over the fate of the Stevens School building on 22nd and L Streets, with one commissioner even testifying against Santos at a confirmation hearing last month.

But the public meeting failed to occur. After promising to address many of the ANC’s irate members, Santos canceled and sent one of her directors, Dale Smith, in proxy.

Armando Irizarry, Chair of the Commission, opened the discussion by expressing his frustration with Santos, whose last-minute cancellation was seen as just one more in a series of decisions that disrespect the input of area residents, Armando said.

“We’re extremely frustrated and disappointed with [Deputy Mayor Santos],” said Irizarry, “That is not the way to treat a community.”

Smith, who was sent to represent Santos, said Equity’s ability to finance construction was the deciding factor in the city’s decision to grant the company’s proposal to build apartments similar to another Equity building, the Apartments at 2400 M.

Residents spoke about their worry that the planned apartment building would fill with GW students, who were described as disruptive and detrimental to the property values of community residents.

“We don’t want a community full of students, we already have that at 2400,” said Michele Wiltse, who lived at 2400 M in 2007. “It’s completely absurd that you guys think you would replicate that with Equity again.”

Wiltse, who lived in the short-term rental building that has been historically popular with GW students, said that after a year spent seeing condom wrappers and cups full of beer in the hall, and hearing of neighbors whose patios had been urinated upon by students living above them, “I couldn’t get out of that building fast enough.”

Commissioner Asher Corson, a GW alumnus, described the decision to go with the Equity Residential plan as “insulting.” Corson also testified against Valerie Santos’ confirmation as Deputy Mayor in September.

“I really did think that ANCs mattered a little bit in this town,” Corson said. “Now I’m not so sure.”

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This post was written by Hatchet Staff Writer Amy D’Onofrio.

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A voted at a special meeting last week to support a bid to install a boutique hotel in the historic Stevens Elementary School building on 21st and L streets NW.

Three of the five commissioners present at the meeting voted to support a proposal from the Peebles Development Corporation and the Morgans Hotel Group to turn the former school building into a boutique hotel with 44 parking spaces. The school, which closed in 2008, was built in the mid-1800s as a public school for black children.

Three potential developers have been selected by the city to compete for the space, and each presented a unique plan for the historic building at an ANC earlier in June. Commissioners reviewed the proposals and passed a resolution in support of the Peebles project, but the D.C. government will ultimately decide what replace the old school.

The two other projects that did not receive much support from the commission were a proposal from Moddie Turay Company and Kimpton Hotels that would create a boutique hotel in conjunction with retail and office space and 151 parking spaces, and a proposal for a 190-unit apartment building with 9,000 square feet of retail and 90 parking spaces from Equity Residential, the developers behind the 2400 M apartment building.

The apartments, popular with students, are too dorm-like, Commissioner Rebecca Coder said – something the other commissioners agreed with.

“[The building] doesn’t add anything to the community,” Commissioner Asher Corson said.

Though the commission can only offer recommendations to the city on the redevelopment of the school, their comments will be taken into consideration when the city chooses between three proposals. The ANC will still be able to comment on the proposal again before the final decision is made on the project.

The Commission is expected to submit their recommendations to the city before July 2, though the Foggy Bottom Association did get an extension of the deadline for comments to the city until July 10.

- Gabrielle Bluestone contributed to this report.

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