Nearly a year after the the city's $6.2 million sale of the vacant Randall Junior High School to The Corcoran College of Art and Design, the mold is finally setting for the new mixed-use project at 65 I Street, SW, the soon-to-be largest residential building in the quadrant which will incorporate elements of the 50-year-old Randall school and new art facilities for Corcoran. The project's overseer, Monument Realty, and design firm Shalom Baranes Architects, have to go back to the drawing board one final time before the final action hearing on January 14th with the Zoning Commission.
MR Randall Capital LLC, a legal entity created by the developers, will own the entire mixed-use structure. Corcoran is selling their real estate to MR Randall for an estimated $8.2 million, and is set to retain a condo interest in the 100,000-s.f. facility it will occupy. All has not gone cosily for MR Randall however; the Planned Unit Development application has had some turbulence in the past few weeks. At the behest of the Office of Planning and the Department of Transportation, some minor changes had to be made to alleviate traffic concerns. As of the December 10th zoning hearing, new problems arose. A group called Square 643 Associates LLC, is worried about the project's potentially negative effects on their already-approved P.U.D. for the historic Friendship Baptist Church, just across the street. To add insult to injury, their legal representative from Arnold & Porter LLP, went on the record before Zoning to complain that the H Street facade was "not sufficiently rendered at the street level to enhance pedestrian experience." (Proving again that high fences make good neighbors.)
ANC Commissioner David Sobelsohn had mixed feelings about the project yet the "net positive" for the community, largely presented in the benefits package offered by Corcoran, pushed him and his colleagues into unanimous support. "We are concerned because its going to be a huge development, and the access to the [residential] building will be through one of four partially or fully closed streets. [But] after final analysis we were very pleased with the benefits that will come to the community."
Assuming no more impediments arise for the project, SW will soon see the construction of this 499,843 s.f. brand-spanking-new development, 100 feet high with roughly 480 condominiums, more than 100,000 s.f. of new Corcoran facilities and three levels of underground parking. In a conversation with DCRealEstate.com, Shalom Baranes Principal Patrick Burkhart described the look of the new building: "As a counterpoint to the symmetry of the restored Randall School buildings along Eye Street, the new residential structure set behind them is a studied assymmetrical composition of ochre brick, metal and glass, whereby the new compliments the old through contrast."
The $6.2 million that Corcoran coughed up (which was subsequently donated to the school system's maintenance fund - thank you Mayor Fenty) began a long list of "donations" the gallery will be making to the city, including: An "After School For All" program for DC Public Schools, 96 affordable condominiums in the new building for families earning up to 80% AMI, preservation and renovation to the "significant portions" of the Randall school, an assortment of scholarships to neighborhood undergraduate and graduate students, and a host of other community-oriented services including a Randall Neighborhood Day which will offer free admission to Corcoran's 17th Street Gallery (including special exhibits) every year, beginning next Thursday, December 27th. Corcoran is planning to move into its newest campus no later than 2011, making it the third functioning space after its main building on 17th and the gallery in Georgetown.
To be sure, the architectural team will be hard at work to assuage the recent dissidence. In the meantime, the NCPC will give their slant on January 3rd, regarding whether L'Enfant would have supported it. Well, that's not exactly their criteria, but that's a future story.