Though the Fenty Administration is keeping mum on the names of the Gales School RFP respondents, two of the three submitting teams have provided DCMud with details of the projects they hope to build on the visible and historic downtown site.
The Central Union Mission, which now operates out of Logan Circle, has plans to match the service they now offer nearby, expanding from 135 beds to at least 150 beds for the men's Christian homeless shelter. The Mission plans to add to the rear of the building with a design by Cox Graae and Spack Architects of Georgetown, a build-out that would allow for kitchens and extra classrooms.
Meanwhile, a joint venture between Ready, Willing & Working Inc. (RWW), the Doe Fund Inc. and Building Partnerships also met the RFP deadline in March. The RWW team has proposed a conversion into a facility providing housing and job training for upwards of 100 homeless and formerly incarcerated men. The RWW program currently supports only 20 men at a time, without housing, in its undersized trailer on the grounds of Union Station.
According to Patty Brosmer, President of RWW, her team offers "not just an overnight shelter," but rather a "more comprehensive" solution with plans for a "long-term shelter and opportunity center," with men receiving on-site training and support. RWW partners with local Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) to provide the men with a job and income. "The biggest thing we can do for the homeless is give them job opportunities," said Brosmer. Generally men remain in the program for 9-12 months, during which time - ideally - they learn a new skill, save money, and ultimately move on to affordable housing and stable employment. Brosmer said that with a waiting list of 150 names, there is no shortage of men seeking help from RWW.
With Bonstra Haresign Architects designing the project, the RWW team intends to transform the Gales School from its current state as "a hole in the urban fabric" into a vibrant new "Center for Opportunity." According to a press release, the architects plan to "respect and preserve the dignified character" of the 120-year old building. The exterior masonry will be restored and fitted with historically correct windows, and the four chimneys along the roofline will be restored, plans that must go before the Historic Preservation Review Board. The new interior will feature a "state of the art kitchen" for teaching culinary skills, conference and training areas, and of course beds. The Gales School Center will have "great food and a nice surrounding," making it the "anti-shelter" asserts Brosmer.
As far as financing goes, the New York-based Doe Fund has revenue-generating businesses, based on similar programs, that will help support some of the rehab and operations for the new center. RWW proposes that the District pay the organization to run the shelter. As Brosmer puts it, the District normally pays $25,000 to support one person in a homeless shelter annually, but this program, thanks to grants and other revenue, can do the same and give them job training for $17,500 a year. The best part, says Brosmer, is that after a year, the success rate is generally about 65%. Annually, she estimates, the program could save the District $1.5 million based on a 65% success rate.
Working with Harkins Builders, RWW is ready to "hit the ground running" claims Brosmer. "We'll have to secure some of the financing once we get the lease, but I believe it can be done from start to finish...in a year and a half."
Washington, DC real estate development news