Monday, April 23, 2012

Gales School Groundbreaking for Central Union Mission


Work to convert the city-owned Gales School into Central Union Mission's new home will kick off May 7th with a groundbreaking ceremony.

The gutted building at 65 Massachusetts Ave, NW, provided a raw canvas for the Mission and Cox Graae + Spack Architects to create a space for the new shelter and homeless resource center. Plans also show a small rear addition to the building.

Forrester Construction will build out the interior, which will include spaces for the Mission to continue providing shelter, meals, and programs for homeless men in 34,000 s.f. of new and renovated space.

The Mission will rent the Gales School from the City for $1 per year, a deal reached after the Mission won an RFP for the project nearly 2 years ago that was subsequently contested. Renovations will cost the Mission about $12 million. The low rent and practically new building should leave more money in the Mission's account in the long run for provision of its services.

Deborah Chambers, director of communications and outreach for the Mission, said that while the group owned its current home at 14th and R streets Northwest, the maintenance and utilities costs on the old building are exorbitant. A part they recently needed for the out-dated elevator cost $7,000, she said.

The money saved on repairs can help support the additional 50 or 60 residents the Mission is expected to house at the Gales School. It also will provide the new services needed for a daytime shelter for residents. The 110 men who call the Mission home now must leave after breakfast, she said, but the new location will have recreation rooms, computer labs and classes accessible throughout the day.

"Being able to provide the men with conditions and surroundings and beds that will help lift their self-esteem is something we're greatly looking forward to," Chambers said. "We bandaged this place, we have things holding together with staples and tape, but surroundings help somebody feel like there is a possibility and there is a future. We hope to provide them with those kinds of amenities."

Renovations should be completed next April. But the Mission must be out of its Logan Circle building in February pursuant to a contract to purchase inked several years ago but not yet executed.

Chambers said there could be a 30-day gap in service between leaving their current location and opening at the Gales School, and that some residents will go to the group's camp in Brookeville, Md., while the rest will rely on local homeless shelters and service providers.

The Mission has tried to move for several years. A previous deal for the Gales School fell through when the ACLU sued, claiming the award of the RFP by the city to the Christian-backed Mission violated the Constitution's Establishment Clause. Community protests then prevented a move to Georgia Avenue and Newton Street, leading the Mission to pursue a mixed-use development at the site instead.

With the Gales School finally secured, plans to redevelop the Mission's Logan Circle property can move forward, too.

Developer Jeffrey Schonberger (Alturas LLC) has been planning to renovate and expand properties at 1625 - 1631 14th Ave., NW since 2006, pending relocation of the homeless shelter. The new retail and residential project is scheduled to break ground in less than a year.

Washington, D.C., real estate development news

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

The building looks great, although I'd love to see what the "small addition" mentioned looks like. The architects are known for sensitive-but-interesting additions to historic buildings. It's also wonderful to read the director's comments about the character of the place having an effect on the residents. At 14th & R, one had to wonder if anyone even noticed the dilapidation. I'm glad someone did, and judged it to be not good!

But what's best is that the Mission in its new home can be more than overnight shelter. In addition to the benefits to the homeless clients, this should make it a much better neighbor than the 14th & R facility has been.

Anonymous said...

If the mission couldn't keep 14th & R in good repair, what guarantees does the city have that the mission and it's supporting organization will be able to properly maintain Gales school? I'd hate to see 14m put into redeveloping the school only to watch it slowly fall apart over the next 15yrs as its not properly maintained.

Anonymous said...

Why do we insist on putting homeless shelters on some of the most expensive real estate in the country? I support the Central Union Mission but it seems ridiculous to use resources to renovate and then keep up a historic building.

Anonymous said...

It it is quite obvious that while the 14th St corridor has gentrified - the Mission and those they serve have not. According to their 990's, the majority of the Mission's funding is used to support programming to care for people - not buildings. I presume those concerned with the care of a building are welcome to send their support to the Mission's building fund to ensure the bricks are cared for just as the souls are.

Committee of 100 said...

The shelter will be a nice welcome to all the tourists visiting DC, the Capitol, and Union Station. Welcome to DC - where the homeless receive prime real estate while homeowners struggle to ensure quality public education for their children. Isn't there already a large homeless shelter just a few blocks away tucked behind the Hyatt? How many shelters do we actually need?

Guest said...

@Committee of 100:

The number of homeless people in DC is approximately 12,000, many of whom are children. So the answer to your question is we need a lot more shelters and permanent housing for these people.

I'm not optimistic, but maybe someday you will actually join the human race.

Anonymous said...

"Why do we insist on putting homeless shelters on some of the most expensive real estate in the country?"

Because the folks in Petworth had a coronary when the Mission originally announced plans to relocate to Georgia Ave. So they worked out a deal with the city to move to the blighted former school building.

I know that people such as yourself would like to take all of the homeless and stuff them into Ward 8 where you can just forget about them, but unfortunately it doesn't quite work out that way.

Regardless, complaining about this deal is pointless, as it's done. If you want to make sure the property is maintained and doesn't become an eyesore, why don't you kick some money over to CUM's coffers and help them maintain it? Or do you spend too much at your trendy H Street bars to give any money to a homeless shelter?

H Street Landlord said...

Great posts Guest and last Anon.

Advocate said...

Thank you! I commute past the Gales School and am so sad that it hasn't been put to use in such a long time. There could not be a better use for this building. There are so many homeless men around Union Station- it is highly appropriate to provide resources that are readily accessible to them. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.

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