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Developers Discuss Stevens Elementary

Reyna S. Walters | 6/17/2009, 11:54 p.m.

One local developer and two from out of state shared their vision for the redevelopment of the historic Stevens School site last week during a community meeting hosted by the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Development (DMPED).

The public forum afforded the developers an opportunity to explain their proposals for the historic school. The Stevens school building, located at 1050 21st Street in Northwest, was closed in 2008. Former Stevens students consolidated with those at nearby Francis Elementary School to form the Francis-Stevens School also located in Northwest.

The three developers selected as finalists for the Stevens Project include the Moddie Turay Company, LLC (MTC), based in the District; Equity Residential, headquartered in Chicago with local offices in Vienna, Va.; and The Peebles Corporation headquartered in Coral Gables, Fla.

This marks the second round of bidding for the Stevens Project. By law, the District was required to give charter schools the first opportunity to bid. The city held a bid solicitation process in 2008 to meet the legal requirement.

€The charter school proposals did not have the financial wherewithal or the educational programming didn€t reach what we were looking for,€ said Sean Madigan, communications director for DMPED.

€The [charter school] proposals for Stevens School were not compelling enough,€ he said.

The second round of bidding was open for all, however no charter schools participated.

€Looking at [the] financial capacity, vision, and [creating an] active vibrant use for the neighborhood, [the three developers selected] were the best prospects,€ Madigan said.

Both MTC and Peebles Corporation proposed hotels at the Stevens site, while Equity Residential proposed an apartment building.

MTC created the €Stevens Place€ hotel concept that would include approximately 14,000 square feet of retail space. It is estimated that the project would create 250 construction jobs and 170 permanent jobs. MTC officials hope to have community space available for use. If MTC wins the bid, the developer said that he hopes to sponsor an athletic program at the Francis-Stevens school.

The Peebles Corporation would build the €Stevens Hotel€ and would include approximately 10,000 square feet of retail space. The company estimated that the project would create 200 new jobs and create three million more in tax revenue.

€A hotel is clearly the best use for the site,€ said R. Donahue Peebles, chair and CEO of The Peebles Corporation.

If Peebles wins the bid, they would work with the public school system to expose young people to an entrepreneurial curriculum. They hope the program would culminate in internships for top performing students.

€The historic significance of Stevens is what took place here,€ Peebles said. €It was built to be the first school where African Americans could get a public education. The school stood for excellence.€

€From the top-down we are committed to ensure diversity,€ Peebles said. He said that The Courtyard by Marriott Convention Center in Northwest, which is also one of his projects, has committed to hiring diverse employees to run and operate the facility. The hotel ranked No. 1 for two consecutive years in customer service.

€We can have diversity and be the best,€ Peebles said.

Equity Residential envisions an apartment complex with approximately 5,000 square feet of retail space. The average size of the units would range between 750 to 800 square feet and run approximately $2,500 per month.

The company stated that it has $1 billion in cash and $1.3 billion in unsecured credit for the project. To commemorate the Stevens school, Equity Residential would create a memory wall located in the main lobby, containing a gallery of images and information related to the history of Stevens.

€When the idea surfaced, I thought it was great,€ said Greg White, vice president of Development for Equity Residential.