U Street Residents Want Daytime Use For Vacant School

by Lark Turner

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Grimke School

A handful of U Street residents got together on Tuesday night to discuss hopes for the future of a vacant school in their backyard. Their clearest message: no more nightlife or high-end residences.

The old Grimke School building at 1925 Vermont Avenue NW is long since vacated by students and, more recently, DC government offices. The school’s former gymnasium is currently home to the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum, which wants to move into the oldest and most historic part of the Grimke building.

“It looks like the opportunity is finally going to come,” said Frank Smith, the museum’s founder and director.

On Tuesday, Smith was seated next to Tom Gallas, CEO of Torti Gallas and Partners, an architecture firm which hopes to occupy much of the remaining building. Smith and Gallas have previously and unsuccessfully tried to get a hold of the space.

Most of the attendees were supportive of Gallas and Smith’s efforts, which would also include room for nonprofits or others in the remaining space. But primarily, they wanted to ensure that the school doesn’t become another place to house the area’s burgeoning nightlife.

“We need to get off of this nighttime, lopsided model that we’re on,” said Jeffrey Willis, who is coordinating the neighbors’ efforts.

Up next, the residents want to advocate for their goals before a request for proposal (RFP) is sent out by the city early this year; they also want to meet with officials to discuss maintenance and parking issues currently plaguing the vacant building.

The school, built in the 1880s, was named after Archibald Grimke, a well-known, DC-based advocate for civil rights.

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/u_street_residents_want_daytime_use_for_vacant_school/7970

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