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Community Three Breaks Ground on $45M Redevelopment of DC’s Grimke School


After a decade of planning, Community Three has finally broken ground on its planned $45 million mixed-use redevelopment of the historic Grimke School in Washington, D.C. When finished, it will include a new home for the African American Civil War Museum, according to Community Three.

The entire project will consist of 133,000 square feet and consist of multifamily residential, office space, live-work “maker” units, and ground-floor retail. That includes a 12,000-square-foot space for Torti Gallas + Partners, the architect behind the entire 9½ Street Initiative effort.

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“The redevelopment effort fills a longstanding physical … hole in the neighborhood, though the adaptive reuse of the former Grimke School building, reconfiguration and expansion of the school’s former gymnasium space, and infill of an adjacent parking lot with frontage along U Street,” Grant Epstein, Community Three’s president, told Commercial Observer. “The program leverages the existing neighborhood vitality thought careful physical urban interventions, but also through the addition of its dynamic set of programmatic uses.”

The added office uses will provide daytime patrons for existing businesses and the project’s “maker units” will complement existing and diverse local art talent.

“Rounded out with new, modern, market-rate and affordable residential units, the ensemble [is] truly a strategic effort aimed at mending the urban fabric and celebrating the legacy of this already great locale,” Epstein said.

Next fall, a new six-story condominium building called The Fold is scheduled to be constructed in the former school parking lot. It will also include ground-floor retail space.

The school was built in 1887 on public property and the District government owned the land that entire time. The city has been disposing of public property, including many school buildings that are no longer in use, in a similar way for many years. The city still owns the land under the main Grimke school building, as it was conveyed to Community Three under a 99-year ground lease.

In late 2017, Community Three won approval from the D.C. office of the deputy mayor for planning and economic development to redevelop the Grimke School properties into a dynamic mixed-use ensemble that would include a permanent home for the museum.

On August 20, 2019, the District conveyed the Grimke School’s land to Community Three under a 99-year ground lease. At the same time, the District sold the gymnasium and parking lot properties — future home of The Thread and The Fold respectively — to Community Three on a fee simple basis.

Phase Two of the project, which will transform the Grimke School’s 1920s-era gymnasium into 40 residences, is expected to break ground sometime in 2021 or 2022.

Office leasing is being handled by Stream Realty Partners, while residential sales are being handled by Urban Pace.