Franklin School to Become Modern Art Center

Mayor Vincent Gray announced Feb. 3 that the partnership of Georgetown-based Eastbanc and the Institute of Contemporary Expression has secured plans to redevelop the historic Franklin School. The space will be transformed into a venue that will be part exhibition and performance space.

The renovation of the 1869 building at 13th and K Streets, NW, will offer Washingtonians as well as visitors a center to showcase contemporary works and performances of artists from all over the world. The man behind this vision is the institute’s founder, Dani Levinas, who is a local art collector and joined with developer, Eastbanc, Inc.

The destination will also feature a ground-floor restaurant by celebrity chef Jose Andres as well as an arts bookstore. A flexible art space where easy transitions between installations can occur has been something many D.C. art organizations have been seeking. The space was backed by the Logan Circle advisory neighborhood commission last December, beating out three other bids, including a boutique hotel, office building, or technology campus (a work space for tech entrepreneurs).

According to the local ANC vice chair Walt Cain, the criteria the commission had for the proposal was that it engaged as many people as possible and allowed the community the greatest access to the Franklin School.

The transformation of taking a historic space and redeveloping it into a contemporary space requires a number of considerations that need to be made in regards to its construction. For instance, making sure the technology is least invasive as possible as well as making sure the building is up to load-bearing capabilities. The building has fallen from its once pristine condition and has been closed since 2008.

Before renovations begin on the building the city estimates that it will cost at least $30 million to stabilize the building. The bidding process for Eastbanc, Inc., and ICE’s vision began last April and will continue.

In addition to this new modern art museum, Eastbanc plans to partner with the National Park Service to revive the adjacent Franklin Park, also under renovation.

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