GSA is seeking ideas from the development community and other interested parties regarding the potential for non-federal reuse of Webster School.
As part of its strategic real property asset management program through which GSA reviews its properties regularly, the Administration’s goal to “Freeze the Footprint”, and in accordance with the June 2010 Presidential Memorandum to dispose of unneeded Federal real estate, GSA is exploring strategies to leverage its assets and land to improve utilization, reduce costs, and deliver facilities. In doing so, GSA has identified the Webster School as an under performing federal real property asset and is seeking information to help reposition this asset.
The objectives of the RFI are to solicit the expertise of the real estate market for creative development ideas for the repositioning of the Webster School. Specifically GSA intends to:
- Use the information received from the RFI to aid in the decision making process for this property,
- Better understand the market interest in the property given its condition, historic status, and the postulated security requirements,
- Identify innovative and financially viable transaction structures, and
- Achieve best value to the Government and taxpayers, through the most beneficial technical and financial solution.
The Webster School is located at 940 H Street, NW, Washington, DC at the southwest corner of H and 10th Streets SW. The building has a common floor plan that consists of two wings around a central core. The floors of the core area rest upon a brick masonry arch system with steel beams. With the exception of the basement brick and concrete floor, the entire building floor is constructed of wood joists with interior load-bearing walls. The roof is slate tile and there is an approximately 1,100 Square Foot (SF) open courtyard between the northeast and southeast wings of the building. Ceilings are approximately 18 feet high on the building’s first level and 14 feet high on the second and third levels.
• Land Size: 8,500 sq ft
• Building Size: approximately 27,500 GSF
• Three story structure with one sub-grade level in poor condition
• Historic Designation: DC Historic Landmark
• Year Built: 1882
• Zoning: DD/C-4 (Central Business District, downtown overlay, retail office, housing, mixed and public buildings permitted)
The building was constructed by the Office of the Building Inspector in 1882 as a DC school. It was closed in the 1980s and eventually sold by the District of Columbia. The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) purchased the building in 1999 for a new headquarters building. The United States Government purchased the building from NTEU in 2003 due to security concerns given the building was within fifteen feet of the United States Secret Service (USSS) Headquarters Building.
The Webster School is highlighted in red.
Legal Description of Webster School Property, June 28, 1999 [DOCX - 11 KB]
The District of Columbia Historic Preservation Review Board designated the Webster School building a local historic landmark in February 1999. This was due to several factors: the building is a good representative example of the larger red brick schools built by the Office of the Building Inspector during the late nineteenth century; it was the home of the Americanization School during that institution’s most significant period; and Webster School was one of the last public schools remaining in downtown Washington, providing physical evidence of the residential neighborhoods and ethnic groups that were once an important part of the downtown community. One of the primary uses of the Webster School in the 20th century was to teach recent immigrants to the U.S. basic American history and government as part of the Americanization Movement to help newly arrived immigrants more quickly assimilate into American society.
GSA has determined that the Webster School is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Any development will be required to comply with a covenant ensuring protection of the historic building by application of the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation. Development of the property will be further subject to review and approval by the DC Historic Preservation Office (and other DC requirements).
Q. What’s the next step in this process? When will a developer have access to develop this property?
A. Upon receiving the responses to the RFI, the next step in the process will be to review the RFI submissions as well as all other information GSA has on the property including historic and economic data to develop a strategy for the repositioning of the property. Once the repositioning strategy is developed, we plan to initiate the reuse strategy shortly thereafter.
- RFI on street: 10/21/15
- RFI due: 1/22/16
Q. What about United States Secret Service’s security requirements?
A. GSA is currently working closely with the USSS to understand their security requirements and incorporate them into the RFI.You can find the proposed security requirements [DOC - 2 MB] outlined in the RFI, Section VI.
Q. What does GSA hope to learn from the RFI?
A. Answers GSA hopes to learn from the RFI include:
- Market interest given constraints
- Range of economically feasible uses
- How potential security requirements affect the reuse
- What other potential obstacles may exist including what constraints the building's historic designation and condition imposes.
- What possible transaction structures may be feasible
- The feasibility of a potential exchange.
Q. What will be done with the results of the RFI?
A. The results of the RFI will be used in conjunction with other information such as historic and economic data to develop the repositioning strategy for the property.
Q. Why has it taken GSA so long to reuse or dispose of this property?
A. The security concerns of USSS have evolved over time and are now definitive enough to incorporate into covenants. Also, the immediate sub-market has improved and now is an appropriate time to move forward.
Q. Why is GSA considering an exchange for the Webster School?
A. As part of GSA’s larger portfolio strategy, the Webster School is among a handful of projects across the nation being considered for disposition through an exchange. GSA is exploring this possibility to ensure we have investigated all options that best leverage the value of the property while most effectively improving the federal portfolio for the American taxpayer. An exchange is an opportunity to do this in a creative way without burdening the American taxpayer.
Q. Why is GSA pursuing an RFI?
A. Repositioning the Webster School reduces the Federal footprint while leveraging its value to enhance and improve an historic building in GSA’s portfolio with critical reinvestment needs. GSA has a proven track record of successful transactions within the District of Columbia that have benefitted taxpayers, the City and the Federal government. Finding an appropriate way to reposition this asset will help complete the many positive changes in that area of the city.
Q. Can I view the sign-in sheets from the Webster School Tours?
A. Yes, the sign-in sheets are available for viewing:
- November 4, 2015--2:00 and 3:00 p.m [PDF - 386 KB] .
- December 10, 2015--10:00 and 11:00 a.m. [PDF - 105 KB]
Q. Is the GSA going to identify the character-defining features of the interior? This might assist prospective bidders understand the implications of meeting the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
A: Yes. We are only at the Request for Information stage at this point. However, if and when the time comes that we are ready to begin a transaction for the repositioning of the Webster School, GSA will initiate the Section 106 process of the NHPA with the DC SHPO and identify the character-defining features as part of GSA's due diligence for documentation of the property and consultation on the undertaking.
Q. Does the GSA have standard covenant language ensuring protection of the historic building?
A: While each covenant is tailored to the property in consultation with the DC SHPO, here is a sample covenant:
Sample Historic Covenant
For the XYZ Building, GSA will place covenants in its deed and any necessary contractual documents requiring the acquiring entity to obtain the approval of the District of Columbia State Historic Preservation Officer for their development plans so that they are consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings. Prior to effectuating the deed, GSA and the State Historic Preservation Officer will confirm the covenants with the acquiring entity while ensuring acceptable compliance with its provisions.
The covenants are proposed to be substantially in the form enclosed herein and recorded with the deed by the Grantee:
BY ACCEPTANCE OF THIS INSTRUMENT, consistent with 36 CFR § 800.5(a)(2)(vii) and in fulfillment of Grantor’s responsibilities to provide adequate and legally enforceable restrictions or conditions to ensure the long-term preservation of the XYZ Building (Property), Grantee acknowledges that the XYZ Building is individually eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and the District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites. Grantee further acknowledges that any proposed alteration, restoration, rehabilitation, demolition, modification, or any development or new construction involving the Property may pose an effect on the Property’s historic integrity and significance as reasonably determined by the District of Columbia State Historic Preservation Officer (DC SHPO) in consultation with the Grantee. In confirmation thereof, Grantee covenants for itself, its successors and assigns and every successor-in-interest to all or any portion of the Property, that the Property is conveyed, subject to the following covenants, conditions, restrictions, and limitations (collectively, the Historic Preservation Covenants), which are covenants running with the land and which Historic Preservation Covenants shall bind all future owners thereof with the same force and effect as if all such future owners had by express agreement in writing assumed to perform and observe all of said Historic Preservation Covenants, while such owners. It is expressly understood and agreed that all of the Historic Preservation Covenants relate to any alteration, restoration, rehabilitation, demolition, or modification of any building or improvements associated with Property, and to the design and construction or alteration of any new building or improvements on the Property and specifically as noted in GSA’s 2015 National Register nomination and that the DC SHPO may reasonably deem necessary to retain in order to preserve the integrity of the Property when rehabilitated for a new use:
(1) any alteration, restoration, rehabilitation, demolition, or modification of existing structures on the Property, and any development or new construction in the Property, shall provide for preservation of the Property set forth in the applicable sections of the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings (U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1992), as the same may be amended from time to time;
(2) any alteration, restoration, rehabilitation, demolition, or modification of existing structures on the Property, and any development or new construction on the Property shall be subject to the prior written approval of the DC SHPO, which approval shall not be unreasonably withheld, conditioned or denied;
(3) in the event of a violation of any provision of the Historic Preservation Covenants, the DC SHPO may, following notice to Grantees and a reasonable opportunity to cure, institute suit to enjoin any such violation and obtain any appropriate legal or equitable remedies to require full and immediate compliance with the Historic Preservation Covenants described herein; and
(4) the Historic Preservation Covenants shall be binding in perpetuity.
The acceptance of this instrument shall constitute conclusive evidence of Grantee’s agreement to be bound by the Historic Preservation Covenants and to perform the obligations set forth herein.
Q. Can I get a copy of the as-built drawings for the Webster School?
A. Unfortunately we do not have a copy of the as-built drawings from 1882. However, we do have some drawings that were part of a condition survey from 1999 after the NTEU purchased the Webster School from the DC Public Schools in 1999 prior to the United States Government taking title to the property. We do not have a copy of the full survey. We can not guarantee their accuracy but they can give one an idea of the building's layout.
Webster School Drawings> [PDF - 1 MB]
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