If you’ve driven on Massachusetts Avenue NW near Union Station in the past few years, you’ve noticed an old building facade being held up by metal braces. The historic Gales School at 65 Massachusetts Avenue NW has been empty and crumbling for years, but the DC Department of Real Estate Services just closed a proposal period for rehabilitation of the property. One of the proposals was submitted by a partnership of Ready, Willing & Working, Inc. and The Doe Fund and includes the lease, renovation, and operation of the structure as a homeless shelter. Ready, Willing & Working, Inc. is the local branch of The Doe Fund, and is the non-profit organization responsible for the “men in blue” street maintenance work program in local business districts, such as the Capitol Hill BID. The program provides support services and training to homeless and recently incarcerated men with the goal of returning these men to the working world.
The Gales School was built in 1881 and is designated as a historic structure by the city. It was named after Joseph Gales Jr., the eighth mayor of DC. The building was originally a school for special needs children and functioned as such through 1944. Since then it has served a variety of purposes, including temporary housing for World War II soldiers and a hypothermia shelter, until 2004 when the building was shuttered because of deteriorating conditions.
In the proposal, the building’s exterior would be restored with new, historically-appropriate windows and a new metal roof installed. Landscaping would create outdoor seating areas, and limited parking would be provided for the program’s vehicles. The interior of the structure would be modernized to accommodate the program’s various activities while paying homage to the historic function and character of the building and targeting LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Ready, Willing & Working, Inc. notes that it costs the District $25,000 to keep an adult in a homeless shelter and $50,000 per year in prison, but their program costs only $17,500 for an individual, who receives shelter, food, training, and counseling, representing a significant savings to the local government. The rehabilitation of the Gales School will also reprogram an ailing, historic structure that occupies a prominent location along Massachusetts Avenue.
As the proposal submission period was extended by the city, no new date has been established for the selection of an interested organization and acceptance of a proposal.