In January 2017, it was revealed that Washington, D.C.’s vacant Franklin School, which has been vacant since 2008, will be redeveloped into the city’s first interactive language arts museum and education space, called Planet Word. Since then, Washington Business Journal was able to find out when the project is expected to deliver: by the third quarter of 2019. (On the Planet Word website, it states that it will open by the winter of 2019.)
According to a press release, “Planet Word’s mission is to inspire a love of words and language and increase literacy through a host of interactive exhibits and experiences. Along with the Mundolingua in Paris, Planet Word will be one of just a few fully-operational language museums globally.”
The more than $20 million project will be privately funded, thanks to philanthropist Ann B. Friedman.
On the K Street NW side of the building, an accessible entrance patio will be constructed. Washington Business Journal broke down exactly what to expect from the project floor by floor, writing:
“On the ground floor, a 1,377-square-foot restaurant and 1,069-square-foot kitchen, more than 2,100 square feet of offices, a workshop and small conference room.
On the first floor, 603 square feet of retail, joined by a nearly 2,000-square-foot auditorium and two galleries totaling about 2,200 square feet.
On the second floor, five galleries totaling just shy of 5,000 square feet, joined by a 300-square-foot language lab and two classrooms.
On the third floor, a 3,124-square-foot gallery in the Great Hall, a 1,578-square-foot gallery and a 2,205-square-foot changing exhibit. This floor also includes a 155-square-foot Bride’s Room, suggesting the school will be available to rent for weddings.
On the fourth floor, 2,941 square feet of potential event space joined by a new 1,080-square-foot roof terrace. It is one of the few additions that will be made to the heavily protected building.”
Leading the project is Dantes Partners with Beyer Blinder Belle as the architect. The National Capital Planning Commission will consider the project in December.
In 1869, the Franklin School was designed by Adolf Cluss, the same architect behind Eastern Market and the Arts and Industries Building. When it was constructed, it served as the flagship building of eight modern urban public school buildings.
On the rooftop of the school in 1880, Alexander Graham Bell tested his invention, the photophone, which allows sound to be transmitted by light waves. Because of this, the school was later declared a National Historic Landmark in 1996.
In 2002, the building was later used as a homeless shelter that eventually closed in September 2008.
• Here's the timing, room-by-room plan for the Franklin School's conversion to Planet Word [Washington Business Journal]
• Vacant Franklin School reveals new plans on Planet Word [Curbed DC]