Seize the Moment and Purchase the Intelsat/Whittle Building

Councilmember Frumin’s commentary in the DC line, which proposes purchasing the former Intelsat site, is an indisputably ambitious idea. The site, located a block from a Metro stop at 4000 Connecticut Avenue NW, presents a unique opportunity for the city to acquire a massive property with a variety of potential civic uses. Purposes could include an early childhood education center, senior wellness programs, urban agriculture, a central food processing facility, and space for UDC or another university. To achieve this goal, the proposal suggests the possibility of relocating the high school on MacArthur Boulevard to the Intelsat site, offering a more accessible location proximate to public transportation.

The District is about to move into the second phase of the MacArthur High School renovation in the Palisades neighborhood. The MacArthur launch has been an extraordinary success so far, but that very success highlights the challenges of accommodating a proposed program to serve 800 students at its current site. The school is in a difficult-to-reach location, tightly nestled in a residential community on the far western edge of the city with few amenities around it. Before entering this next phase of renovation on MacArthur Boulevard, we should consider whether instead of expanding there, we should instead locate the high school on the Intelsat site. Consider the possibility of the high school next to a university, on the Red Line, surrounded by amenities to serve students, on a campus potentially devoted to lifelong learning.

I recently discussed with Lab’s leadership the possibility of consolidating on the MacArthur site now owned by DC, and they indicated it is an idea worth exploring. If such a deal could be struck, I’ve been told that the sale price plus the avoided capital costs for the second phase of the MacArthur renovation could free up roughly $125 million that could go toward the purchase and renovation of the Intelsat building. This would provide DC an appealing location for its newest public high school largely using dollars already set aside for that purpose in Ward 3.

A high school in the Intelsat building would take up a fraction of the space on that site. As described above, the possibilities for other uses on the site are numerous and exciting. See recent commentary in the DC Line here.

While Councilmember Frumin’s proposal is ambitious and represents a significant departure for the MacArthur High School renovation, it emphasizes the exceptional opportunity the Intelsat/Whittle site presents for the District. Councilmember Frumin encourages serious exploration of these possibilities. Add your name to this petition to call on District leaders to support robust consideration of the Intelsat site.

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