By Southwester Staff

One major building project in Southwest will not be disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and Lowe Enterprises, lead developer on the project, the Randall School redevelopment on I Street is going forward this year as planned. 

Randall’s 2.7 acre site will contain a 12-story apartment building with 489 units, including 98 affordable units. The plan also includes a contemporary art museum, related office space, and a one-acre quad. The original 49,000 square foot Randall School, which will be restored, will also contain the Rubell family’s art collection. The Rubell family has a history of involvement in DC and Southwest. The Skyline Hotel, which is directly across I Street from Randall School and adjacent recreational facilities, was bought by Rubell Hotels in 2002. According to Skyline’s website, the company aims to transform “architecturally significant historic hotels into affordable cultural hubs.”

Last April, the DC Council voted to approve tax abatement legislation for the project. Preparations are underway to begin demolitions of certain buildings this summer, and foundation works will commence in the fall of this year. Lowe expects the Randall School project to be completed on schedule in 2022, according to D.C.’s Planning and Economic Development office. 

While the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted or halted many sectors of the District of Columbia’s economy, and that of the United States at large, construction projects have largely been left untouched by social distancing measures and movement restrictions. The governments of DC, Maryland, and Virginia deemed construction workers “essential” in March. Other states, such as Pennsylvania and Vermont, have halted many projects deemed unnecessary. There are concerns over the safety of workers who have to work in close proximity to each other.

Across the country, though, construction projects are being accelerated to take advantage of a plentiful supply of labor – as many workers want to be considered essential and continue to be able to make an income – as well as decreased traffic. In Florida, for instance, Governor Ron DiSantis called the pandemic the “golden time” to speed up major projects such as the I-395 redesign in Miami. In DC, there is support for continuing, if not accelerating, Metro’s Purple Line construction while ridership is down. 

Some neighboring residents have expressed relief that the project is continuing on schedule. Bob Hall, President of the Board of Directors of the adjacent Capitol Park IV Condominium, said he is “eager and relieved” to know progress is being made. Once a “blight” on that block of the neighborhood, the new art museum and ground-level apartments, as well as the “preservation and restoration of the historic Randall School,” will bring “new life to this corner of Southwest,” Hall said.

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