The former Fletcher-Johnson Middle School and Recreation Center is set to become a mixed-use development in northeast D.C. (WI file photo)
The former Fletcher-Johnson Middle School and Recreation Center is set to become a mixed-use development in northeast D.C. (WI file photo)

The shuttered Fletcher-Johnson Middle School and Recreation Center located in the Marshall Heights neighborhood of southeast Washington remains in the early stages of its transformation to a mixed-used development, Mayor Bowser’s project manager said Oct. 9.

Wendell Felder, Fletcher-Johnson’s project manager for the D.C. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, and Haariq Gragg, a partner with the Gragg Cardona Partners LLC, the lead developer, briefed the Fletcher-Johnson Task Force, an organization of community leaders and residents in Marshall Heights and throughout Ward 7.

“It is critical that members of the community know what is going on,” said Keith Hasan-Towery, the interim chairman of the task force, who called the virtual briefing. “There are a number of people in this community who have lived here for years and want to stay here and not be pushed out. We want to have a voice on what happens to Fletcher-Johnson.”

The 15-acre site project on Benning Road SE, which will be known as Fletcher-Johnson at the Park, is to be the site of 817 units of rental and for-sale housing consisting of condominiums, multi-family rental apartments, and affordable senior-assisted living units.

There are plans for green space for outside recreational and community activities, retail-commercial space for neighborhood retailers and an expansive location for community programming.

The Fletcher-Johnson campus became available for development first in 2008 when the school closed due to low enrollment and city officials decided to shutter the site permanently in 2011. Since then, efforts to develop the property have been unsuccessful due to lack of serious interest by District developers.

However, in January 2021, the Bowser administration awarded the Fletcher-Johnson project to Gragg Cardona, along with the Carding Group, Foundation Housing, H2 Design Build and the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization.

Felder, Gragg Talk About Fletcher-Johnson

Felder said Gragg Cardona recently filed a request with city officials for permission to have “Right of Entry” to Fletcher-Johnson. Right of Entry [ROE] refers to one’s right to take or resume possession of land, or the right of a person to go onto another’s real property without committing trespass.

“The developers will be able to go onto the site to measure its deficiencies and see what needs to be done in order for development to take place,” Felder said.

Felder didn’t commit to a timeline on when the right of entry or any other activity will take place regarding the development of Fletcher-Johnson.

“It is kind of early in the process,” he said.

Gragg stressed Felder’s point on being in the early stages of the project.

“We need to have the ROE so we can go onto the campus and look at the topography of the land, how sturdy the buildings are and other land uses,” he said. “When the ROE is approved, we will have the tools to create a conceptual site plan.”

Gragg and Felder couldn’t say how much the project will cost.

“We haven’t reached that stage yet,” Gragg said. “The costs are undetermined at this point.”

Felder agreed.

“The District government hasn’t really started assessing what the costs would be,” he said.

Project’s Neighbors Express Themselves

Malissa Freese, a member of the organization, said Fletcher-Johnson shouldn’t become a hub for luxury housing.

“We would like for the project to have people who have more than average incomes,” Freese said. “One of the problems we have in getting grocery stores is due to the income levels in our neighborhoods. If we had more people who made $75,000 a year, as a household, I think we could get another full-service grocery store in the area. This project needs working people living in it.”

Hasan-Towery also serves as the president of Marshall Heights Civic Association. He rejects luxury housing outright for Fletcher-Johnson.

“We have taken surveys of people in the neighborhood on what they want for Fletcher-Johnson,” Hasan-Towery said. “Luxury housing is very low on the list. We have enough affordable housing in Ward 7. We want people to live in Fletcher-Johnson who have a good, standard income.”

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James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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