November 30, 2016
We are pleased to announce that Sidwell Friends School has signed an agreement with Fannie Mae to purchase 3939 Wisconsin Avenue NW, which abuts the northern end of our campus near the Upper School, for $8.2 million. The building has 40,000 square feet of programmable space and includes 50 parking spaces. Fannie Mae is moving its operations to downtown DC, but it will lease the building from the School until at least September 2018. As a result, the building will provide income to the School until we secure the funding we need to convert it to administrative or educational space.
As you can see from the map below, the plot at 3939 is awkwardly notched out of our campus footprint—and has been since 1945, when the School sold the parcel. Over the past 70 years, the Board of Trustees has weighed the possibility of regaining ownership of the site on several occasions, but the factors that would enable the purchase did not align. The property was placed on the market earlier this year, after the School had already contracted to purchase the Washington Home.
Although we would not have planned for the only two properties contiguous to the Wisconsin Avenue campus to become available simultaneously, we strongly believe that this coincidence calls on us to embrace the long-term flexibility and advantages they present. Together, these two purchases offer the School tremendous possibilities and a true once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we need to carefully consider their highest and best use for the School and our students. That topic is a central focus of the board’s recently launched strategic planning process, which will seek broad input from all constituencies in the community. To ensure that we have ample time to process this input, we will need to slow down the ambitious schedule that we initially outlined for moving the Lower School to the Wisconsin Avenue campus. Updates will be posted on the campus planning page of our website.
Of course, to take full advantage of this unique situation, we are seeking philanthropic support to purchase and develop the two properties. We are in the leadership phase of our fundraising efforts and have good news to report. The project has already inspired two alumni to commit $5 million each, record-setting gifts that double the size of what had previously been the largest in School history. Other alumni and parents have made early commitments, bringing the total to $17 million for the purchase of 3939 and the Washington Home. The School has never raised, or needed to raise, this much money so quickly, and we are grateful to these donors for their extraordinary generosity. All alumni and parents will have the opportunity to participate in this effort and support these priorities.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we thank you for your support and are honored to be entrusted with planning for the long-term sustainability of Sidwell Friends. We trust that you share our excitement, we thank you for your commitment, and we hope that we can count on your support in helping us realize the remarkable future these acquisitions portend.
Bryan K. Garman
Head of School
Clerk, Board of Trustees