The Pierce School.

UrbanTurf’s Unique Spaces series takes a look at properties that could be considered “one-of-a-kind” in the DC area. If you have a home that you think fits the bill, send an email to editor2013@urbanturf.com. See all of our past Unique Spaces articles here.

UrbanTurf has covered a number of extraordinary residential conversions over the years, everything from a Capitol Hill bank to a Logan Circle garage. This week’s installment may top anything we’ve ever covered, though.


The main living room.

The Pierce School is unlike any other residential property in DC. When Jeff Printz and Chris Swanson bought the former school at 14th Street and Maryland Avenue NE (map) for a mere $275,000 from the city in 2000, it was a shell with four feet of water in the basement. The only tenants at the time were pigeons and rodents.

Over the next five years, Printz and Swanson went about transforming the property. The finished product consisted of a sprawling 9,500 square-foot loft on the top two floors, which would serve as their personal residence, with seven loft rentals below.


The home office.

“We closed at the end of 2000, but DCRA had a hard time understanding why people wanted to live in an old school, so there was a bit of a delay in approvals,” Printz told UrbanTurf. “Construction started in late 2001 and we finally called it home in 2004.” (Renters did not move in until a year later.)

The owner’s unit at the top of the school consists of a 5,600 square-foot main loft level and another 4,000 square foot floor above that. The main level acts as Printz and Swanson’s home, with a seemingly endless number of enormous former classrooms that now serve as living areas, bedrooms, a restaurant-sized kitchen and an office. On the second level, there are four guest bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as a 14-person movie theater (the seats came from the first class section of an old airplane) and an 800 square-foot roof deck.


The kitchen.

A number of aspects from the building’s former life remain. The chalkboards have been kept and restored, not just in the owner’s loft, but in every rental unit. There are old lockers in Printz and Swanson’s loft, which is also filled with the school’s 8.5-foot windows. The ceiling in the main living room stretches to 18 feet in some places, 32 feet in others.

The rental lofts below the owner’s unit range from 1,500 to 1,900 square feet in size. Along with two rentals in a house in back of the school, Printz and Swanson bring in a hefty amount of monthly income—somewhere between $2,500 and $2,700 a month per unit. (Printz said the rents have not been raised much since 2005.) The eventual buyer will be required by law to assume the leases of the current renters, but frankly, whoever buys the property likely won’t mind already having renters already in place.


One of the loft rentals.

Printz and Swanson are sad to be leaving the home that they built, but they won’t be going far for their next project. Earlier this year, the couple purchased the former New Union Garage at 643-645 Maryland Avenue NE (map), one of the first garages to open in the city. Just as they did with the Pierce School, they plan to transform an old Capitol Hill institution into their new home, renovating the 4,000 square-foot garage and building two more stories on top of the existing property.

UrbanTurf was given a sneak peek of the Pierce School lofts, so we are not at liberty to reveal the price. But buyers on the hunt for something truly unique can check out the listing when it hits the market later this week.

Address: 1375 Maryland Avenue NE (map
Listing Agent: Peter Lane, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty at plane@ttrsir.com.


The owner’s living room.


A loft rental.


The home theater.


Bathroom in owner’s unit.


The building’s black bottom pool.


Owner’s roof deck.

Photos courtesy of Home Visit.