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Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC) Phase III

1801 Mississippi Avenue, SE Washington, DC

General Contractor: WCS Construction, LLC
Engineer/Architect: Potomac Energy
Architect: Sanchez Palmer Architects, PC
Contract Amount: $3,162,640
Start Date: 10/1/2016
Completion Date: 12/15/2017


The Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC) Phase III, located in the heart of Southeast D.C., is a new 92,000-square-foot building that provides space for a children’s health clinic, a dental clinic, a black box theater and a gallery-educational center from the Phillips Collection. Also housed in the new building are the Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys and the Appletree Institute for Education and Innovation, as well as a teaching kitchen and café.

The ground floor is designed to serve multiple purposes. There is a main lobby that provides access to the theater, the health and dental clinic offices, and general offices around the perimeter. On the second floor, space is devoted to classrooms, office space, and a kitchen. More classrooms (for preschool and elementary school students) are on the third floor along with additional offices, a pantry kitchen, and a small cafeteria.

While the mechanical system in THEARC Phase III is fairly typical for a commercial building in the D.C. metro area, the main challenge for the Shapiro & Duncan project team was coordination with the variety of tenants who would occupy space in the facility. On each floor of the building, tenants provided their own mechanical and plumbing components and fixtures. Keeping track of which components went with each tenant was a daily challenge that our project team had to overcome.

Further complicating coordination of mechanical components and fixtures was an early building model provided by the architectural/engineering design team. Tolerances in this model did not correspond to actual tolerances needed on site. These discrepancies required re-drilling in the field to make sure everything would fit properly in the tight spaces available.

Space was especially tight in the ceiling, where numerous small components had to be fitted. Our Virtual Design Coordination (VDC) team, rose to this challenge by maintaining close phone communication with the architect during the development of 3-D mechanical models.


The mechanical system in THEARC Phase III consists of eight AAON rooftop units, which serve the ground, second and third floors with fan-powered boxes, and variable air volume (VAV) units. The basement has its own mechanical system consisting of four pairs of outdoor and indoor heat pumps.

Using the coordinated 3-D drawings developed by our VDC team, our field team was able to lay out and install all components and fixtures onsite without prefabrication. If any layout or installation issues arose on site, we were able to adjust the virtual models and keep the project on track. When needed, face-to-face meetings were held to iron out any discrepancies between tenant-provided fixtures and our hook ups. One example involved working out complicated connections to the special sinks required in the dental clinic.

Staying on schedule also meant being nimble about equipment staging, in line with the changing needs of the general contractor as construction progressed.


Despite the numerous coordination, installation and staging challenges that had to be dealt with, our team had mechanical systems up and running three months prior to the contract’s substantial completion date. Conditioned air was needed earlier than required in order to facilitate installation of millwork and other interior finishes.

Throughout the project, our team was responsive to any and all concerns raised by the owner and general contractor. 

In conclusion, it is important to note that THEARC Phase III is a facility that offers a wealth of educational, cultural, health and nutritional services to underserved children and adults in the Anacostia community. It’s in Shapiro & Duncan’s corporate DNA to seek out projects like this. Not only do our team members provide the very best work ethic and finest quality professional installation, but all of us share a strong commitment to the community. From the start on THEARC Phase III project, every one of our team members knew whom we were working for and whom this building would ultimately serve.