In October, Capital Turnaround celebrated another milestone in the renovation of the Navy Yard Car Barn when National Community Church (NCC) opened the kids play and learning space at the newly developed building. The morning event included tours of the newly renovated space, balloons, a doughnut truck and playtime for a group of happy children.
For nearly a century, the Navy Yard Car Barn served as the last stop on DC’s street car line. This historic building, renovated with exposed concrete columns, a top-notch sound system, and several seating areas, has been rechristened Capital Turnaround. NCC bought the building in 2014 for $29.3 million. The total cost of renovations is estimated at $20 million. The funds have come largely from donations by congregants and supporters, NCC said.
The mixed-used facility is now home to Phase Family Learning Center, a state-of-the-art event space, church services for NCC and a planned future mixed-use marketplace.
The renovation of the 100,000 square foot building is expected to kickstart change at the southern end of Eighth Street SE, now a relatively quiet area across from the Washington Navy Yard’s historic Latrobe Gate.
Built in the 1890s, the Blue Castle is a well-known District landmark, with its own Facebook and Wikipedia pages. Also known as the Washington and Georgetown Railroad Car House or the Navy Yard Car Barn, the building was the terminus of the city’s first and most important streetcar line that ran along Pennsylvania Avenue from Georgetown to the Navy Yard.
The building was later used as storage, a bus garage and a temporary headquarters for the US Department of Labor. In 1988, mental health services company PSI purchased the building and painted it blue.
Multiple charter schools have also called the building their home in the past twenty years, most recently Richard Wright Public Charter School.
NCC Pastor Mark Batterson is excited about the plans for the building and the church. “When God led me on a 4.7-mile prayer walk around Capitol Hill in 1996, I turned the southeast corner at Eighth and M Streets,” Batterson said.
“I had no idea that eighteen years to the day from the day of that prayer circle, we would purchase the Navy Yard Car Barn.”
That prayer walk also led him past the current site of Ebenezers Coffeehouse (201 F St. NE), which NCC opened in 2006, the former People’s Church Building, opened as Miracle Theatre (535 Eighth St. SE) in 2016, Square 906, bounded by Virginia Avenue, Seventh, Eighth, and L Streets SE, on which NCC owns two additional lots (1003 Eighth St. SE and 733 Virginia Ave. SE).
Batterson said that owning property is necessary to do the work that NCC, which sees itself as “a church in the marketplace,” feels called to do. Purchasing and renovating properties is one way to do that.
“You seek the peace and prosperity of the city by building spaces that serve the community,” he said. “So instead of building a church building, we built a coffee house; we renovated the Miracle Theatre; we turned an abandoned apartment into the Dream Center. This is sort of the biggest endeavor.”
The congregation wanted a space that they could use for services, he said, but also something the wider city could use during the week to gather, celebrate and be entertained.
“We think that’s a way to facilitate community along with doing what we do as a church,” Batterson said.
Phase II Celebrated
The October celebration marked the completion of a child development center that will be operated by Georgia-based Phase Family Learning Centers. Offering services to families with kids 6 weeks through five years old, Phase teachers provide an all-inclusive approach of both traditional classroom instruction and hands-on enrichment spaces.
The program will emphasize academic and character development designed to help family members connect with one another as well as with other families in the community. The childcare center has the capacity to serve 170 children and employs about 40 DC childcare professionals.
Phase’s Turnaround location includes classrooms, its own mini-theatre, and an indoor streetcar-themed playground space that will be accessible to the community. Its curriculum is a blend of Emilia Reggio and STEM, recognizing both the value of a play-based approach and the need to hit milestones, said Phase CEO Frank Bealer.
He said Phase Family Learning’s business model involves strategic partnerships with urban churches throughout the country that often have empty buildings during the week.
“They’re not running the school —our content is not faith based,” Bealer said. “We’re just strategic in that partnership.”
A Place to Go
Capital Turnaround is not just a space for kids to grow. It’s also a place for people to go. The space is becoming a popular venue for weddings. Phase I, completed in spring 2019, includes an event space with seating for 850 that doubles as a worship space for the church. The space is available for rent for events such as concerts, conventions and school events.
The stage is also the city’s latest concert and performance venue. Programmed by Wharf venue Union Stage as Union Stage Presents, the stage hosts bands, live podcasts, comedy and other shows, filling a void left when Rock n Roll Hotel and U Street Music Hall closed in 2020.
In February, actor-comedian Chris Fleming and singer Richard Marx will hit the stage. A May concert featuring British singer Rina Sawayama is already sold out. The venue will feature shows limited to those 21-plus, but also a range of all age events.
More to Come
The final phase planned for the renovation will bring an indoor marketplace to the gates of the Navy Yard. The market is expected to take up a little more than half of the building, or about 50,000 square feet.
Pastor Mark Batterson said that COVID has delayed the start date, but planning and demolition are slated to begin in 2022. It will be a mixed-use marketplace with restaurants and retail, including a co-working space, but so far NCC is not sure if it will be a built-out urban market or one better suited to kiosks and pop-ups like Union Market.
Batterson said he sees the renovation of the Capital Turnaround as the ability of NCC to serve the city, and he calls it a joy and a privilege.
“My hunch is, God doesn’t give us a city block to dream small,” he said. “I think this is our moment to dream a little bit bigger and to believe that we can do some things to make this a better city.”
Learn more about Capital Turnaround, how to book space for events and about upcoming shows by visiting https://capitalturnaround.com/ Learn more about Phase Learning Center at https://phase.center/school/locations/washington-dc/