4110 Kansas Avenue, NW

The SED Center

Service Type

Project Type

22,500 sf


The Spanish Education Development (SED) Center is a 24,000 square foot renovation of the 1940s-era Hahn’s Shoes warehouse in Petworth, Washington, DC. The SED Center, a non-profit organization, offers bilingual preschool and adult educational programs for low-income residents of the DC metro area and has been the cornerstone of the Hispanic community for over 37 years.

The new facility accommodates twice the number of students than in their previous 3,800 sf Adams Morgan location and provides a state-of-the-art audio, video and computer language learning facility for their adult learning program. The new center also allows for the addition of an infant care program designed to provide a nurturing, creative atmosphere for up to 40 children.

The expansion into the Hahn Shoe warehouse presented the Hickok Cole design team with the challenge to creatively acknowledge and integrate the juxtaposition between the warm, family oriented, welcoming attitude of the SED Center community and the straightforward, functional and industrial qualities of the existing warehouse. Brick, concrete and steel were chosen for economy and function when the warehouse was built in 1946. The building can be understood as a series of layers each with its own purpose. The designers wanted to continue this idea of honesty and layering in materials while breathing in life anew with exuberance only children can inspire.

New spaces were created carefully so as not to compete with the grid the building presented. The new construction works with the existing construction in an elegant and clean way. Light from new windows now fills the space. An introduction of vivid, fresh colors inspired by local DC artist, Pepa Leon, accentuates the warm brick. Layering these colors in with the textures of the building materials creates a more refined, updated aesthetic that answers to the need for warmth expressed by the SED Center community.

The new Spanish Education Development Center is a place created for learning and an intrinsically different use than an old shoe warehouse. The design is responsive and builds upon literal and figurative layers. The project team successfully transformed the old, dark warehouse that was awkwardly segmented into a generous modern space full of light and color, making it an exciting new place for children and adults to learn.