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GSA Narrows Competition for Redevelopment of Historic Site in Downtown Washington

GSA #9451

November 21, 1997
Contact: Jim Williams, (202)205-0317
Liz Gibson, (202)708-5334

Three Teams Chosen in First Phase of Competition for Tariff Building Redevelopment

WASHINGTON, DC -- After two widely-attended public hearings and extensive consultations with community organizations, local and federal officials, the US General Services Administration today announced the selection of three development options for the General Post Office, a National Historic Landmark known locally as the Tariff Commission Building, located in downtown Washington, D C.

The options that will be developed further and evaluated include apartments, hotel and a mixed-use project anchored with a residential use. Finalists in the two-phased development competition include:

Gunwyn/Postal Quarters LLC of Cambridge, Massachusetts;
Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group of San Francisco, California; and
JPI Development Partners, Inc/Golding Associates/Esocoff & Associates of Vienna, Virginia, and Washington, DC.

All three developers submitted proposals in the first phase of the competition, which attracted nine submissions. Their proposed concepts contribute to the goals and objectives of the Pennsylvania Avenue Plan, a federal plan devised in 1974 that has successfully guided the redevelopment of Pennsylvania Avenue as the main street of the nation. A mixture of uses - including offices, retail, apartments, condominiums and the Willard Hotel combined with the investment of $100 million in infrastructure and public amenities improvements - brought visitors and residents back to the area. These investments included urban parks and open spaces, historic preservation, artistic and cultural festivals in the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Area. The Plan also guided the creation of a new residential neighborhood known as the Penn Quarter at the midpoint of Pennsylvania Avenue between the US Capital and the White House.

Nelson Alcalde, Regional Administrator of GSA's National Capital Region, said that GSA would explore alternative rehabilitative and development options with these developers prior to naming a single developer to rehabilitate and manage the 98,000 square-foot property. The feasibility evaluation will take place over the next six to nine months.

While all respondents to the GSA competition demonstrated strengths in several key areas, only three developers demonstrated significant abilities across a wide range of qualifying criteria such as asset and property management, financial stability, commercial/residential development experience, capacity, historic preservation, project management and construction management.

Known in Boston for their award-winning design and construction, Gunwyn has a track record in preservation, public private partnerships and apartment development in New England and the District of Columbia. They are best known locally for their $80 million redevelopment of the Lansburgh, a 385-unit apartment building that incorporated parts of an historic department store and a cultural arts center using the 465-seat Shakespeare Theatre. For the Tariff Commission Building, Gunwyn/Postal Quarters LLC proposes 139 apartments with 90 below-grade parking spaces and a 4,000 square foot restaurant. Their proposal focused on restoration of the exterior of the building and maximization of apartments within the existing building.

Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group, which specializes in restoring historic buildings in downtown locations, is the largest hotel operator in San Francisco, operating 14 hotels with 2,353 rooms in the city. They also own and manage 21 high value, personalized hotels and 24 urban restaurants. Their smallest hotel, the 91-room Monticello Inn and their largest, the 417-room Sir Francis Drake Hotel, are both in San Francisco. They currently employ approximately 3,000 people on the West Coast and have created or renovated over 3,000 guestrooms. Kimpton will open their first hotel in Chicago in January 1998. Several Kimpton restaurants are operated by well-known chefs, such as Wolfgang Puck at Postrio, Donna and Giovanni Scala at Scala's Bistro and Jan Birnbaum at Sazerac in Seattle. Kimpton's proposal for a limited service hotel at the Tariff Commission Building would offer comfort, highly personalized service and value for visitors and residents of the District of Columbia. Kimpton would design and operate a hotel that would build on the historic architectural character while creating a residential feel by incorporating intimate lobbies, comfortable furniture and guest rooms designed to look and feel like a guest room in a friend's home. An independent theme restaurant would be designed and operated by a restaurateur, making it popular among locals and visitors alike.

One of the country's leading urban and suburban rental community developers, JPI Development Partners has joined forces with Golding Associates. JPI has developed or acquired over 28,000 apartments coast to coast. Currently JPI holds 59 projects in its portfolio, totaling 20,339 units, representing a total completed cost of $1.24 billion. JPI is a company that prides itself in developing, building, and managing all of its properties with its extensive in-house resources and retaining ownership of many properties for the long term. Current urban projects include two in downtown Dallas, one in downtown Houston and two others are planned for downtown Houston and Kansas City. Golding Associates brings local expertise via their projects in the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington and as co-developer for the restoration of The Willard Hotel. For the Tariff Commission Building, the team proposes 665 to 1,260 square foot urban rental living units to meet today's demanding consumer. In addition, they propose a dynamic urban pedestrian environment via street side boutiques, dining, theatres and educational displays.

On October 9, 1997, the National Capital Planning Commission approved the adaptive use concepts submitted by the developers for the landmark property. The National Capital Planning Commission reviews actions proposed within the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Area for conformance with the Pennsylvania Avenue Plan and its guidelines. Granted in-lieu-of-zoning authority for local public buildings under the Code of the District of Columbia, the Federal commission requested that GSA further explore and determine the physical design and economic feasibility of the approved uses.

The Tariff Commission Building is in the area around the new MCI Center where GSA is actively involved in the revitalization of other historic properties, such as the LeDroit and Atlas Buildings on F Street NW, and the reopening of F Street. Built in 1839 and used until 1996 as office space for federal agencies, the historic property is centrally located in the newly created Downtown Business Improvement District.

GSA is creating an innovative process for adapting historic properties using the Tariff Commission Building as a new model for implementing the federal policy embodied in the National Historic Preservation Act (16 USC 470). Alcalde said, "Working in partnership with developers, financiers, historic preservationists and the community, this property will once again be an asset to our Nation's Capital and a landmark that embodies the spirit and principles of the National Historic Preservation Act. The Act requires the Federal government to use measures to foster conditions under which our modern society and our historic resources can exist in productive harmony. It is also another example of how GSA's 'Good Neighbor' initiative is helping to revitalize America's cities."

Consultation with community leaders and local government has resulted in broad support for the GSA undertaking. GSA has received letters of support of the selected concepts from diverse constituents such as the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Planning Association, the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, members of the Mayor's Interactive Downtown Taskforce, the Downtown Housing Now Committee and the Penn Quarter Neighborhood Association.

GSA's Alcalde said that the public would continue to be involved as the developers explore alternatives. The third public forum, an interactive design workshop sponsored jointly by the District of Columbia Preservation League, the National Building Museum and GSA, will be held on Feb. 18, 1998 at the National Building Museum.

Public tours of the property will be conducted Feb. 18, and Feb. 21, 1998. Pamela Scott, architectural historian and co-author of Buildings of the District of Columbia, will present a slide lecture on the history and significance of this National Historic Landmark on Feb. 19. All forthcoming public events will be held at the National Building Museum under joint sponsorship with the District of Columbia Preservation League.

For additional GSA competition updates, process background and schedule information, visit the project website on the Internet: http://www.gsa.gov/regions/r11/projects/sq430.htm.

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