District developer Penzance Cos. closed recently on its $76 million
purchase of the Watergate office building and the sixth floor suite where
the infamous break-in that led to President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation took place — among others — is empty and up for rent.
The office housed the Democratic National Headquarters when it was burglarized in 1972. At the time the office faced a Howard Johnson motel, where a lookout for the burglars rented a room to keep watch.
Penzance is planning to renovate the office interiors and is starting with floors nine through 12, which are vacant already and which provide stunning views of the Potomac River.
Victor K. Tolkan, Penzance managing partner and founder, said he hoped to take advantage of the Watergate’s location near the waterfront, Georgetown and highways to Virginia. Penzance also plans to overhaul the retail on the ground floor, where Safeway and other departing stores will create openings. “There is a small group of people who recognize what a great location this is,” Tolkan said.
Penzance has been busy since the recession. It is planning a major mixed-use project on North Washington Boulevard in Clarendon and recently purchased 1555 Wilson Boulevard, a Rosslyn office building. Tolkan said that although prices surged shortly after the economic collapse, they had returned to a level that he expected would lead to more deals. “I think finally we’re in a place where there’s real opportunity,” he said.
With the Watergate, Penzance will need to navigate the needs of watchful residents on one side and a planned renovation of the Watergate Hotel on the other. “This really is a perfect fit for what we do,” said Thomas J. Ikeler, Penzance managing director for capital markets. “We like buildings that have some challenges.”
Enough tourists wander by the building to see the site of the infamous break-in that Tolkan said Penzance might consider installing some type of recognition of the building’s history. A statue of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein perhaps?
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