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Two Ballston office buildings on market

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The owner of two high-end Arlington office buildings has put the properties up for sale without resolving whether the agency that occupies them — the National Science Foundation — will be staying put.

Stafford Place I and II, at 4201 and 4121 Wilson Blvd. in Ballston, were completed in the early 1990s and attracted the National Science Foundation’s headquarters away from downtown Washington.

Since then, rents and property values in the Rosslyn-Ballston office market have exploded, giving developers such as Monday Properties and JBG Cos. confidence to plan buildings of record-setting height. Ballston rents have grown by nearly $10 a square foot from 2005 to today and now fetch nearly $45 a square foot on average.

Stafford Place’s owners, Dweck Properties, sent sales materials to potential buyers in early June via the brokerage firm Transwestern, advertising the 768,163-square-foot buildings as 100 percent leased in large part because the National Science Foundation occupies 86 percent of them.

But the NSF’s leases expire in April and December of 2013, bringing intense interest from competing landlords. The independent federal agency is an attractive tenant for landlords not only because it currently employs 1,500 full-time staff members and will occupy nearly 670,000 square feet, but also because it draws more than 60,000 visitors every year, among them visiting scientists and peer reviewers.

The brochure does not list an asking price and sets a June 21 deadline for offers. It also including some language that caught the attention of competitors for the NSF lease: “The GSA has agreed to work exclusively with ownership over the next six months as a sole-source deal.”

A General Services Administration spokesman denied that the agency had agreed to negotiate with only one party. Gerald P. Trainor, Transwestern executive managing director, said that language had been edited since first being released. “That was a misinterpretation in my part of what was going on, but it isn’t really a sole source,” he said.

Do Transwestern and Dweck have a commitment the agency will stay? “I think they would very much like to stay, but they are not removing any other options off the table,” Trainor said.

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