Constitution Center is nearly full two years after SEC deal unraveled


Constitution Center is located near the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station. (RICKY CARIOTI/THE WASHINGTON POST)

The leasing saga at Constitution Center has ended.

Almost.

The 1.4 million-square-foot newly rehabbed building near L’Enfant Plaza was the recipient of one of the largest leases in the city’s history when the Securities and Exchange Commission inked a deal for 900,000 square feet. All Tim Jaroch, managing general partner at David Nassif Associates, the owner, had to do was fill in space around the edges.

That deal unraveled in a very public way, though, with the SEC acknowledging making a costly mistake to lease space it did not necessarily need. The agency never moved in, and ultimately handed its obligations at the building to the General Services Administration.

Two years later, new tenants have been found, largely among regulators that — like the SEC — are charged with trying to prevent another economic collapse. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency leased about half of the building, and Jaroch said about 1,000 of roughly 1,600 employees have moved in.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency leased slightly more than a quarter of the building and has also relocated employees. Jaroch said both agencies saw the value of being in a high-end, highly secure building — one with three large conference rooms, an auditorium, a one-acre inner courtyard, full-service gym and cafeteria operated by the same company that manages many Smithsonian eateries.

“They said the same thing as the SEC — we’ve got to be able to attract and keep top talent if we are going to regulate the private sector,” Jaroch said.

Last week the GSA agreed to move the Federal Trade Commission into Constitution Center and nearly finalized deals to move the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities there as well. The moves are “part of our commitment to shrink the federal government’s real estate footprint” the agency said in a statement.

The newest leases have implications elsewhere. The FTC lease relocates employees from two other sites, but keeps the agency’s headquarters at the Apex building — which Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.) covets for the National Gallery of Art.

Both endowment groups, meanwhile, are relocating from the Old Post Office Pavilion in 2013 to make way for Donald and Ivanka Trump to transform that property into a luxury hotel.

David Nassif has put Constitution Center on the market, and The Wall Street Journal reported that MetLife is close to buying it for $750 million. Jaroch declined to comment, but he said he is still trying to recover unpaid rent from the SEC.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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