International Spy Museum plots move to Carnegie Library in Mount Vernon Square


A sign for the International Spy Museum is lit up around the corner from the Adams Building which currently houses the museum, in Washington, Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. The museum, one of the hottest attractions in the nation’s capital over the past decade, is considering a move to a historic library that would give it more space for exhibits and a link to the city’s convention center. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The International Spy Museum, one of the most popular private attractions in the District, would relocate to the former Carnegie Library in Mount Vernon Square under a plan by D.C. officials.

Events DC, which manages the District’s convention and sports business, announced Monday that it planned to renovate and expand the historic library building by moving the Spy Museum to the museum’s underground space and building a new “sculpted glass pavilion” on the north side of the building that would house a new visitors center , a café and the Spy Museum store.

Events DC, run by president and chief executive Gregory O’Dell, also plans to add outdoor seating, a small amphitheater and a playground to the grounds on Mount Vernon Square, around the building. Events DC and Malrite, the Cleveland-based owner of the museum, would serve as co-developers of the project. The Historical Society of Washington would remain in the building as well.

In all, the project would add 58,000 square feet to the property, but the idea requires layers of approval from local and federal stakeholders because of the historic state of the grounds and library building, which was completed in 1903 and served as the city’s central library until 1970.

“I applaud Events DC and the Malrite Company for developing a public-private partnership that will revive and preserve this important historic asset while also strengthening the District of Columbia’s travel and tourism industry,” said Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said in the statement.


People walk by the Adams Building that currently houses the International Spy Museum in Washington, Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. The museum, one of the hottest attractions in the nation’s capital over the past decade, is considering a move to a historic library that would give it more space for exhibits and a link to the city’s convention center. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The centerpiece of Mount Vernon Square, the Carnegie Building was one of thousands of libraries built nationwide with funds donated by steel tycoon and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

Since then, however, the District has failed to find a modern, sustainable use for the building, despite repeated efforts. The Historical Society spent $20 million renovating the building into the City Museum, which opened to fanfare in 2003 but closed only a year and a half later.

The Federal City Council then sublet the building from the Historical Society for use as a music museum, but pulled out of the project in 2008.

For the latest idea to work, the Malrite family, owners of the company behind the Spy Museum, would have to relocate the museum from its popular location at 800 F Street NW and convert the operation to a non-profit.

Milton Maltz, founder of Spy Museum, said that he and his wife Tamar would take pride in donating the museum to the city. “Tamar and I are both children of immigrants, and we believe that this Museum represents our history,” he said in the statement.

O’Dell is hoping to activate the area around the convention center as he prepares for the opening next year of the the 1,175-room, 49-suite Washington Marriott Marquis Convention Center Hotel.

“With Mt. Vernon Square at the Convention Center’s doorstep, each of these proposed uses are perfect complements to our mission of creating economic and community benefits for the District of Columbia,” O’Dell said in the statement. “Given the rapid pace of growth in the immediate area, including CityCenter DC and the Washington Marriott Marquis, we envision this project becoming the northern anchor of a conventions and entertainment district that will stretch all the way down to Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

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