Preservation group takes a pass on Washington Post building

The District’s top advocacy group on behalf of historical buildings has decided against trying to declare The Washington Post building on L Street Northwest a historical landmark, removing a potential hurdle should it be sold to a developer.

The seven-story building at 1515 L St. NW was completed in 1950 when The Post relocated from E Street NW, a few doors down from the National Theatre. Construction was financed using loans provided by the family of late publisher, Katharine Graham.

The Washington Post Co. is a few weeks away from closing a deal to sell the newspaper to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, but the parent company plans to retain its interest in the real estate at 15th and L Streets NW. The properties include 1150 15th St. NW, 1515 L St. NW and 1523 L St. NW, as well as the land beneath a building on the corner, 1100 15th St. NW.

The company put the properties up for sale before the Bezos deal was announced, and it also offered for sale two Robinson Terminal warehouse sites on the Alexandria Waterfront.

Selling the downtown real estate may have proven more difficult had 1515 L St. NW been considered a historical landmark, a designation that could have protected all or part of it from demolition.

But a panel of advocates from the nonprofit D.C. Preservation League decided in late July that the building’s mid-century modern design did not rise to a level worth preserving, despite the fact it served as the workplace for journalists who pursued stories such as the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon.

Rebecca Miller, executive director of the league, said the argument for saving the building was built around its role in history, not its architecture. “It’s about what historically happened there, the news stories and events,” she said. “From an architectural perspective, it leaves a little bit to be desired.”

A Preservation Leaguepanel issued a report on the property: “While the committee was willing to accept the intellectual proposition that the building could be significant as an example of a rare Washington modernist industrial structure and for its role in the Watergate scandal, most thought that it was aesthetically lacking and therefore was not a high priority for landmarking.”

The preservation league is not the only entity that can nominate a building for protection, but it is by far the most active. David Maloney, the state historical preservation officer for the D.C. Office of Planning, said that since the Preservation League has taken a pass on the L Street property, he did not expect it to be landmarked.

“Traditionally it’s something that we leave to community groups,” he said.

The real estate consultants hired by The Post, JM Zell and Studley, now have new marching orders. The newspaper, which will be a tenant of its former parent company for up to two years, is still looking for a new home of up to 300,000 square feet in the District. Sor far, some two dozen companies have submitted proposals for its new home. A spokeswoman for the newspaper, Kristine Coratti, said that the search for new offices remains “largely the same” following Bezos’s decision to buy the paper. (Capital Business is being acquired as part of the deal.)

The former Washington Post Co. will be renamed once the newspaper sale closes, likely in the first week of October, and that company will be seeking a new home as well, the parameters of which have not been disclosed. “All locations are being considered,” said Rima Calderon, a spokeswoman for the parent company.

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

business

capitalbusiness

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters