Armed Forces Retirement Home offers to lease historic heating plant


(Courtesy Armed Forces Retirement Home)

Managers of the Armed Forces Retirement Home are offering up a bit of history as they weigh whether to seek interest for a colossal 77-acre development off of North Capitol Street in the District.

The home, sometimes referred to as the Old Soldiers’ Home, is offering its 1910-era steam heating plant for lease. The 33,372-square-foot brick steam plant was decommissioned in October and in December the home began seeking companies interested in either re-using it as an energy plant or re-configuring the historic building with its three English boilers as something else, such as an office building.

“It’s just open for anybody who wants to lease it,” said Justin Seffens, corporate facility manager for the home.

About 600 military veterans live on the home’s sprawling green campus, on 272 acres along North Capitol Street north of Washington Hospital Center where Abraham Lincoln once vacationed. Last year the home completed a new $80 million residence hall.

The home advertises the plant’s proximity to the hospital, universities and growing neighborhoods, although given its location behind a security gate, the plant could be difficult to re-use as, say, a coffee shop or restaurant.

Redeveloping the heating plant may be just the start.

A 1907 shot of the heating plant, which was completed in 1910. (Courtesy Armed Forces Retirement Home)
A 1907 shot of the heating plant, which was completed in 1910. (Courtesy Armed Forces Retirement Home)

The home has long been planning to develop about 77 acres of its campus into a mixed-use neighborhood of more than 4 million square feet, more even than what is planned for the former Walter Reed Army Hospital, where a team led by Hines Interests has been named master developer.

Seffens said the home is working with the General Services Administration to determine when to launch the larger project and will likely make a decision in coming months.

“We are hoping to put the master plan back out there. We’re working with the GSA and the community to see what the feeling is. We’re doing appraisals on the land and we’re hoping to either make a decision on it this summer or put it aside and wait until the market is better,” he said.

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.
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