Envisioning a New Future for Crystal City
By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 12, 2004; Page E03
James E. Creedon, a senior vice president at Charles E. Smith Commercial Realty, has a big hole to fill in Crystal City.
Over the next few months, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will begin moving employees out of several concrete buildings it has occupied in Crystal City for more than two decades into new headquarters in Alexandria. Within two years, the patent office, the biggest tenant in Crystal City, will vacate nearly 1.9 million square feet, almost as much space as the Empire State Building.
Over the past year, Creedon said, he and a seven-person sales staff have done 100 "dog-and-pony shows" to attract brokers and potential tenants to the PTO space.
Creedon's success rate: He has signed one lease to put the General Services Administration's Federal Supply Service, which provides pens, paper, furniture and other items to the government, into 280,000 square feet. That leaves 1.6 million square feet to fill.
"It's been a challenge," Creedon said, adding that he has two other potential tenants, a nonprofit that may take 140,000 square feet and another nonprofit that may use as much as 60,000 square feet. He declined to identify them.
Several factors have complicated Creedon's task. Crystal City has a reputation as a location for government agencies and their contractors. It has little street life because many of its restaurants and shops are underground. There are many empty office buildings in Northern Virginia, which is still trying to recover from the collapse of the technology sector a few years ago.
In addition, few tenants are looking for big chunks of space, brokers say. One potential tenant, Public Broadcasting Service, is looking for a large space and considered Crystal City, according to its broker, who declined to disclose PBS's decision.
Another potential tenant, the Corporate Executive Board, a research group in the District, is close to signing a deal to move into a JBG Cos. project in Rosslyn, according to sources close to the deal. They asked not to be named because the negotiations are confidential.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considered Crystal City but signed a lease in May for 400,000 square feet at Potomac Yard, south of Crystal City. EPA will be the largest tenant in the $2 billion Potomac Yard office, residential and retail complex, which is set to open in 2006. The project's developer is Crescent Resources LLC of Charlotte.
"The fact that Crystal City didn't get the EPA deal was tough and disappointing for them because they lost a 400,000-square-foot tenant," said broker Spencer R. Stouffer of Trammell Crow Co. "Now, Crystal City has to compete with the Potomac Yard project right nearby."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company