Children's Museum Lines Up a Better Place to Play
"If you don't go to the waterfront," Glosserman said he asked Hechinger and Southern, "would you like to go to L'Enfant?"
At first the museum people weren't wild about the idea, given the plaza's lack of identity. But after they looked at JBG's tentative plans, Hechinger said, he jokingly told Glosserman in a conference call: "Hmm. Let me think about it." After a short pause, the museum chairman said: "Yes."
"We were so excited about the location," Southern said. "It had transportation with Metro coming in there, fabulous parking and it was two blocks from the Mall."
The children's museum meanwhile had a $25 million offer from Jim Abdo, a residential developer in the District, for its old buildings, which Abdo plans to turn into condominiums.
In November, JBG bought 800,000 square feet in the plaza, a piece that includes two nondescript office buildings housing a dozen government agencies; the plaza itself; and a 370-room hotel. An executive at JBG said the price was about $200 million.
"It's a vast plaza area in a great location, but the space is dead," Glosserman said. "We wanted to create something that had a lot of excitement. The children's museum was the opportunity to attract an enormous number of people and make it be the anchor of the site."
In the next few months, JBG said, it will work with the children's museum on the design of its new, 140,000-square-foot museum, which will cost $100 million. The museum plans a campaign to raise the other $75 million.
JBG hired renowned architects Cesar Pelli & Associates to help design the new museum, as well as the rest of the space it bought. It expects to spend up to $300 million over the next five to 10 years rebuilding the area.
The children's museum said it expects to attract half a million visitors a year -- more than twice the number it gets now -- when the new location opens in June 2008.
The old museum will close its doors on Labor Day and mount traveling exhibits to schools and other places while its new building is under construction.
Dana Hedgpeth writes about commercial real estate and economic development. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company