Tower II Planned With The Maharishi in Mind
Developer Aims to Build Healthful Workplace

By Mark Chediak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 20, 2005

Commercial office buildings are usually all about square footage, parking lots and maybe some marble in the lobby. But developer Jeffrey S. Abramson says his new building in Rockville will also offer a terrace called a vastu and an interior open space called a brahmasthan.

Abramson, a partner with Tower Cos. of Bethesda, says these and other features will make his planned Tower II the world's largest office building that meets the Vedic standards promoted by the Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Like the Beatles decades ago, Abramson practices the maharishi's Transcendental Meditation. He said he learned about the healing benefits of Vedic architecture after moving into a home built on its principles of universal harmony and order. He said his goal with Tower II is not to proselytize but to offer tenants a more spiritually fulfilling and healthful workspace.

"We spend 90 percent of our time indoors, and therefore the built environment has the potential to help a person to succeed," Abramson said. "That's why I'm interested in Vedic architecture."

Abramson said the $72 million building also is to comply with environmental standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council. The 200,000-square-foot structure is to be built with nontoxic materials and rely on energy-efficient lighting and air conditioning. The indoor air is to be recycled and filtered every 55 minutes.

"People want a healthy and clean environment that they find stimulating to work in, and that's what we are building," said Abramson, 52, whose father founded the family-owned development company in 1947.

Construction is expected to begin this winter on the building at Wootton Parkway and Tower Oaks Boulevard near the Beltway and the Interstate 270 corridor. The site is next to the developer's Tower Building, which is already fully leased. That building has some environment-friendly features but not a Vedic design.

"All measurements of Tower II, interior and exterior, are proportionally designed to mirror the geometry, or architecture, of the universe," according to a brochure for the building.

The pamphlet says the main entrance is to face east, a central component of Vedic architecture that allows a structure "to capture the early morning sun for the greatest benefits to the health and the vitality of the occupants." A "mathematically determined vastu," or terrace, is to surround the building.

Inside, the center of the building is to have the brahmasthan, a "silent core or nucleus," outlined in marble on every floor.

Abramson's company is building Tower II in partnership with Lerner Enterprises, another Bethesda developer. Architecture firm Kishimoto, Gordon, Dalaya PC of McLean designed the building in consultation with Maharishi Global Construction LLC, a Vedic design firm based in Fairfield, Iowa, where hundreds of the maharishi's followers have settled.

Jonathan Lipman, chief architect at Maharishi Global Construction and the Vedic consultant on the Tower II project, said his firm has worked on designs for hundreds of homes and nearly a dozen office buildings based on a system the maharishi developed about 15 years ago. He said the system uses mathematical formulas drawn from "the eternal laws of nature and nature's architecture."

Abramson said Tower Cos. and Lerner Enterprises is to occupy one-third of the Vedic building. The remaining space has yet to be leased.

Next to the new office building, Tower plans to develop an eco-friendly hotel with a resort and spa featuring some Vedic elements.

Abramson's project is located in a hot spot, according to Catherine C. Jones, executive director at the D.C. office of Advantis, a tenant broker. "It's in a really good area between Bethesda and the I-270 corridor," said Jones, who said a lot of technology and life sciences firms are attracted to the area.

Other developers predict the Vedic building will generate some buzz. "This is not something everyone would do," said Stephen F. Lustgarten, executive vice president for Blake Real Estate Inc. of the District.

"If he happens to perform miracles over there," Lustgarten said of Abramson, "then we will have to turn around and follow the maharishi and build our buildings that way."

Georgetown Sells Wormley School

Georgetown University sold the Wormley School, at 3325 Prospect St. NW, to Encore Development Corp. of Bethesda for more than $8 million last week.

University spokeswoman Laura Cavender said the school was put on the market earlier this year after it was determined that the site could not be developed for academic or administrative purposes because of a "lack of philanthropic support" and "community issues." The university bought the building in 1998 from the D.C. public school system.

Wormley originally served as a black elementary school in the days of segregation. It was named in honor of James Wormley, a local black hotelier.

Gary A. Kirstein, president of Encore Development, said his firm plans to build condominiums in the school and townhouses in open space, including the school's former playground.

Vornado Gains Bowen Building

Vornado Realty Trust said it paid $119 million to gain full ownership of the Bowen Building, a 231,000-square-foot building at 875 15th St. NW in the District. The developer bought the 90 percent that it did not own. The building is 83 percent leased to two tenants.

Dana Hedgpeth, the regular writer of From the Ground Up, is away. In her absence, please send news about economic development and commercial real estate

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