NPR to Remain in the District

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton praised NPR for staying in D.C.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton praised NPR for staying in D.C. (Gerald Martineau - The Washington Post)
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By Yolanda Woodlee and Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 6, 2008

The District has negotiated a $40 million deal with National Public Radio to keep the company's headquarters in the city, granting tax abatements over the next two decades and edging out a bid by downtown Silver Spring.

Forty years after taking root in Washington, NPR will build a 10-story headquarters at 1111 N. Capitol St. NE., Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said yesterday. The site, a warehouse of the former Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co., will feature a 60,000-square-foot newsroom in the up-and-coming NoMA community, the neighborhood north of Massachusetts Avenue near Union Station.

Fenty (D), joined at a news conference in the area by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and NPR chief executive Ken Stern, said it was the city government's responsibility to ensure that businesses don't leave the District for the suburbs. He said the emerging NoMA community has everything the company needs "to stay and have the quality of life" it wants for its 600 employees.

NPR could have gone "anywhere" the mayor said, adding that the 20-year tax abatements and planned street improvements in the neighborhood were necessary incentives. On Monday, Fenty announced the Center City Action Agenda, a plan to spark investment by private businesses in neighborhoods such as NoMA, the area near the new Nationals ballpark and those along the waterfront east of the Anacostia River.

Neil O. Albert, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said that NPR will not pay property taxes on the building for 20 years, saving $40 million. The city has agreed not to raise property taxes by more than 3 percent on the station's Massachusetts Avenue building for two decades, or until NPR sells it.

Arthur Greenberg, an executive of Studley, the real estate firm that brokered the deal, said NPR looked at more than 100 sites. Montgomery County officials presented a package that "caused us to take a second look" at a location near the Silver Spring Metro station, he said.

County officials spent months trying to lure the company, crafting scenarios including one that would have provided about $32 million in permanent property tax breaks because NPR is a nonprofit with an educational mission. The county also offered to build a parking lot for the company that would have been worth about $18 million, said Diane Schwartz Jones, a top aide to County Executive Isiah Leggett (D).

County Council President Michael Knapp (D-Upcounty) said he wasn't surprised that Montgomery had fallen out of contention, because NPR and District officials had made it clear that they wanted the company to stay in the city.

"I was pleased that we were part of the discussion as long as we were," Knapp said, "but I would have been surprised if they left downtown D.C."

Norton said she was happy that the city was "landing another big one in NoMA."

"I knew NPR would not do that to us," said Norton, who noted that the media company will join the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, CNN and XM Satellite Radio in NoMA.

NPR plans to sell its Massachusetts Avenue building, Stern said. The tax abatements were critical to the deal, he said.

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