"Hi! Welcome to National Permanent Savings and Loan," chirped the rosey-cheeked young woman with one of the most welcoming smiles in town.
She was standing at the entrance to National Permanent's new headquarters building (1775 Pennsylvania Avenue) handing out cards to visitors for a drawing which will win someone a trip to two to Paris. She'll be there until July 8, also giving away commemorative pennies featuring the likenesses of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy.
The occasion is the grand opening celebration of what architectural critics have called the best-looking piece of privately owned real estate to appear in the downtown office area in some time.
National Permanent, the city's second largest savings and loan association (assets: $750 million) will occupy four floors. The rest of the $10 million, 12-story structure, except for half of the ground floor, also has been rented. The building sits on a triangular lot two blocks from the White House at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue, 18th Street and H Street. It is an eye-pleasing mixture of rounded concrete columns, rounded black ducts and concrete floor slabs. The windows are recessed six feet, adding depth to the facade.
Since its founding 87 years ago on New York Avenue, National Permanent has moved 5 times, each time into larger quarters to keep up with a growth chart that looks as steep as a slalom run.
"We just ran out of space," said bank chairman John Stadtler, speaking of the old main office at 14th and G Streets.
Stadtler said there was never any question the bank would relocate somewhere in the downtown area.
Some local housing and business groups have charged that the city's banks were refusing to make loans in any but the wealthiest sections of the city, but banking statistics reflect a change in mortgage lending not only by National Permanent but by many of the district's financial institutions.
So far this year, National Permanent has placed $15 million in mortgage money in D.C., roughly 30 per cent of the total amount distributed in the metropolitan area, according to the bank's executive vice president, Edger Peterson.