When the Christian Heurich family put land on Pennsylvania at 12th Street NW on the market last year, Washington realtors raised their eyebrows and gulped at the price.
The Heurichs were asking almost $9 million - about $180 a square foot - for land that boasted an aging garage, a couple of parking lots, a handful of decrepit buildings and Joe's Magic Shop.
Joe wasn't the only magician working on that block, as it turned out.
The real estate firm of Coldwell-Banker made the skepticism disappear, conjuring up a buyer who offered the Heurichs a reported $9.8 million in cash.
Coldwell-Banker brokers will not confirm that price, but other real estate people - including some who looked at the land for other would-be buyers - say that amount will be on the sales contract when the deal is closed in January with Cabot, Cabot & Forbes of Boston.
Real estate professionals say other bidders offered more than $10 million for the land, but subject to conditions that made the Cabot offer more attractive.
The big Boston developer is paying what amounts to $200 per square foot for the property and will put up a luxury office building with a central atrium and a granite facade.
The $200-a-foot price is a record for property in the old downtown of the District of Columbia, indicating both how far the Pennsylvania Avenue neighborhood has come and how much land will cost there in the future.
Just across 13th Streeth NW from the Cabot, Cabot & Forbes site, Quadrangle Development Corp. is erecting an office building on land it purchased last spring for $79.79 a square foot. In March, Quadrangle paid $2.2 million for a parcel a little more than half the size of the $9.8 million Heurich property.
The larger size of the Heurich property, its Pennsylvania Avenue address and its availability for immediate use all contributed to its record price, say sources familiar with District real estate.
The $200-a-foot price "will set the pattern for anything with Pennsylvania Avenue frontage and enough size to accommodate a major project," predicted one broker active in the downtown area. See LAND, D10, Col. 4>
Getting $200 for a square foot of commercial land is not unheard of in Washington, but until now that kind of price tag has been found only on property in the prime commercial core of the city around the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and K Street.
The highest price per square foot for a major D.C. commercial property is believed to be the $375 offered by the John Akridge Co. for the old Young Women's Christian Association building at 17th and K Streets NW.
Akridge plans to tear down the YWCA and put up an office building on that site, but the $6.8 million deal will not be closed for another year.
Another benchmark price is the $265 per foot that the World Bank reportedly is paying for the site of its new headquarters at 19th and I Streete NW.
The rising tide of real estate values is moving eastward into the old downtown shopping neighborhoods east of 14th Street.
Asked about land values in that area, three different real assessments, based on sales now being negotiated - $65, $80 and $100 a square foot.
Those prices are on smaller tracts than the Heurich site, which was assembled years ago by the family that once brewed Old Georgetown and Senate beer in a brewery where the Kennedy Center now stands. CAPTION: Picture, Parts of these old buildings at the intersection of 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue will be saved when a new office building goes up on the land, sold for a record $200 per square foot. By Joe Heilberger - The Washington Post