You wouldn't expect to hear the Westminster chime resounding from the roof of a downtown office building, but with the completion of the Oliver T. Carr Co.'s Republic Place at 1776 I St. NW this month, an elaborate system of bells in a classic carillon tower has been ringing out on the hour.

The bells are from the Paccard bell foundry in France, a company that has been casting them since 1796. They are distributed in the United States by van Bergen Bellfoundries Inc., a Georgia firm.

Republic Place was developed by the Carr Co. and was built by Omni Contractors Inc. in 18 months at a cost of $54 million. The building, designed by the firm of Keyes Condon Florance Architects, is an example of mercantile architecture and most notable for its vintage pre-1930s commercial appearance. It's situated in the "Golden Triangle," the city's central office neighborhood and an area rich in historic structures.

"This is a modern commercial structure in an downtown American city," said David King, principal architect on the 200,000-square-foot project. "There were certain characteristics in the surrounding area that we were looking to replicate," he said.

The emphasis of the 10-story structure was on its "verticality," King said. "This was not an untypical height for an early American skyscraper," he said of the tradition of American commercial architecture that began with the Chicago School.

Republic Place reflects the "revival of ornamentation," said King. "There's an effort to light the top of the building and to create a romantic silhouette instead of the typical flat-top modern box."

Features include a two-story rotunda entrance in the lobby, polished carnelian granite floors, a roof-top terrace, a fitness center and parking below the building. The exterior is a combination of muticolored bricks and precast concrete.

The building is 23 percent leased, said John Donovan, vice president of leasing for Carr. Annual lease rates are in the mid-$30,000 range, rents that Donovan believes are justified by the building's convenience to the adjacent Farragut West Metro, its corner location and its proximity to Pennsylvania Avenue.