The city's Redevelopment Land Agency yesterday cleared the way for a $41.8 million, eight-story municipal office building that will house 1,100 city workers on the northwest corner of 14th and U streets NW.
City officials yesterday told the RLA board they hope the new building, scheduled for "fast track" completion by December 1984, will trigger private investment and revitalize an area now plagued by drug trafficking and other crime. The board is responsible for developing land acquired by the city for urban renewal.
The new structure will also consolidate D.C. employes scattered around the city in leased office space, officials said.
The building's modern design -- with a glass entry lobby and a central atrium -- calls for a landscaped park and plaza, 387 underground parking spaces, a day-care center and 1,100 square feet of ground-floor shops and stores accessible from both inside and outside the building, according to plans disclosed yesterday.
"I think it's exciting; we're about to get a very outstanding building in an area that has been blighted," said James O. Gibson, the city's assistant administrator for planning and development, after the RLA action.
The RLA board action was in the form of a unanimous vote to sell the roughly half-block parcel, which the RLA partly owns, to the city if the city meets the RLA's planning, architectural and legal requirements. Top city officials said yesterday they would make every effort to meet those requirements.
Harold Henson, chief of the Department of General Services, said no additional funds will be needed for the building beyond $41,750,000 already appropriated in 1978 and 1980. The parcel lies along 14th Street NW between U and V streets and extends roughly halfway to 15th Street.
In an effort to mollify community groups in the largely residential and small-commercial area, city officials said the building will have a day-care center for both government workers and area residents. It may also have community meeting rooms and other facilities for neighborhood use.
"We don't want the commercial space and the building to close down at 5:30," said Edna Frazier-Cromwell, chairperson of the 14th and U Streets Coalition, an umbrella community organization that has been discussing plans for the new building with the mayor and other city officials.
Frazier-Cromwell said a process of "community input has just started. . . . The mayor's been sensitive to this. There will be some additional issues raised, particularly on the type of commercial space and on giving first preference to merchants already in the area."
Because a Metro subway stop is not scheduled for the area until 1989, officials said yesterday there will have to be special shuttle buses to the building from downtown, plus beefed-up bus service from other parts of the city so citizens can reach the building to conduct business.
"That area will be highly desirable in the future," Thomas Downs, head of the city's Department of Transportation, told the board. He said putting the municipal building there was "a way of capturing" part of the value of having a future Metro subway stop there.
No decision has been made on what city agencies will be housed in the building's 317,000 square feet of office space, Henson said. He told the RLA board that the city leases 1.7 million square feet of office space at costs ranging from $3.20 to $16.65 a square foot. He said using the new building will save money, but did not say how much.
Until last year, the new building was to have been built at Third and D streets NW, in the same area as the city's new Superior Court Building and the combined police headquarters and present municipal office center at 300 C St. NW.
In April of last year, however, city officials decided that the federal government's asking price of $13 million for the site was more than the city could afford. Hensen said he hopes the 14th and U site can be acquired for no more than $8 million, although there was no public discussion of price yesterday.
The RLA must ensure that the building meets all the requirements of the overall urban renewal plan for the area approved by the D.C. City Council and the National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Yesterday RLA board members and city officials agreed that they want to go to those two bodies to get approval for at least one change from the urban renewal plan.
That change would make it possible to have entrances into the underground parking garage from both 14th and U streets, which are busily traveled. Through a quirk in the urban renewal plan, entry into the garage is now permitted only from V Street.