Have you noticed how many big tenants have been moving out of buildings at Connecticut and K?
Hogan & Hartson, the city's fourth- largest law firm, is negotiating a deal to occupy a tower in a building designed by internationally renowned architect I. M. Pei. The location? F Street, between 12th and 13th NW.
Other law firms -- Miller & Chevalier and Linowes & Blocher -- and the accounting firm Deloitte Haskins & Sells have moved into Metropolitan Square, across from the Treasury. The city's largest law firm, Covington & Burling, led the pack by moving to 1201 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in 1981.
As this movement east of 15th Street continues, could the Connecticut and K area be headed for a decline? Could it become the next "old downtown"?
Jut think what this could mean. With fewer delivery trucks, 19th Street will become a shortcut through town rather than a three-block-long traffic jam. Cabs will no longer refuse to carry passengers to the area because of the time lost in traffic. In the Farragut West subway station, commuters won't have to worry about being shoved onto the tracks by the rush-hour crowds. Metered parking spaces will be available on the street. Monthly garage parking rates will fall, and some of the older buildings will become parking lots that are unattended on weekends.
Tables in restaurants will still be available for lunch at 12:30. A maitre d's assurance of "only 10 minutes" will no longer mean a 45-minute wait. Park benches in Farragut Square will be available on nice days, thus reducing cleaning bills for grass stains.
Owners of Connecticut and K buildings will be forced to drop rents, which will attract more class-B tenants. This will further fuel the exodus of the lawyers, accountants and associations.
When this happened to the old downtown 20 years ago, low-rent uses such as non-profit organizations, new businesses, alternative art spaces and neighborhood programs moved in. Small shops selling buttons, uniforms and millinery hung on for years. But redevelopment in the old downtown is finally pushing them out. Construction of a new Hecht Company department store and the arrival of the Shops at National Place are forcing competition for customers -- and forcing higher rents.
Well, some of those retailers can relocate to Connecticut and K. There, exercise studios, campaign headquarters, artists and churches will find low- rent space. Sholl's, the cafeteria of the people, can return to open an additional site. Office buildings will contain schools, recreation centers, theaters, day-care centers, even below-grade swimming pools and bowling alleys -- all large-space uses that can't pay high rents.
Some office buildings will even be converted to housing. The Dupont Circle Building, an apartment building that was converted to offices, will be restored to apartments -- the ultimate in adaptive use. Converters will advertise living quarters with "exposed concrete columns."
Businesses that have migrated to the suburbs will return for the large spaces available. The G Street Remnant Shop, with acres of fabrics, will reappear from Rockville (although not quite on G Street), along with car repair garages and even new-car showrooms. In-town residents won't have to go to the suburbs to have their cars serviced.
The Redevelopment Land Agency will help promote decline by announcing an urban renewal plan for the area -- and then bickering over the plan and the land values for a few years. RLA will really cinch things by insisting that the Portal project near the waterfront proceed, giving tenants even more choices in the game of "musical buildings." When will we learn that buildings alone don't generate new jobs?
To cap it off, Don't Tear It Down will submit an application for a historic district for the Connecticut and K area to ensure its preservation. Then building owners will be eligible for tax credits for rehabilitating properties in the "New Downtown Historic District."