Agency officials did not say how much it would cost to buy the building, known as the “Reporters Building,” or renovate it. At least part of the cost would be offset by the sale of Metro’s current headquarters, the hulking Jackson Graham Building at Judiciary Square, which has been valued between $56.2 million and $132 million.
That site is across the street from the Capital One Arena and is expected to officially be put up for sale in spring 2019.
Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld announced earlier this year that he intended to sell the headquarters, rather than deal with the high costs and significant disruption that would come with trying to repair the building’s aging plumbing, heating, air-conditioning and electrical systems. The building also is no longer in compliance with fire codes and Americans With Disabilities Act standards.
In a statement Tuesday, Wiedefeld said moving into a new (and newer) building will improve safety for employees working in an outdated building, and will also help improve the agency’s image.
“Moving our headquarters to L’Enfant Plaza will make us even more accessible to our customers, create a modern and vibrant office space that allows us to attract and retain top-flight talent, and generate revenue to support transit service,” Wiedefeld said.
Preliminary renderings of the new building released Tuesday show a gleaming glass-and-steel edifice with sleek lines and modernist angles — a stark change from the concrete brutalist design and 1970s vibe of the Jackson Graham Building at Sixth and F streets NW.
If the L’Enfant Plaza building is ultimately purchased, Metro said it “plans to ‘re-skin’ the building to improve its exterior appearance and may add three floors, creating space that could be leased to generate additional revenue.” Metro is also planning for the building to be LEED certified.
The new location would also meet one of Metro’s primary criteria as it hunted for new permanent digs: proximity to transit. Metro employees and visitors would have immediate access to the Yellow, Green, Orange, Blue, and Silver lines, as well as Virginia Railway Express. The location also is within walking distance of the burgeoning Wharf development.
Metro board Chairman Jack Evans said he was “very happy” with the location and approves of the plan to rebuild it from the inside out.
“It’s a brand-new building, and it exactly fits the needs of Metro,” Evans said. “The only negative is that it’s two blocks out of my ward, but I can live with that."
In the lead-up to the decision on a new building, a board member representing Maryland had advocated that Metro consider moving its headquarters farther afield — for example, to Maryland. But Wiedefeld remained adamant about keeping the bulk of staff in the core of the District.
“The good news is that they’re remaining in the District of Columbia, and the majority of employees are going to be staying here,” said Vincent B. Orange, president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.
Orange called the move “an overall win-win” for both the L’Enfant Plaza neighborhood, as well as Gallery Place. The vacancy that would be opened by the demolition of the Jackson Graham Building would be significant, he said.
“This provides a tremendous opportunity to see us increase our tax revenue in Chinatown — something that fits into that area, something that is vibrant,” Orange said. “It would be great for mixed-use housing and a commercial-type entity with a big name.”
Most of the employees who work at the Jackson Graham Building would be moved to the L’Enfant Plaza site, but Metro is also planning to move some of those workers to satellite offices in Maryland and Virginia.
Officials say Metro could save as much as $130 million over the next 20 years by transitioning to a smaller D.C. headquarters.