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Metro plans to move its headquarters to Southwest from Penn Quarter

The transit agency says it’s under contract to buy a new building

Metro’s current headquarters at 600 Fifth St. NW
Brian Kinney/Shutterstock

Metro would relocate its headquarters to L’Enfant Plaza in Southwest under a pending land deal that the transit agency announced on Tuesday. Metro’s staff has negotiated a purchase contract for 300 Seventh St. SW, now a vacant office building next to rail tracks on Virginia Avenue SW, with a New York-based real estate firm. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

The transit agency plans to redevelop the property, once known as the “Reporters Building,” into a “modern workplace” that would include ground-floor retail, a renovated exterior, and potentially three additional levels that could be rented out, a release explains. The board of Metro is set to consider the purchase contract on Nov. 15, while its finance committee is to discuss the matter on Thursday. If approved, the deal could close as soon as the end of November, with design and construction phases anticipated to last for roughly two years.

A rendering of Metro’s planned headquarters
Metro

More than 1,300 people work at Metro’s current headquarters, the brutalist Jackson Graham Building located at 600 Fifth St. NW in Penn Quarter across from the Capital One Arena and the National Building Museum. Constructed in 1974, the building is outdated, does not meet accessibility requirements, and lacks fire sprinklers. Metro plans to have the 43,000-square-foot property redeveloped under a long-term ground lease and to put it on the market next spring. (To that end, the transit agency sought a zoning change for the site earlier this year.)

The prospective purchase of the L’Enfant Plaza building is part of Metro’s larger endeavor to consolidate its office space, which is currently spread across 10 buildings in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. The transit agency estimates that it could save $130 million over the next two decades by reducing its holdings to seven office buildings, although it also aims to acquire two new office buildings in the coming months—one in Maryland and the other in Virginia.

A slide from a presentation to the Metro board’s finance committee
Metro

Metro says “several viable sites” are being considered for those two other office buildings, and since July, staff have evaluated more than 64 properties across the region. The L’Enfant Plaza building was identified through this process and “surpassed the other options, both in value and location,” according to a staff report prepared for the board’s finance committee.

The building stands across the street from the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station, which serves all of Metro’s lines except the Red Line. It’s also near the Virginia Railway Express and bus lines, having once housed offices for the U.S. Department of Agriculture starting in 1997.

In a statement, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld says the new headquarters will make the transit agency more accessible to its customers, allow it to “attract and retain top-flight talent,” and earn revenue that could be put toward improving service. The building is to be designed to LEED-Gold sustainability standards and is 30 percent smaller than the Jackson Graham Building. It is owned by an affiliate of Joss Realty Partners and last sold in 2006 for $58 million. Public records show that the property has faced foreclosure in recent months.

The headquarters announcement comes in the same week that the transit agency unveiled its $3.4 billion budget plan for the next fiscal year. The proposal includes customer-focused efforts like providing more frequent rail service later in the morning and evening, charging a flat $2 fare on the weekends, and expanding service on the Yellow and Red lines farther out. Metro’s board must approve this plan as well as the purchase contract for the new building.

Update, Nov. 15: The board approved the purchase, per reporters for WAMU and WTOP.