International Spy Museum May Come to L’Enfant Plaza

South by West

A new building is planned for the plaza at the center of L’Enfant Plaza that may become the home to the International Spy Museum.  Rendering courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

Although it appears that plans are moving forward to bring the International Spy Museum to L’Enfant Plaza, the deal is not done yet. “It is important to note that we are in discussions with the Spy Museum, though contrary to the reports in various media sources, we do not have a deal at this point in time” stated Matthew Blocher, Senior Vice President at the JBG Companies in an email. “We are very excited about the possibility of the Spy Museum coming to L'Enfant as we believe that it would provide an incredible amount of energy to this area of Southwest, similar to their impact when they opened in the Penn Quarter.” 

Nevertheless, a revised concept plan for 900 L’Enfant Plaza was presented to the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) on April 16, which included a six-story building facing 10th Street, SW that would be used as the new home of the International Spy Museum. Behind the planned museum building is a courtyard and office building. Previously, 900 L'Enfant Plaza was planned as strictly an office building. 

In a letter to the JBG Companies dated April 24, the CFA stated their support for the idea of the International Spy Museum to move to L’Enfant Plaza and general design concept. However, the Commission has concerns about the positioning of the proposed buildings and some design elements. The development team will need to go back before the CFA later this year with a revised concept submission. 

Between 600,000 and 700,000 people visit the International Spy Museum annually, which would bring additional traffic to L'Enfant Plaza and help to transform the complex away from a primarily nine to five office environment. The plans dovetail the SW Ecodistrict Initiative which calls for a better mix of uses in the area south of the National Mall and north of the Southwest freeway, including museums, residential, and hotels. If the International Spy Museum relocates from Penn Quarter to L’Enfant Plaza, it could serve to draw people south from the National Mall on their way to The Wharf. Last year, the JBG Companies completed the second phase of renovations to the retail portion of the complex, while the east office building was recently renovated and the north office building's revamp will soon be complete. In addition, the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel (owned by an affiliate of Sanford Hotel Group) is currently under renovation and will reopen in 2016.

This is not the first museum to consider moving to the office-heavy mixed-use complex. Before being lured away to National Harbor, the National Children's Museum was moving to L'Enfant Plaza in a new building that would have been constructed in the middle of the plaza. Ironically, the Children's Museum is now also looking for new space in the District after being open at National Harbor for only two years.

View at Waterfront Addition Gains ANC Support

At the May Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6D meeting, representatives from Mill Creek Residential Trust and SK&I Architecture presented plans for the development of two apartment buildings on the parking lots of The View at Waterfront apartments on 6th Street, SW. A modified Planned Unit Development (PUD) was filed for this project earlier this year – the original PUD was approved several years ago under a previous owner, but several changes have been made. The height and density of the project have been reduced, resulting in a change in building materials from concrete to wood-frame. Also, the number of apartment units and parking spaces has been reduced. In addition, the number of bicycle spaces has increased and the distance between the new and existing buildings has increased. Below is a summary of the major changes to the design of the buildings: 

  • Building Height:  Old PUD: 112 feet  |  Revised PUD: 85 feet 
  • Floor Area Ratio (FAR): Old PUD: 4.35  |  Revised PUD: 3.40 
  • Number of New Units: Old PUD: 324 units  |  Revised PUD: 260 units 
  • Parking Spaces: Old PUD: 569 (0.98 spaces per unit)  |  Revised PUD: 290 (0.56 spaces per unit) 
  • Courtyard Space Between New and Existing Buildings: Old PUD: 51 feet  |  Revised PUD: 57 feet 

The north tower will be on the K Street lot and the south tower will be on the M Street lot. Ground floor retail with 20-foot ceilings will be located in the south tower at the corner of 6th and M streets, ideally a restaurant. The south tower will also have a cut out on the top of the building for a large rooftop entertainment area where residents can gather and get a view of The Wharf. Meanwhile, the north tower will have loft units and a two-level gym. 

The ANC commissioners voted unanimously to support the revised PUD application, which will go before the Zoning Commission on June 11. The current development timeline calls for construction to begin around mid- to late April 2016 and exterior work on the north and south towers to be complete in December 2017 and March 2018, respectively. Construction is currently scheduled to be completed by November 2018.

Two new multifamily buildings will be constructed on the parking lots of The View at Waterfront apartments on 6th Street, SW. Rendering courtesy of SK&I Architects

William Rich is a blogger at Southwest…The Little Quadrant that Could (