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“America’s pro-Israel lobby” is set to get bigger digs under plans its affiliate filed this week with the D.C. Zoning Commission.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, more commonly called AIPAC, proposes to enlarge its seven-story headquarters at 251 H St. NW in Mount Vernon Triangle by converting an existing penthouse into an eighth story, and also building a new 11-story commercial office “intended to serve the organization’s projected future growth.” While the penthouse conversation will modestly increase the footprint of AIPAC’s current 89,000-square-foot headquarters, the planned 162,000-square-foot office building development nearly triples the organization’s space. The project will increase the site’s ground-floor parking from 10 to 28 spaces. The I-395 freeway runs underneath the property.
AIPAC’s application follows one submitted last year that the group withdrew after neighboring property owners sued it for allegedly violating a 2006 contract regarding the land’s future use. Negotiations resolved the dispute.
The site includes a multi-story concrete structure built in 1975 to ventilate fumes from cars driving down I-395, known as an air shaft. AIPAC proposes removing the structure, but also has a back-up plan. “In the event that the air shaft cannot be removed, the proposed addition on the Development Parcel will wrap around and mask the existing air shaft,” zoning documents explain.
AIPAC “may seek to lease out space” in the new 11-story building “to help finance the cost of construction” as the group moves into it. The application notes that employment at AIPAC’s headquarters has grown from 125 when it opened in 2008 to 220 as of today, and that the organization expects similar growth in the next three to five years. According to AIPAC’s application, its affiliate, 251 Massachusetts Avenue LLC, pays $717,000 in annual property taxes.
Assuming the zoning commission approves the group’s proposal, the penthouse conversion will begin “within two years” thereafter, but “it is possible that the timing of the phases will be reversed with [the new construction] proceeding first.” As part of the plan’s community benefits, which include streetscape improvements along H Street NW, AIPAC’s affiliate “is willing to contribute $250,000” to renovate Cobb Park across the street.
Additional renderings of the project follow below.