In March of last year, MRP Realty purchased 624 9th Street NW, a rather dull building across from the National Portrait Gallery and Martin Luther King Library. They planned to renovate for new office use, and have recently submitted their zoning application, which requests some relief for parking and size. But the most dramatic change passersby will notice is a transparent new glass skin, replacing the mousy brown facade.
This is what development types call “repositioning”: Instead of tearing it down, make mostly aesthetic changes (and often modernizing building systems as well) to enhance the building in the eyes of potential tenants, and then charge them more. Another example of this kind of move in D.C. is 1801 K Street NW—the old Borders building—which new owners transformed from a Darth Vader-like bleakness to transparency and light.
“Trophy tenants don’t lease space in buildings that don’t have identity,” said Somerset Partners executive managing director Gregory Knoop at a D.C. Building Industry Association event on repositioning a few weeks ago. “We needed corner offices and higher ceiling heights to be competitive.”