The landlords of 2100 L St. NW turned over space to its first tenants in April for interior buildout — a step that took nearly a decade to reach. And yet, there were no ceremonial ribbon-cuttings, no congratulatory speeches to mark the occasion. It was deep in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak after all.
But while stay-at-home orders stole some of their thunder from this hard-fought milestone, owners Akridge, Corporate Office Properties Trust (NYSE: OFC) and The Argos Group say momentum and interest are starting to mount for the long-awaited, 10-story, 190,000-square-foot building two years after its groundbreaking.
Its first tenant, Morrison & Foerster LLP, had originally signed on for less space, but has since exercised an option to expand. The law firm now plans to eventually occupy 54% of the 10-story building after it begins its move into the top five floors early next year, said Ben Meisel, managing director of leasing at Akridge. Just below them, on the fifth floor, technology venture capital firm Updata Partners has preleased a smaller block of 5,100 square feet after initially hitting the pause button on its search in the early days of the pandemic.
The building’s developers have hosted a handful of in-person tours to drive more leasing activity, and the building’s design has not failed to impress. “We’ve actually gotten great reaction,” Meisel said. “Part of what’s cool about this process is that, generally, we would be having broker lunches, grand openings, ribbon cuttings. We haven’t been able to do any of that, but to actually see it in person, people are blown away by it.”
The building may give off a bland glass-box impression when spying it from the opposite corner of 21st and L streets NW. But the development team noted the dynamism that view belies during a recent tour it hosted for the Washington Business Journal, applying appropriate social distancing and personal protective equipment.
Indeed, a closer view from 21st Street side of the building, next to the historic Stevens School, reveals a glittering metal veil designed by internationally renowned artist Jan Hendrix to give the building’s floor-to-ceiling glass facade a more dynamic texture. The pattern also shows along the building’s Seventh Street face. It’s the sort of embellishment Akridge used at 1200 17th St. NW, only there, it used glazed terracotta panels to break up the glass. At 2100 L St., the glass-and-metal combination provides additional contrast to the red-brick Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School, freshly renovated by the development team as part of their 2012 selection for the project by the District.
COPT, better known for its stable of government and federal contracting tenants, wasn’t in the picture at that point. Akridge brought COPT on in 2015 as the project’s equity partner after each, independent of the other, had unsuccessfully competed for the right to develop 2112 Pennsylvania Ave. NW under a ground lease with George Washington University.
The publicly traded real estate investment trust was looking to diversify its portfolio and venture more into urban development at the time, and had plenty of equity and development chops to bring. The pairing has been a fruitful one, said Dean Lopez, senior vice president of development and construction at COPT, but it’s too early to say whether they’ll team up again on other projects in the District.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been five years now,” Lopez said. “The partnership together was borne out of COPT’s desire to enter the D.C. market and to develop a trophy property of this ilk.”
It’s taken until now for the partners to get to this point due to a number of complications and delays along the way, including a lag between when then-D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray selected Akridge and Argos for the project and when the D.C. Council signed off on legislation advancing the deal.
Today, the partners are studying what changes may be necessary for the building’s common areas and office spaces to respond to the coronavirus. They’re debuting the building at a time when questions are emerging over the need for future, bigger office spaces, but Meisel said he anticipates companies will still need spaces for collaboration and corporate culture. He also points to the building’s layout as conducive to that environment, with an interior courtyard between 2100 L St. and the Stevens School as well as the building’s rooftop amenities, an outdoor terrace, indoor lounge and conference center.
The partners just hope to be able to tout those elements with more in-person tours in the months ahead as Covid-19 restrictions start to ease.
“We’re open for business,” Meisel said. “We’ve got a beautiful product, and we’re excited to show it off.”