The building is about 60% leased, with Morrison & Forester leasing floors six through 10, and software venture capital group Updata Partners signing on for a smaller block of 5,100 square feet on the fifth floor.
It almost seemed fitting the Covid-19 outbreak would prevent the development team from hosting a rooftop celebration marking the completion of 2100 L St. NW, or at least taking prospective tenants on in-person tours through the 10-story office building.
After all, developers Akridge, Corporate Office Properties Trust and Argos Group had overcome no shortage of obstacles, delays and setbacks along the long and twisty journey that culminated in June with a certificate of occupancy for the 190,000-square-foot building, anchored by global law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP. What was one more?
Far from taking a woe-is-me attitude, the team adapted, rolling out a marketing campaign featuring targeted emails, videos and virtual walk-throughs to show off the $170 million building’s sleek, two-story lobby with floor-to-ceiling glass and oxidized zinc panels. In some ways, the team says, the building is ideally positioned to attract new tenants in a post-Covid world with features like a dedicated outdoor air system serving as its HVAC base, LEED Platinum certification, and outdoor spaces such as a rooftop terrace and pocket park to take in fresh air.
“We’ve pretty much put this major investment into a new building, a major trophy building we were all very proud of, and then we ran into the pandemic and couldn’t really show it off the way we wanted to,” says David Toney, senior vice president of development for Akridge. “It’s great to see how it finally has come together and overcome a lot of the challenges.”
The path officially started in 2012, when then-Mayor Vincent Gray picked the team to tackle the redevelopment of the historic Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School site after the administration of his predecessor, Adrian Fenty, had canceled the project’s award to another group in the face of community pushback. It would take another five years of delays before Akridge, COPT and Argos were in position to break ground, setting the stage for its delivery in the midst of a pandemic — all at a time when the District’s office vacancy rate, at around 17.4%, is as high as it has been in more than a decade, per first-quarter stats from CBRE.
The building is about 60% leased, with Morrison & Forester leasing floors six through 10, and software venture capital group Updata Partners signing on for a smaller block of 5,100 square feet on the fifth floor. Now that more people are getting vaccinated and spring weather has arrived, tour velocity is starting to pick back up, says Ben Meisel, managing director of leasing for Akridge.
“We’ve seen it go from an extremely high volume of potential tenants looking at it, getting presentations, and then the screeching halt, and then the nuclear winter, when nothing was happening,” Meisel says. “It actually picked up in the fall and then, with the advent of a vaccine now, I know that the last three tours that we’ve done over there, the tenants that are touring, one or all of them are vaccinated.”
As with so much in commercial real estate, seeing is believing. The team hopes that in-person tours will help to highlight the building’s modern architecture, which features a brushed-and-polished stainless steel veil designed by Dutch artist Jan Hendrix, along with amenities like a penthouse conference center and art gallery on the ground floor. All of that is set against the backdrop of the historic Stevens School, built in 1868 as the District’s first publicly funded school for Black children. The team agreed to refurbish that building as part of its deal with the District.