Friday Question of the Day – What Should Become of the Old Post Office Pavilion?

The Old Post Office Pavilion located at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave, NW is one of my favorite buildings in DC. Though, I always seem to forget that it even exists until the next time I pass it on a walkabout, when I find myself marveling at it’s beauty again. (We judged it back in May ’09) So I was very excited to see some potential news from the Downtown BID:

All eyes are on the Old Post Office Pavilion (1100 Pennsylvania Avenue), the 112-year-old historic landmark that soon could see a new use in the days ahead. The General Services Administration (GSA) is seeking a private partner to restore the 400,000 square foot (SF) property and the adjacent vacant pavilion. GSA plans to issue a request for information soon. Several possible uses have been discussed over the past few years, including turning the seven-story building into a hotel. The building currently houses the National Endowment for the Arts , the National Park Service (NPS), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and several hundred office workers. In addition, there is 15,000 SF to 20,000 SF of food outlets and tourist retail. The NPS runs the observation facility that provides programming for, and access to, the bell tower, a great place to take in excellent views of Downtown Washington, DC, and the National Mall.

A more active use than an office building could help reinvigorate Pennsylvania Avenue, much as the Newseum (555 Pennsylvania Avenue), Central Michel Richard restaurant (1001 Pennsylvania Avenue) and Café du Parc (1401 Pennsylvania Avenue) have. Several members of Congress, including DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton—a longtime champion of the project’s redevelopment—are anxious to push the project forward. And with good reason: it is reported that the property loses more than $5 million annually due to underutilized space, low retail rents and high operating costs.

So what do you think would be the best use for this amazing building – a hotel? Combination hotel and restaurants? A museum? A movie theater? A Trader Joe’s? (I’m just kidding.) What do you think would be the best (combination of) use(s) for developing this amazing space?

Photo by PoPville flickr user JosephLeonardo

62 Comment

  • Not friday yet. Never fast forward life.

  • trader joes would be a dream. more likely hotel/restaurants. they should have a plaza and get local small theatre/performance groups to do short shows there.
    hotel or apartments/condos would be great there.

  • A luxury hotel. Instantly world class. Think of the tax revenue. Think what kind of interior that dinero would buy on the Lincoln Navigators our councilmen lease for themselves.

  • Knock it down. A 10-story glass box would look great in that location.

  • But where will middle school tour groups eat lunch? Won’t someone think of the children?

  • Maybe another Smithsonian museum? I know they have been floating around building another one soon. Would be a great spot for one and generate huge amounts of foot traffic there.

  • Trader Joe’s would be brilliant!

  • a hotel sounds like overkill. how about a farmer’s market with a 24 hour sex shop?

  • This neighborhood is pretty sketchy. I dont see anything really working in that space. Especially NOT a Trader Joes

  • 12-story Wegmans with an Apple Store in the lobby. Also cupcakes. Lots and lots of cupcakes.

    • Please, please leave room for a Comfort One shoe store – so the feds can get their fugly footwear!!

  • It should deff be something for the public, an event space would be nice! Condos for a more lively downtown feel, with bottom level shops a grocery store a gym, maybe some higher end shops since it’s on Penn Ave, and downtown next to City Hall. make it kinda like the Time Warner/AOL building in NYC This area downtown has theathers, and a public plaza. no more Government buildings!!!! the Gov was made a bad decision in the first place tearing down that whole area back in the day and building government buildings all up and down Penn Ave. Now we should look at the FBI building and how that lot could be used for something more interseting and tell the FBI to move headquarters.

    • thats actually not a bad idea, that land has to be it federally owned? The feds probably don’t pay rent on it, and they probably own it, but what would be sweet is if they sell it to dc for pennies, and then let DC develop it…and they the FBI can go to the burbs-save money.

  • Walmart

  • Comfort One Shoes

  • Where are the ACHP, NEA, etc moving?

  • Section 8 or public housing.

    I kid.

    High end apartments, or co-op, with some offices and retail in the bottom.

  • no way should this be commercial or residential. definitely preserve history somehow….

  • everyone needs to remember that nobody actually lives near this building. which means it either needs to be touristy, weekday-oriented, or be a big enough draw for locals to make the trek downtown.

  • Indoor water park with a 12-story slide. Hot tub in a glass-enclosed elevator.

    • I used to work across the street there — this was a long time ago — and I’d eat lunch in the pavilion every day.

      I could always picture the lowest level filled with water about halfway up the staircases, something like Lex Luthor’s subway pool in “Superman: The Movie”. But I would need it all to myself, and vermin free.

  • Post Office?

  • Years ago this was the potential site for the National Women’s History Museum. It would be a good fit but I hear the city really wants it to be a hotel.

  • It would be a perfect high end hotel to give the Willard and Marriott some competition.

    It could even be made into a “Washington / USA Capitol / History” Atlantis type resort with themed packages including tours and activities in town.

    Imagine a huge luxury pool on top and that incredible lobby.

  • A bar with a mini golf course.

  • hotel makes the most sense, with the atrium (fixed up) and the view still open to the public. you could mix in offices, too. maybe reserve a section of it as a decent youth hostel so it’s not all high high end downtown.

  • Museum of African American History instead of that the design proposed a few years ago. I know the location would be a compromise and I’m not sure what the Museum needs for Sq footage, but it would be a credit to the museum to use such an attractive building.

  • Good stuff eatery II.

  • How about gut it and leave the outside as is…inside-open air soccer stadium for DC United? #WINNING

  • I think it would make a beautiful post office.

  • Residential and retail pavilion!! Could put some hotel there too, since that activates the space on a more 24-7 basis.

    My idea for downtown is to allow office building owners to build up 2-3 stories more, but only if they add a residential use as the added density or convert some of the lower floors to residential, as well as add some architectural flourish to the top (ie don’t leave it flat). Need to increase the population of downtown.

  • They should turn it into the headquarters for the Tea Party so that they could keep watch on Congress and the White House. It will be called the Palin-Bachmann Building in honor of those two bat-shit crazy pols.

  • I had the same thought re:museum (it’s the only purely public use I can think of. )
    I would be ok with a hotel if they reserved public access to the first floor (year-round farmers market, perhaps? Or at the very least, better dining options).
    Or, if the federal government cuts DC funding, I say we open a casino. Think of the tax revenue that would generate!

  • Indoor rock climbing gym up the tower with a coffee/juice bar at the top.

  • I bet Jack Abramoff has some great ideas — this is one of the buildings he was trying to get the rightsto develop.

  • How would it be to keep the groups who are now there in the building (National Endowment for the Arts , the National Park Service (NPS), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the National Endowment for the Humanities)!

    Why are those organizations leaving?

    (Does this have to do with any of the following groups who received the following cuts yesterday?

    National Writing Project—$25.6 million
    Teach for America—$18 million
    Reading is Fundamental—$24.8 million
    National Board for Professional Teaching Standards—$10.7 million
    New Leaders for New Schools—$5 million
    Arts in Education—$40 million
    We the People—$21.6 million
    Close Up fellowships—$1.9 million
    Thurgood Marshall Legal Educational Opportunity program—$3 million)

  • High End Hotel / Casio BABY!!! Monaco eat your heart out.

  • Love that building. Little known fact. . . Architect Willoughby J. Edbrooke (amazing first name btw) designed an almost identical building for the Federal Building in Milwaukee.,_Wisconsin%29
    As a Milwaukee native, it always weirds me out a little whenever I go by it because it looks like they just transplanted the entire building onto a completely different site.

  • Gorgeous building. I agree with above, it could so easily be a lux hotel. It’s almost like it was designed to be one in its second life.

    Perfect location…there is no reason it couldn’t become the highest priced, nicest hotel on the east coast.

    We also need something that will produce for the city, something that will make taxable income etc. A hotel would be perfect.

  • I’m liking the Lux Hotel + Lux Condo Mix Idea with high end ground floor shops/restaurant. I don’t have a feel if there is enough high end business in the area to support the increase though. Can’t see Gov’t per diem related business would be any support. Just contractors and lawyers and the like and are they already getting their fill- lots of lux already there.

  • As long as the redevelopment plans include an Arby’s you can color me ‘satisfied’.

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