Rumors abound about Scripture Cathedral's desire to sell its property (a significant chunk of land at 9th, O and 8th Streets). I haven't been able to find any actual real estate listings on point, so I don't know if such rumors are anything more than urban legend. Nonetheless, I've been thinking about my ideal use for that spot and ultimately came up with what I think would be pretty freaking good: The new National Geographic museum, retail, entertainment, and office complex.
In August 2006, the Washington Business Journal reported that National Geographic is looking to move significant operations from its present 17th and M location. While most reports associate National Geographic's focus with the old convention center site, the Society has been non-committal. From the WBJ article:
National Geographic spokeswoman M.J. Jacobsen also declined to discuss specifics, but says the venerable institution has spent two years vetting locations, including the old convention center site.The Scripture Cathedral site could be prime for National Geographic: it's close to the tourist traffic of the convention center and the impending convention center hotel, and its proximity to the metro and the circulator line make it easily accessible. Furthermore, this area of Shaw is becoming a hotspot for development: with the O Street Market, the Exchange, the Whitman, the Walnut Street Development projects, and retail filling in along 9th Street, by the time such a facility would be built, the streetscape will be very inviting to NG tourist and employee traffic alike.
"It would be a great place to put it because of the prominence of the site," says Jeff Zell, president of JM Zell, National Geographic's real estate adviser.
The institution is interested in buying the property from the city, says a source close to the talks. It likely would build a museum and retail store on the lower levels and several hundred thousand square feet of office space above.
National Geographic is in the midst of a growth spurt. Its assets increased to $696 million in 2004 from $560 million in 2003, and its revenue jumped to $506 million from $434 million during that period, according to its most recent tax filings.
The institution operates a 15,000-square-foot museum at its 17th Street location, where it draws about 250,000 people a year.
It isn't clear whether National Geographic would move its 1,400 employees to any new development at the old convention center site. About 80 percent of the institution's headquarters complex at 1145 17th St. NW is tax-exempt because of its nonprofit status, according to D.C.'s tax
Anyone else with me on this pipe dream? Does anyone have any official word in Scripture's desire to sell?
PHOTO CREDIT: ANC2C02 Forum; photo available here.