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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Wishful Thinking: National Geographic

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.

"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
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.

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.


Anonymous said...

That would be WAY COOL! a few years back, a search on the Long & Foster website under the 20001 zip code produced the church's listing -- for $20 or $25 million. Then the listing disappeared at some point.......

Drew said...

Love it... wonder if they will need some new photographers when they move into the neighborhood? How about hiring a neighborhood photographer? One can dream...

si said...

what a nice idea! you should tell them.

Anonymous said...

At the Oct. meeting held by Shaw Main Streets on plans for the 8th and O Giant, an NCRC (I think that is the group) representative mentioned that the Scripture property was up for sale. Apparently, the Scripture property abuts an NCRC property (a parking lot now) so the the NRCR rep was commenting that they were looking into the potential for a development. Though I just read Fenty is looking to disband the NCRC and expand homeless shelters downtown. Should be interesting!

IMGoph said...

ok, i work for NGS, and all i can say is this: we're not moving. i've talked with EVERYONE i can at work, and granted, there are a lot of people high up whom i have no contact with, so i could be completely wrong, but there is NO ONE that has heard a peep about our moving anywhere. it's been rumored that we'd be going down to the area near the new baseball stadium, then it was rumored that we'd be going to the old convention center site. for the time being, it just ain't happening.

the reason there was a huge uptick in money that year was simple: march of the penguins. the movie brought in a TON of money for a small investment. national geographic is doing ok financially, but you'll see that big uptick is an anomaly, not a sustained trend.

Charles Walker said...

We should turn Scripture Cathedral into a big gay dance club if they vacate that location. Wouldn't that be awesome?