Foggy Bottom Association, Vol. 54, No. 17
April 5, 2012
FBA: Penzance to Update Watergate Office Building
By Virginia A. Spatz
Penzance recently announced
plans to begin updating the Watergate
Office Building, 2600 Virginia Ave., NW. The property management and investment firm acquired the offices, as well as leases to the shops at the Watergate, late last year.
want to restore the Watergate to its glory days,"
declares Raffael Scasserra, principal in the
Gensler architecture firm's Washington,
DC office. Gensler, chosen to update the 60-year-old
office building, often works on properties
owned by Penzance.
"Gensler is widely recognized as one of the top international architecture and design firms, and is also one with which we have had prior, very positive experience," says Penzance advisor Peter Greenwald. "They have a demonstrated sensitivity to urban neighborhood design — to both creating new additions and to modifying existing buildings within a neighborhood. They are, therefore, well suited to help realize our vision to reinvigorate the Watergate office building, while remaining true to Luigi Moretti's iconic architecture."
Penzance aims to "enhance the experience for current tenants" of the 11-story, 198,000-square-foot building, according to Scasserra. The first stage of improvements will focus on exterior elements. Designs for enhancing the lobby are also under consideration.
A More Welcoming Structure
Gensler aims to bring "enhanced architectural allure" to the Watergate
Scasserra explains. Improvements
will focus on "a
more inviting streetscape" along Virginia Avenue, with "improved flow" at the
entrance and "a more welcoming building" overall.
Scasserra pronounces the current streetscape "harsh" and "unwelcoming, particularly "where hard concrete wall meets hard concrete sidewalk." To address this, Gensler plans to replace existing concrete barriers with a glass rail, effecting "a dramatic change at the pedestrian
The next target for exterior improvement is the canopy which was added in a 1994 renovation. The canopy lowered entrance height, reduced visibility into the lobby, and made the front of the building darker overall, says Scasserra. Gensler's new concept offers "a central expression that is more open" by raising the entrance canopy, using more glass and improving sight-lines into the tenant spaces. "Changing the canopy... ultimately improves the connection back to the street."
A third element in the new exterior concept is lighting. Scasserra continues, "Indirect lighting will be used to illuminate the ground floor and carried up to the sixth floor, illuminating the facade at both levels." This strategy "embraces the original architecture of the Watergate and creates a more engaging welcoming structure."
First Stop: ANC 2A
Preliminary concept drawings were shared with ANC 2A in March. Penzance expects to "begin to realize the plans for the exterior later in 2012," Greenwald says, emphasizing that plans are still conceptual and will evolve as the project is developed and reviewed by the Commission on Fine Arts (CFA) and the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). "Our first stop was here," Greenwald told the ANC. "We believe in that."
The Watergate falls within Single Member District 2A04, represented by Armando Irizarry. Irizarry reports that he and other commissioners met informally with Penzance prior to the presentation on March 21. "This was their first appearance at the ANC. We want to support their improvement plans for these properties, and ensure that they do not affect the quality of life of the neighborhood residents."
Irizarry believes the particular changes proposed "will make the building more attractive for potential tenants, will beautify our neighborhood streetscape, and should bring more foot traffic to the neighborhood during business hours, which would benefit the shops at Watergate."
ANC 2A approved letters of support, addressed to the CFA and HPRB, for the exterior work presented at the March meeting.
"If local residents have feedback they would like to share with us directly," Greenwald suggests, "they can call our office at the Watergate, 202-338-6630. Residents can also submit feedback through local community organizations such as the Foggy Bottom Association and the ANC 2A. We meet with these organizations periodically in keeping with our commitment to community engagement."
Download Full Article Here.