DC wants businesses’ input on how to turn empty offices into housing

In an effort to convert empty office and retail spaces downtown into much-needed housing, the District is asking its business community for advice.

As a part of #FAIRSHOT week, D.C. leaders on Tuesday announced that the Housing in Downtown Request for Information (HID RFI) is now open. As a part of their announcement, they presented examples on how transitioning offices into homes can happen.

Currently, D.C.’s Central Business District is 92% commercial and 8% residential.

Tuesday’s news conference happened at 1313 L St. NW, a 1980s-era office building that was once home to a nonprofit that relocated. The empty office building is now being transformed to include 222 units of high-rise apartments.

“The HID RFI will help us identify the tools to uncover the hidden gems (like 1313 L St.) within central Washington that can be converted from a commercial use to residential,” said Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio. “What we want to do is create a program that actually allows us to capture some affordable and workforce housing within projects that go from one use to residential.”

1313 L Street, NW
1313 L St. NW, Washington, D.C., is seen. (WTOP/Kristi King)

The long-term goal for the program is to help deliver on Mayor Muriel Bowser’s goal to create 36,000 units of housing — including at least 12,000 units of affordable housing — by 2025.

Developers of the 1313 L St. site, Lincoln Property Co., said the units will have smart technology so residents can control many functions remotely from cellphones and other devices. Amenities will include an elevated interior courtyard, a rooftop deck with a water feature, a penthouse lounge and an outdoor terrace space with fire pits and grilling stations.

“The second investment we’re making is right around the corner on 15th Street, directly across the street from Midtown Center — an 862,000-square-foot mixed-use building that’s going to house over 3,500 employees from Fannie Mae. It’ll include 35,000 square feet of additional amenity space, and potentially retail along the way,” said Duncan Slidell, Lincoln Property’s executive vice president.

The District’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development is soliciting information from current or prospective property owners about the opportunities and challenges of residential conversions downtown.

According to a DMPED news release, the information gathered will be used to formulate impactful policy or program intervention(s) to:

  1. Encourage conversion of central D.C. commercial space (including office, hotel, or retail) to residential in order to increase vibrancy and offset potential declines in commercial property tax revenue.
  2. Increase affordable and workforce housing units downtown.

Respondents can submit questions on the RFI by 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 30.

The deadline for property owners to submit new sites for consideration is 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 28.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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