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January 6, 2009  

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Unlike tabloids, this fine intellectual publication is not staking out the Hay-Adams (800 16th St) just because the Obamas are staying there. However, if we happened to be on our way to visit Louis Dreyfus's Lafayette Tower, one block away at 801 17th, well, it'd just be bad journalism if we didn't take a few candids.


This was the scene yesterday afternoon through our lens. In case your out-of-town friends quiz you, the hotel gets its name from Secretary of State John Hay (who served 1898 to 1905) and author Henry Adams, whose houses were at this address before being razed in 1927. The hotel was built one year later. (Bonus fact: It was also once the site of the Brazilian embassy.) The original Hay-Adams House cost $900,000 and had 138 rooms. It's now up to 145, including the presidential suite. (Hmm, do we capitalize the "p" if the President is actually living there?)


A view across Lafayette Park. (The police need to ticket those cars parked on the grass.) BF Saul bought the Hay Adams for $690k a room in early '06. This week's equivalent of a billion dollar branding campaign must have increased that price a bit if they ever sell. Just our two cents, but it would pay for itself to let the Obamas use the mini-bar for free.

Exotic Stones

Now, for the "real reason" we were downtown: We stopped by Lafayette Tower, the building which you may recall hopes to set some record rental rates. Louis Dreyfus local head Bob Braunohler tells us the core and shell will be complete at the end of January. (If your Inauguration seats don't let you see Barack, at least you'll see a 240K SF trophy.) Kevin Roche is the architect, Clark is the contractor, and it's the only building with low iron content glass, so no green tint in the windows. First tenant, the John Deere government relations office, starts its buildout this month. Special bonus: When the John Deere employees get restless and want to use their tractors, they'll have a green roof, of course.


Directly adjacent, and still pretty much a hole, is PNC Place at 800 17th, which Vornado head of leasing Brendan Owen tells us will deliver June 2010. It's 30% pre-leased as mid-Atlantic HQ of PNC, which is doing the building as a joint venture with Vornado. (Pretty clever to have a bank as your partner these days.) Brendan says lease activity is good for the remainder of the 350k SF. Of course, if he's having trouble, perhaps he could ask contractor Whiting-Turner and architect Gensler to expedite things. The President-elect doesn't move to Blair House until January 15, and it'd be pretty cool if he chose to live in DC's first LEED-Platinum office instead.


For those of you who responded to news of the President-elect's historic arrival with the quaint question, "Will this affect my commute?" here's a look west down H Street, with St. John's Church and the Hay-Adams on the right. We recommend alternate routes. Secret Service was nervous enough with our snapping photos; we doubt they'll take kindly to your car slipping past blockades.

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