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Stonebridge, Rockefeller Start Rare Downtown Office Project After Landing Big Law Firm Lease

The team behind the redevelopment of WMATA's former headquarters near the Gallery Place Metro station has landed a 199K SF tenant, allowing it to start construction on a rare new office project.

The 15-year deal with law firm Crowell & Moring represents the largest private sector lease in D.C. since 2019, the developers announced at a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning.

The groundbreaking ceremony at 600 Fifth St. NW.

The project is being developed by a joint venture between Stonebridge and Rockefeller Group. The firms secured a 99-year ground lease for the eight-story, 381K SF building in 2020, after WMATA decided to search for a new headquarters in 2018.

The venture is guiding the redevelopment of the 1970s-era building at 600 Fifth St. NW, which served as the transit agency's headquarters since 1974. The redevelopment will add three stories totaling around 100K SF and will carve out 15K SF for ground-floor retail.

Japanese investors Taisei USA LLC and Mitsubishi Estate New York are providing financing for the project, which is expected to cost $375M, Stonebridge principal Doug Firstenberg told Bisnow.

“Things are so hard right now, just with the economy and capital markets, so to be able to go pull a $375M project off and get it done in an office building downtown, it's fantastic," Firstenberg said in an interview"And we are big believers in downtown."  

Mayor Muriel Bowser, developers, financing partners and Crowell attorneys held an event to announce the deal Tuesday morning at the National Building Museum. Remarks were followed by a ceremonial groundbreaking.

“It’s clear from Crowell’s decision to come here that in-person work and collaboration is the heart of why people come to Washington: to be collaborative, to work on the big issues, not only of the United States but of the world,” Bowser said.

Crowell & Moring Management Board Chair Philip Inglima speaks at the ceremonial groundbreaking event.

Ward 2 Council Member Brooke Pinto said she hopes the deal will encourage other businesses to invest in downtown, serving as an example “for employers who are still trepidatious about making long-term plans given the uncertainty of the last several years.”

Crowell & Moring’s lease represents a downsizing from its 280K SF office at 1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 

“We will be taking much less space,” Crowell & Moring Management Board Chair Philip Inglima told Bisnow

“We’re going to work more efficiently, and we’re going to be putting a heavy priority on the community space, space that’s used collaboratively between our lawyers and especially with our clients.”

A rendering of the $375M redevelopment project at 500 Fifth St. NW.

Inglima said the firm doesn’t have a return-to-office policy, but it is “strongly encouraging” employees to come back. He estimates just over half of employees come into the office on any given day. 

“It’s taking a little time, but we’re encouraged, and we believe that places like this will be a magnet for our folks to be back in the workplace," he said. 

Inglima told Bisnow the firm is planning on moving in sometime in the first half of 2026.

Office leasing was at historic lows in the first quarter of the year, and office vacancy reached 22% across D.C., with vacancy in the Central Business District at 26%, according to Savills' first-quarter report. But for the deals that are getting done, law firms are leading the way, with big leases from firms like Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and Kellogg Hansen.

Firstenberg said the team has had some initial conversations with potential tenants for the building's roughly 200K SF of remaining space, but that the team is going to be “very patient.”

JLL’s Tom Doughty, Elizabeth Cooper and Greg McCavera represented the law firm in the lease, while CBRE’s Scott Frankel, Carroll Cavanagh, Dimitri Hajimihalis, Emily Eppolito and DJ Callahan represented the developers. In the ground-lease transaction, JLL’s Bill Prutting and Martine Combal represented WMATA, while Cushman & Wakefield’s Bill Collins, Drew Flood, Marshall Scanlon and Bindi Shah represented the developers.