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EXCLUSIVE: Meridian Lands Law Firm To Anchor 1901 L Redevelopment

The Meridian Group has secured a major leasing win at a Downtown D.C. redevelopment it launched last year. 

A rendering of the redevelopment at 1901 L St. NW

Law firm Winston & Strawn is leasing the top four and a half floors, roughly 90K SF, at Meridian's 1901 L St. NW redevelopment. 

CBRE brokered the deal on behalf of the landlord and represented the tenant. The firm plans to move in March 2020 from its nearby office at 1700 K St. NW. 

"We're making the move because we're coming to the end of our lease at our current location, and 1901 L offers us a great opportunity with a nice building, good amenities, good views and a nice location," Winston & Strawn Chief Operating Officer Scott Farrell told Bisnow. "We're looking forward to having Meridian as our landlord, they were a pleasure to deal with in negotiations for the space." 

Meridian acquired the building in early 2017 from New York Life for $75M. The developer then retained Fox Architects to design an extensive, trophy-level redevelopment of the property. Meridian did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

A rendering of the new top floors and rooftop penthouse at 1901 L St. NW

The project is adding three new levels, floors nine through 11, and a 12th-story rooftop penthouse. Winston & Strawn will occupy part of the seventh floor and the entirety of floors 8 through 11. It will also lease a portion of the rooftop penthouse, including an indoor lounge and two private terraces, while the remainder of the rooftop will be common space shared by the entire building. 

"This will one of the first examples of leveraging the Height Act to create occupiable space on the roof," Fox Architects principal JP Spickler said. "What historically would have been mechanical penthouse space is now usable people space and an amenity." 

The redevelopment is also adding density on the west side of the building by extending the floors to the property line. Fox is also revamping the building's facade with a glass curtain wall that utilizes a new construction technique to make it appear more transparent and lighter, Spickler said. It is also designing an enhanced, two-story lobby that is being expanded to reach the corner of the building. 

"We want the lobby to be more vibrant and engaged with the sidewalk and the intersection of the city," Spickler said. 

The building will also feature a new fitness facility and bike room, plus newly installed HVAC and elevator systems. While the building was constructed in 1978, Spickler said the renovations will bring it to the level of a newly developed office building. 

"Despite being born out of the frame of an old building that was at the end of its useful life span, when we're finished with construction here, we'll have a new trophy building in every sense," Spickler said.

The remainder of the building's office space is still available for lease. It has one existing retail tenant, Sweetgreen, and 6K SF of available retail space. The office space had been roughly 75% occupied when Meridian acquired it last year, but the developer let the leases expire to allow it to launch a full-scale redevelopment. 

Landing a law firm for the top section of office developments while the lower floors take longer to lease has become a common pattern for Downtown D.C. projects. JLL's October D.C. office market report found 15 D.C. office projects completed since 2016 or under construction that leased the top floors but have at least 25% of the building remaining available. 

The office building at 1700 K St. NW

This latest law firm move will leave a large vacancy on the top five floors of 1700 K St. NW, where Winston & Strawn's lease expires in March 2020.

Cushman & Wakefield is marketing the property on LoopNet as having a 171K SF block of contiguous space that will become available April 1, 2020. The 390K SF Class-A office building, owned by a joint venture of multiple real estate families and managed by JBG Smith, sits across the street from Farragut Square and was constructed in 2005.

The Winston & Strawn deal represents the latest in a string of leasing wins for The Meridian Group. The developer last month landed KPMG to anchor the 20-story Boro Tower it is constructing in Tysons. It has also signed a law firm and several other tenants, one of the latest being Apple, at its redevelopment of 700 K St. NW in D.C.'s East End.

CORRECTION, NOV. 30, 5:20 P.M. ET: A previous version of this story misidentified the owner of 1700 K St. NW. It is owned by a joint venture of D.C. real estate families and was previously managed by Vornado, but is now managed by JBG Smith. The story has been updated.