December 24, 2012

‘Landmark’ restaurant eyed for historic D.C. office building

The owner of an historic downtown D.C. office building one block from the White House is looking to fill its first floor retail space, which was once a bank branch, with a “signature restaurant.”

The John Buck Co. purchased 740 15th St. NW from the American Bar Association one year ago for $69.2 million.

According to a flyer produced by Miller Walker Retail Real Estate, the 11,697 square feet of first floor retail space features “dramatic historic banking hall space with 20 foot ceilings” and is “ideal for a landmark, signature restaurant.”

The bank branch that accounted for much of the first floor is now closed, and the space at the corner of 15th and H streets is available for lease. The remainder of the building will be renovated, the landlord said.

Whatever restaurant takes the first floor may have the option of moving onto the second. Attorneys for the John Buck Co. approached D.C.’s zoning administrator in November to ask whether it would be possible to expand the second floor with 4,792 additional square feet “for use as a restaurant in connection with the space on the first floor.”

Jonathan Bilton, vice president of The John Buck Co., told me there is no lease or occupancy agreement in-place at 740 15th and the company “has no concrete or binding plans to share.”

The building is located across H Street from the Sofitel, across 15th Street from Woodward Table (formerly Potenza) and less than a block away from Bobby Van’s Steakhouse.

The 176,000-square-foot Union Trust Co. building is listed on the District’s Inventory of Historic Places. Built in 1906-1907 and designed by the local firm of Wood, Donn and Deming, the nine-story Neo-Classical Revival building was designed with a grand two-story banking hall on the lower levels and speculative office space on the upper floors.

John Buck Co., as Buck Services DC LLC, submitted an application to the Historic Preservation Review Board to convert the first floor to a restaurant with an entrance at 15th and H, to install a vertical sign and open-sided fabric shed awnings, among other minor alterations. Those changes earned the support of the Historic Preservation Office in late November.

The American Bar Association negotiated a lease back on its headquarters space through Aug. 31, 2013, at which point it will move to Washington Square at 1050 Connecticut Ave. NW.