Warehouse to become NPR HQ in D.C.

NPR's new offices will incorporate much of this old warehouse north of Union Station in Washington, D.C., adding a seven-story office tower at right and a entrance area in place of the parking lot in foreground. (Photo: Current, 2008.)

Better loan interest rate means extra floor for NPR’s future offices

Published in Current, March 1, 2010
By Steve Behrens

Lower-than-expected borrowing costs will let NPR build a larger-than-planned headquarters, said Debra Delman, senior v.p. strategic operations and finance during the NPR Board meeting Feb. 18 [2010].

Two of the big-three bond rating agencies gave NPR comparable ratings at the fourth-highest level of 20 or more grades. Standard & Poor’s rating was AA- and Moody’s was Aa3, the network announced that day.

“Because the AA- rating allows us to reduce the potential cost of the debt service, we’re planning to build a slightly bigger building than we initially thought,” Delman said.

The architecture firm Hickok Cole has added a seventh floor to the design, said John Hermann, chair of the board’s building committee.

Two years ago, NPR bought the site at 1111 N. Capitol St., N.E., seven blocks east of its present home. The plan is to break ground next fall and occupy the building by mid-2013.

Planning for a larger building will require NPR to return to the city’s Historic Preservation Review Board, which already approved a six-story building that incorporates much of a historic landmarked phone-company warehouse on the site.

“We certainly expect the NPR project will go through eventually,” said David Maloney, the city’s historic preservation officer. Before NPR bought the land the city had approved plans for a 12-story building with almost twice the floor area of the new NPR plan.

Though about 40 percent of the old four-story warehouse would be demolished under the plan, it would appear intact, with the new seven-story structure behind it, says Maury Schlesinger, NPR facilities director.  Two of the large floors spanning the old and new structures will have room for a 100,000-square-foot newsroom.

The plan includes three program origination centers for live broadcasts plus about 10 smaller production rooms suitable for recording interviews or podcasts.

Visitors approaching from the south will cross a plaza, now a gravel parking lot, and enter through a glassy two-story area, Schlesinger said.  Off the lobby, the plans call for a theater where 250 guests could attend a Talk of the Nation broadcast or other events.

Based in part on reporting by Karen Everhart.

Web page posted March 14, 2010
Copyright 2010 by Current LLC

EARLIER ARTICLES

One of Ken Stern's last public acts as NPR's chief exec was to announce the site purchase in 2008.

More photos of the building site.

LINKS

NPR's sale/lease-back of its old building and purchase of its new site were the 2008 Deal of the Year in D.C. real estate, Washington Business Journal said.

NPR's architect for the project is Hickok Cole, based in Washington.

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