- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2000

The massive Ronald Reagan office complex in downtown Washington is almost fully leased, more than two years after opening to critics who questioned its ability to attract private tenants.

The Greater Washington Society of Association Executives said last week it will move its headquarters and leadership training center from 21st Street NW to the federally owned Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

Meanwhile, the managers of the 3.1 million-square-foot complex said they are negotiating with Rel-Tek Systems and Design Inc., a Rockville federal contractor, and AT&T; Wireless Group to fill the remaining 10,000 square feet of space inside the complex.

The bulk of the tenants in the center are federal agencies and companies that conduct international business, such as the U.S. Customs Agency and Sandler & Travis Trade Advisory Services Inc.

An estimated 6,000 people work inside the building, which opened in May 1998.

Peter P. Calafiura, the leasing director for the complex, said the federal trade agencies in the building have helped attract private tenants.

"What's happened is people have come to see this as the center of trade in the leading international city in the U.S.A.," Mr. Calafiura said.

Susan Sarfati, president and chief executive of the Society of Association Executives, said it is moving to the building because it outgrew its space on 21st Street NW and because it wants its new Center for Association Leadership to be near other organizations with "a global reach."

The society and the leadership center are scheduled to move into 25,000 square feet of space in the Reagan complex by mid-2001, Ms. Sarfati said.

"The Center for Association Leadership is international in scope, so this makes perfect sense," she said.

Anthony E. Costa, assistant regional administrator for the U.S. General Services Administration, the federal government's real estate arm, said the society has leased "the last available space of significant size" in the complex.

Rental rates in the building vary between about $30 and $45 per square foot, according to researchers at D.C. brokerage Cassidy & Pinkard Inc.

When the complex opened, some brokers questioned the federal government's ability to attract private tenants, saying the building it is the government's second-largest building, behind the Pentagon would be perceived as a federal office compound.

Mary S. Petersen, Cassidy & Pinkard's research chief, said the complex has proven critics wrong, and helped strengthen the office market along Pennsylvania Avenue.

The complex's leasing agents said they are negotiating with AT&T; to lease 2,500 square feet of retail space in the center, and Rel-Tek, the Rockville contractor, to take the remaining space.

Several other tenants were announced earlier this fall, including WNVC-TV, a local television station that carries international programming, and the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, which took 5,840 square feet where it holds evening classes.

David Kohlasch, one of the building's managers, said another key to its success has been its use of public space.

The complex features restaurants that are open to the public, and the Capitol Steps comedy troupe performs in the building on the weekends.

"The federal government has always said they didn't want this to be a building that shuts down when the offices inside close," he said.

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