- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2000

A museum commemorating Arlington County as the "birthplace" of the Internet or one devoted to U.S. Army history could replace the Newseum if it completes its plan to move from Rosslyn to the District.

Arlington officials and real estate executives say there are several possible replacements for the 120,000-square-foot space occupied by the Newseum, a journalism history and current events museum, and its parent, the nonprofit Freedom Forum.

The space is in a 300,000-square-foot tower on Wilson Boulevard in the Rosslyn section of Arlington.

Two weeks ago, the Freedom Forum said it wants to move its office and the fast-growing Newseum to a site on Pennsylvania Avenue NW in the District. Its current lease expires in 2003.

"The fact that the Freedom Forum has been so successful in drawing people to that site makes it very attractive," said Lois A. Zambo, executive vice president of Julien J. Studley Inc., the firm that handles leasing in the Newseum building.

Arlington officials said they would like another museum to use the space, citing figures that indicate the Newseum has attracted 1.5 million visitors since opening in April 1997.

The site is a top tourist attraction in the county, along with Arlington National Cemetary and the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Barbara A. Favola, chairman of the Arlington County Board, said it's too early to discuss possible tenants for the Newseum space, adding that the District hasn't approved the Freedom Forum's $75 million offer for the site it wants to move to in Washington.

Mrs. Favola would not confirm reports that the county is interested in building a museum to mark Arlington County as the "birthplace" of the Internet. Other sources said those discussions are under way and the county is interested in the Newseum space for the project.

The federal National Science Foundation of Arlington is credited with creating NSFNET, a computer system that became the backbone of the modern-day Internet, according to the Reston-based Internet Society.

Meanwhile, Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, has suggested Fort Belvoir and the Newseum space as possible sites for the proposed National Museum of the United States Army.

The Newseum occupies about 75,000 square feet of exhibit space in Rosslyn.

Tim Helmig, vice president of Westfield Realty Inc., owner of the current Newseum building, said the space is ideal for another museum, but said his company could also transform the space into office suites.

"It would be foolish for us to close our minds to marketing [the space] to anything other than a museum," Mr. Helmig said.

Scott Price, an analyst for Delta Associates, an Alexandria-based real estate research firm, said the office vacancy rate is 1.9 percent, below the 2.7 percent rate in Northern Virginia overall.

But Mr. Price said the office market in Rosslyn may be much wider in a few years, which could make it tough to find an office tenant for the Newseum site.

For example, Gannett Co. is scheduled to move from Rosslyn to Tysons Corner in 2002, leaving behind about 500,000 square feet of office space.

At least two office buildings with almost 1 million square feet of space are scheduled to be built in the Rosslyn area between 2001 and 2003. Neither project has tenants lined up, Mr. Price said.

A spokeswoman for the American Association of Museums in Washington said she is not aware of existing museums in the area scouting for space. The association estimates more than 150 museums were established or expanded in the United States between 1998 and 2000.

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