2006-05-22, 13:01

The Watergate as mixed-use development?

By: Jonathan Groner
Well, it wasn't exactly mixed use as we know it today, but a fascinating article in the May 2006 issue of On Site, a new D.C. real estate magazine, says the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., "brought together hotel, office, retail and residential uses on one site, resulting in the first private-initiative planned unit development in the city." Interesting.

In any case, the article, entitled "The Mod Squad," discusses the difficulty that preservationists have had in obtaining historic landmark status for buildings like the Watergate complex that are less than 50 years old. The Watergate, on Virginia Avenue N.W. near the Potomac River, was built between 1960 and 1971. Eventually, the city's Historic Preservation Review Board did grant landmark status to the Watergate, but the process wasn't without difficulty. The vote may have been helped along, of course, by the complex's unique role in American history as the starting point of the 1970s Watergate scandal that brought down a president.

The complex does include a variety of uses, but its rather forbidding design does not creat a "walkable multi-level live-work-play neighborhood loaded with stimulating and engaging pedestrian-level detail," a good contemporary definition of today's mixed-use projects.

On Site, incidentally, is a new glossy quarterly magazine put out as a supplement to the Washington Business Journal. It is entirely devoted to the D.C. real estate world.


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