GSA Completes Deal on Old Post Office

GSA recently completed a deal that will put the iconic and historic Old Post Office in Washington, DC under a 60-year lease with a private sector partner that will preserve the building and convert it into a hotel. GSA’s Public Building Service Commissioner Dorothy Robyn delivered the following remarks at the unveiling for the designs this week: 

Congresswoman Norton, Mayor Gray, GSA’s consulting parties and partners, Trump Organization executives—to everyone, welcome to the Old Post Office.

You’ve got to love a building that survived not just one but two concerted two attempts to demolish it!

GSA just completed a deal to make the Old Post Office a luxury hotel.
GSA just completed a deal to lease the Old Post Office and turn it into a luxury hotel. (photo by Carol M. Highsmith Photography, Inc.)

When the Old Post Office was built, in 1899, it set a number of records: it was the largest federal office, the first steel structure in the capital and the first government building with its own power plant.

But by 1928, planners of Federal Triangle were calling for the building’s teardown because it didn’t comport with the Beaux Arts architectural style that was in favor at the time.  Fortunately, with the onset of the Depression, there were no federal funds for demolition and the building was saved.

In 1964, a commission charged with revitalizing Pennsylvania Avenue again called for demolishing the Old Post Office, preserving only the clock tower; by 1971, permits had been issued and funds appropriated.  This time, local citizens banded together as the “Don’t Tear It Down” movement and persuaded Congress to reverse its decision.  Since then, “Don’t Tear It Down,” which became the D.C. Preservation League, has saved countless historic buildings in the District.

Among its many responsibilities, GSA preserves historic federal properties—to benefit local communities culturally and economically, to sustain resources and to tell the story of our nation.  Since its creation in 1949, GSA has proudly cared for the Old Post Office, sometimes going to great lengths to do so.

In the mid-’70s, we undertook an unprecedented redevelopment of the Old Post Office, which brought federal agencies and commercial tenants under one roof.  We used new statutory authority—the Cooperative Use Act of 1976—that was enacted with the Old Post Office in mind.  Although not a financial success, the project was an inspiration for preservationists, and it inspired other mixed-use redevelopment efforts, such as Union Station.

Today, great stewardship means partnering with the private sector for a second renaissance of the Old Post Office.  In the Trump Organization, we have found a partner who understands both the privileges and responsibilities of our historic assets—and who understands that historic preservation is good business.  American taxpayers will see the savings directly, and they will be able to enjoy the restoration of a unique historical asset.

Before closing, I would like to thank my GSA colleagues, who have worked expertly and tirelessly to secure this building’s future.

The project has involved dozens of GSA staff and consultants.  I want to mention three by name:  Brett Banks, the project manager; Tim Tozer, GSA’s counsel for the project; and Kevin Terry, the lead contracting officer.

GSA’s team performed so ably, I know, because they are dedicated public servants.  They did it, too, I believe, because of their love for this building.  As the “It” in “Don’t Tear It Down,” the Old Post Office galvanized Washington’s preservation movement and lit a fire for conservation that spread nationwide.  The efforts it inspired, and continues to inspire, will enrich Americans for generations to come.

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