For years, the Vanguard building in downtown D.C., once home for two decades, to the Peace Corps, has sat empty. On Thursday, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) celebrated the future of the 1960s-era Vanguard — and housing in downtown — at a ceremony kicking off the building’s conversion into swanky new apartments.
After the coronavirus pandemic accelerated already rising vacancy rates in the city’s central business district, city leaders are looking at alternatives to fill unused office space and attract people back to downtown. Converting commercial buildings such as the Vanguard into residences is a solution leaders have looked at for years and hoped could accomplish two things: add more housing stock to combat D.C.’s affordable housing crisis and revitalize the city’s struggling downtown.
Nearly 2.5 million square feet of office space in downtown D.C. is already dedicated to residential conversion projects. But with more than 20 million square feet of vacant office space across the city — a record high — the District is actively encouraging more builders and developers to consider conversions through promises of property tax relief for new office-to-residential projects.
The plan is to start the initial demolition work on 1111 20TH in March and submit for expedited building permits in May. The renovated building would include roughly 160 units with 12,000 square feet of retail space and a host of amenities.