The Libertarian Party has been planning to buy a building for its national headquarters for over a year now, having always rented office space at various locations in DC (and briefly, Houston, Texas) since the 1970s when it was founded.
The Libertarian National Committee is meeting this weekend in Alexandria, Virginia, a few blocks from the building it has under contract at 1444 Duke Street. This video is the first time libertarians generally have been able to see it.
There was a little controversy and buzz at the LNC meeting because of the recent purchase, by the Marijuana Policy Project, of a co-op unit (a kind of condominium that is common in DC and Manhattan, with a very few in other states and cities including Florida, California, Virginia and Maryland), for the same price, at 2370 Champlain Street NW in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. Many had felt that being forced out of D.C. proper by D.C.’s higher real estate prices was a shame for a national political organization, and some worried that the buyer agents working for the LNC may have neglected to show them D.C. properties, including the one MPP knew about and some on the LNC fear they did not.
Here’s the MPP building, where they have a large unit on the first floor. And here’s the interior. (I actually sold a residential apartment in the same building a few years ago, for someone who is now an Obama/Hillary political appointee at the State Department.) Both the MPP unit and the LNC HQ are selling for around $825,000. The MPP building has a better location, many think, but it also has a high monthly fee. It’s possible that some people also thought the Adams Morgan side street MPP bought on is too “transitional” or unsafe – a non-DC person would think that. But in fact it is likely to appreciate faster than the Alexandria location. Both are near a Metro (subway) and inside the Beltway, which means they will be the continued recipients of Federal Reserve inflation as all D.C. metropolitan real estate is (like the stock market, and unlike the real estate in much of the country.) But the new LNC HQ is close to being a strip mall at the outer edge of exurbia, with a giant anchor of the area, the U.S. Patent Office, rumored to be moving away. The MPP location is featured in a recent real estate blog article which crows “Is Adams Morgan Becoming Posh?”
(For full disclosure let me say that I am a realtor with licenses in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, and though everyone asked for my opinion this weekend, no one from either the LP or MPP asked for my advice or assistance in their property search. Lately I’ve felt irked by this. In the past when I hung out with gay and lesbian Democrats it seems to me that they do support their own – if you supported them they use you to buy and sell real estate or for services generally. Libertarians and Ron Paul Republicans not as much. It’s hard for me not to think about that when I receive fundraising letters from certain groups.)
So this does raise the question of what else is on the market that the LP could be buying and what else was on the market in the past year that it could have bought. In both cases I see some D.C. candidates I would want to have considered, aside from the MPP purchase.
There are a number of properties that closed in the past 12 months in DC that were commercial spaces over 2500 sq ft and under $1 million, two of which look like good candidates. One is a 3000 sq ft ground floor space just around the corner from where MPP bought, 1745 Kalorama Road, that sold for $100,000 less than either MPP or the LP paid, and which has a very low condo fee (under $500). It’s downside – it doesn’t own a parking space. But it is in a condo that has a garage where one could buy or rent spaces as needed and one can park on the street (sometimes difficult in D.C.)
Even more exciting is a large townhouse on the Kalorama/Dupont Circle border, two blocks from the subway and a block from the offices of reason magazine, at 2121 R Street, in a row of art galleries, embassies, the Phillips Collection, restaurants, and $1-3 million houses. It is also larger, 3000 sq ft, but it is also more expensive, selling for $998,000, and needing renovation.
There are also a number of properties for sale now in D.C. that might be better than the commercial townhouse under contract. One intriguing one is a 3200 sq ft corner building with garage in LeDroit Park currently with a store with a beer and wine license on the ground floor, at 1901 4th Street. It’s interesting because, besides being in one of the most rapidly appreciating neighborhoods, it’s diametrically across from the home of the Rev. and Mrs. Jesse Jackson.
Another interesting possibility is this commercial storefront townhouse on the commercial strip in Mount Pleasant, about 3 blocks from the Columbia Heights Metro stop on 14th Street. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have any parking of its own.
The real contender however, is 921 12th Street NE, near Capitol Hill, Union Station (which has both a subway stop and Amtrak), National Public Radio’s gleaming new building, and the NoMa subway stop. This is new construction in the most rapidly appreciating section of town, and it is over 4000 sq ft, much bigger than either the MPP purchase or the Alexandria unit the LNC has under contract.
By contrast, the Republican National Committee is housed at 300 First Street SE, in a building popularly called the Capitol Hill Club, in a building the tax assessor thinks is worth $6 million . The Democratic National Committee is only a few blocks away (both behind the row of House of Representatives office buildings on Independence Avenue SE) at 430 South Capitol Street SE in a building assessed at $16 million.
And now for a game of “shoulda, woulda, coulda” – a little history of the Libertarian Party national headquarters. It’s been at least four places before it’s current D.C. location as a tenant at the Watergate office complex in Foggy Bottom near the Potomac River: 1516 P Street NW in the 1970s, a little building in the early 1980s at 2300 Wisconsin Avenue (the corner of Hall Place – which used to have a florist and a barbershop and now houses a Starbucks, with a current tax assessment of $4 million), briefly Houston, Texas, and the (former) outskirts of Capitol Hill on Pennsylvania Avenue SE.
1516 P Street NW, in the 1970s, was a sketchy neighborhood where friends who worked at the old Young Libertarian Alliance (the defunct youth arm of the Libertarian Party) tell me everyone locked up at 5:00 pm and skeedaddled before sundown. It’s now the border between Logan Circle and Dupont Circle, full of million dollar lofts, a Whole Foods, theaters, upscale bars, and restaurants. 1516 and the two adjoining town houses at 1514 and 1518 have most recently been for sale for around $8.5 million – though they were for sale back in 1999 for $331,000. Currently it houses the National Congress of American Indians, one of the groups lobbying to get the Washington Redskins to change their name.