Exclusive: Armenian Genocide Museum Nixed, Site Seeks Retailer

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By Rebecca Cooper

 

WASHINGTON (Washington Business Journal) — The historic National Bank of Washington building, long a vacant eyesore two blocks from the White House, may finally come to life, as plans for the Armenian Genocide Museum there have been scrapped.

The Minneapolis-based Cafesjian Family Foundation Inc., which owns the five-story bank building at 14th and G streets NW, is actively marketing the building’s 35,000 square feet to retail tenants.

The retail broker marketing the property is Bethany Kazaba Scanlon of the newly formed Neighborhood Retail Group. The group is affiliated with Borger Management Inc., a D.C.-based real estate development and management company that has managed the property for the past year.

The marketing materials for the space identify a number of possible layouts, including a potential restaurant with nearly 3,500 square feet split on three levels as well as a nearly 16,000-square-foot “flagship retail” space.

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Scanlon said she’s already had interest from high-end fashion and other retailers, as well as tenants who may be interested in leasing the entire building.

“There are a number of different leasing options to be considered,” she said. “We’d love to have a museum as part of the project, however we’re also looking at other strategies.”

The Armenian Genocide Museum of America, which went through an ugly legal battle with the property owner for the past several years, is no longer pursuing a museum at the site, said Rouben Adalian, director of the Armenian Genocide Museum.

The group is actively looking for another site in D.C. for the museum, and in April, the Armenian Assembly of America, one of the groups involved in the legal battle, announced the launch of a “state-of-the-art online museum” to coincide with the centennial of the persecution of the Armenian people, Adalian said.

At the National Bank of Washington building, another potential flagship restaurant configuration identified in the brochure would locate the restaurant’s entrance and bar on the main level, with dining room space in the lower level former bank vault and a 2,600 square foot rooftop bar .

The bank building has remained empty for the better part of two decades even as D.C.’s downtown economy surged; longtime residents may remember it for its deteriorating “Hahn Shoes” awnings. In the last year, the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District has attempted to mask the fallow space at street level.

“This is a monumental opportunity, and we’re going to look for a monumental use,” Scanlon said. The building, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994, was built in 1926.

The Cafesjian Family Foundation also owns three adjacent vacant parcels that total 12,000 square feet and are currently being marketed for sale. The bank building, however, is not for sale.

The listing is a high-profile one for Scanlon, who co-founded Neighborhood Restaurant Group with Thomas and Joseph Borger in March after working for JBGR Retail for several years. Her career also includes stints as sales manager at the trade publication Hanley Wood and in home remodeling with a home renovation firm.

 

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