Washington, DC

Boston Properties

Service Type

Project Type


2012 Global Award for Excellence, Urban Land Institute

2011 Washington Business Journal

The Avenue, in the western portion of downtown Washington, D.C. between Georgetown and the Central Business District, sits on Pennsylvania Avenue between historic Washington Circle and the Foggy Bottom Metro Station. Boston Properties developed this 2.6 acre full block on land leased from George Washington University. The transit oriented, mixed use development covers the former site of the GW University Hospital, which was re-zoned as a PUD in a 3-year process that included extensive community input. Pelli Clarke Pelli was Design Architect, and Hickok Cole Architects was Executive Architect.

The Avenue expresses the design and development team’s belief that a great mixed-use project must integrated into the city as a whole and into its neighborhood in particular. That integration takes place in many ways, large and small. For example, the decision to locate the office building on the Washington Circle end of the site instead of the Metro end was driven by the concern of introducing the larger scale of an office building deeper into the surrounding neighborhood and instead focusing the residential space near the Metro.

The overall project design derives from careful attention to the urban context. It maximizes the unique shape, slope, location, and orientation of the parcel with integrated site planning, form-making and sectional programming. The Avenue optimizes public space along its many street frontages and incorporates diverse architectural design elements, responding to variation in the adjacent urban fabric.  Unlike the more standard, monolithic approach to full block buildings in many parts of Washington, a multi-building massing strategy combines with public spaces and extensive ground floor retail to create an invitingly open block, scaled to its surroundings.

The Avenue contains Class-A office space (to the north), luxury residential units (to the south) and street level retail open to public spaces (throughout). On the block interior its buildings enclose a landscaped courtyard serving residents and the public.  The design of this exterior room makes the most of elevation changes along the north-south axis of the site to provide ground level servicing to retail without impeding the public open space. The surrounding streetscape offers wide sidewalks and a generous new public promenade that extends the Metro plaza across I Street, bordered by rows of flowering shade trees, large mixed perennials planting beds, and low shrubs.  These elements enhance existing uses with new retail near the Metro and strengthen an already important business artery with a new Pennsylvania Avenue office address.

The 28,000 sf central courtyard is anchored by a water feature with aquatic planting that expresses the intersection of the historic Washington city grid with the Pennsylvania Avenue axis and functions as part of a storm water management system designed to collect all rainwater that falls within the property.  The surrounding buildings separate at two critical locations to create visual and physical access points through the inner courtyard. The atypical courtyard configuration introduces generous amounts of light and air into the interiors, and helps to break down the overall scale of the development into smaller elements that accord with the neighborhood. A garden set between the U-shaped apartment buildings is reserved for resident use and a paved and treed plaza adjacent to the office building is open for public enjoyment.

The Avenue is recognized as one of the most significant architectural statements and influential developments in the District in decades. Over its three year development period, The Avenue employed over 450 workers – the majority of whom were DC residents – and incorporated in its design input from the surrounding Foggy Bottom community. Its economic impact also includes a projected increase in the District’s property tax roll by over $10 million.

The development has rejuvenated the area, making it a vibrant destination with something to offer to everyone. “Square 54 is a shining example of what GW and the city can accomplish when we work together. It represents the importance of sustainable practices and has been recognized by the Smart Growth Alliance. It will enliven the streetscape. It was thoughtfully conceived to contribute to the open space of the city,” – GWU President, Steven Knapp.

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