Project: WilmerHale LLP, Washington, DC
What if you could achieve the impossible in one of the nation’s most complex commercial real estate markets?
Washington, DC is home to more lawyers per capita than any other city in the United States. Despite the profession’s prevalence in the region, in the early 2000’s it was difficult to find appropriate space in the city to accommodate the growth of larger law firms under one roof – an approach that is critical to collaboration and access to firm resources. As the largest law firm in the city at the time, and one of the largest in the country still, WilmerHale was one of the first forced to seek a creative solution to this problem. Their building at 2445 M Street NW was too small for them, and in 2002 they began a proactive search for a new space that matched the needs of their projected future growth rate – and began a story that is still legendary in DC’s commercial real estate world.
At the project’s outset, no existing building in Washington, DC was going to meet their needs, and we were hired to work with a tenant representative at Studley to identify an alternate approach. Through a complex lease negotiations process, we helped WilmerHale secure two underutilized buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets – and connect them via a new infill building designed to tie the two bookend buildings together to fulfill the required square footage.
The multi-phase seven-year project required interior fit-out and base building modifications to the two older structures dating to the 1920s and 1980s respectively, with the 1920s building needing extensive structural capacity testing. We also led the design and construction effort on the infill building to ensure the execution of the firm’s unique design specifications, mitigate cost and risk, and negotiate a cap on WilmerHale’s financial exposure since they had taken on the building at their own expense. Unique elements include Gen3 non-cabled traction elevators, increased stair capacity, a blast resistant building envelope, internal stairs and slab openings, and multi-story auditorium spaces.
Upon delivery of the final buildings, now one cohesive headquarters space, we led the phased relocation of 1,200 people in four separate moves over a three-year period to get the firm up and running. The thrill of delivering this incredibly complex project on time and under budget is highlighted by change orders totaling less than 2% of the contract value. In the end, alongside our project partners, we made the impossible possible – and helped WilmerHale establish their new home in the nation’s capital.