By Daniel J. Sernovitz – Senior Staff Reporter, Washington Business Journal
The Federation of State Medical Boards has retained commercial real estate services firm Newmark to help it sell the former Colombian embassy building in Kalorama it bought in 2017 with the aim of converting into office space.
The Texas-based nonprofit encountered heavy resistance from neighborhood groups to its conversion plans, but representatives for the federation said the coronavirus outbreak, not that pushback, prompted it to abandon its plans for the three-story building at 2118 Leroy Place NW.
"While the FSMB is busier than ever working with their member state medical boards as they coordinate responses to Covid and address issues like physical burnout, the pandemic has modified their need for additional office space at this time," Martin Sullivan, an attorney with Sullivan & Barros LLP.
Sullivan represented the federation in its efforts to secure approval from the District to use the roughly 11,813-square-foot building for its D.C. lobbying office. The District's Board of Zoning Adjustment granted the federation a special exception in April 2018 over the objections of a pair of neighborhood groups, the Sheridan Kalorama Historical Association and the Sheridan-Kalorama Neighborhood Council, that feared the conversion from residential would have an adverse impact on the neighborhood.
Those groups challenged the decision. The D.C. Court of Appeals issued an opinion in July siding with the BZA on the special exception, but sent the matter back to the zoning board to address discrepancies between the conditions of its approval and recommendations by the District's planning office that would have allowed fewer people to work on site and attend events there.
Meanwhile, the foundation is determined to remain in leased space elsewhere and retained Newmark to market the building to prospective buyers. Chris Lucey, a managing director at Newmark who is part of the marketing team, said he anticipates there will be a substantial amount of interest in the building given factors including its location and history. He estimated it could sell for around $6 million or $7 million, based comparable sales data, but said Newmark has not put out an asking price and noted the building is unique enough that comparable data might not be an accurate representation.
Built in 1902, 2118 Leroy Place was commissioned by Walter Woodward, co-founder of the former Woodward & Lothrop department store, and designed by renowned architect Frederick B. Pyle, per Newmark marketing information. The Georgian Revival building features red brick, grand columns, a large private garden and two-car garage.
It served as the Colombian embassy, and prior to that, as the Hungarian legation, but was vacant at the time of its 2017 sale for $4.175 million to the federation. It hits the market ahead of a change in presidential administrations, which typically spurs a wave of home sales to incoming members of the new administration.
In marketing materials, Newmark notes the federation had brought the building's interior to shell condition in anticipation of its conversion to office and that it could ideally be turned back into residential or converted into multiple offices, meeting rooms and work areas.
"They set out to design it for an office use, but they gutted it, so if you walk in, pretty much everything has been torn down except for the floors and the brick," Lucey said. "We definitely see that as a value-add."