Housing Complex

Anticipating Big Makeover, Southwest Gets a Little One

So it looks like Southwest is getting a facelift and a BID. But that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement in the meantime. Last September, the developer Trammell Crow bought a five-story building at 400 6th St. SW for close to $42 million, with plans to tear it down and put up a 12-story office building.

Here's what the space looks like now:

And here's a rendering from Trammell Crow and adviser PNC Realty Investors:

Clean streets, blue skies, and perfect flag breeze aside, the architecture isn't terribly inspiring, though its blocks-and-windows format might be slightly more attractive than the quadrant's standard block-and-windows format. And it certainly looks better than what's there now.

The big question is what's going on on the ground floor. The area around L'Enfant Plaza is sorely lacking in shops and retail—anything to give people a reason to stick around beyond the workday. This space certainly looks like it could accommodate ground-floor retail, though it may depend on the tenant: A government agency might prefer to reserve the floor for office or meeting space. And that'd be a shame, given the push to convert imposing government buildings elsewhere in the quadrant into mixed-use spaces with retail. Sure, it could later be turned into retail, but once a big tenant gets settled in, that becomes less likely, and suddenly you have a new structure that's a remnant of a less lively era in the revitalized neighborhood.

Trammell Crow didn't return a call for comment, but the company's plan as of the fall was to start construction this summer and finish in 2015.