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Posted at 6:00 PM ET, 12/14/2010

Corcoran and Carr Properties Team Up

By Jacqueline Trescott

The Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design is leasing its adjacent property, for years an empty lot or parking lot, to a prominent developer who will pay rent to the deficit-ridden Corcoran

This new income stream for the gallery and arts school will help their financial difficulties, a troubling local issue for many years. For the fiscal year that ended June 30 the Corcoran had a $3.5 million loss.

The new agreement leases the 13,500 square foot space to Carr Properties, which plans to build an office building on 1700 New York Avenue N.W.

"This is a really nice deal for us," said Fred Bollerer, the museum director and CEO. "We lease that property to Carr Properties for 99 years and they have an option to sign up again for 50 years.

The parking lot has been part of the original purchase of the land in the 1890s. After the Corcoran considered other plans for the property, including an expansion by famed architect Frank Gehry, which failed to raise the required funds, they decided to test the market.

"Even with the downturn in the real estate market nationwide, and the softness in D.C. when we put it on the market, we thought eventually there would be a shortage of office space," Bollerer said.

The developers have put "a significant sum of money" in an escrow account, said Bollerer, and once they obtained a building permit, the escrow transfers to the Corcoran. If they secure the permits in 2011, the Corcoran might start receiving rental income in 2011.

The construction is expected to start in 2012, pending approval by the District agencies such as the historic preservation board, zoning boards and Commission on Fine Arts, among others.

The architect is SmithGroup, an international architecture firm which built the language and communication center at Gallaudet University. The firm is also a partner on the future National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution.

Bollerer said he would like to see a building that compliments the Beaux-Arts style of the Corcoran.

"Our only demand was that they satisfy those approval panels. Our feeling was if they satisfy the historic preservation and other bodies, we are not going to stand in the way of the building design," Bollerer said.

The Corcoran, founded in 1869, is the city's first and largest private museum. It relies mainly on fund-raising and college tuition for its budget. The current budget is $24.5 million, with an operating deficit of $2.9 million, said Bollerer.

By Jacqueline Trescott  | December 14, 2010; 6:00 PM ET
Categories:  Jacqueline Trescott, Museums  | Tags:  Carr Properties, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Fred Bollerer, museums in Washington  
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