Apr 4, 2024 - Development

The latest D.C. empty-office pivot: weddings

A top floor penthouse overlooking the Capitol Building with a bar where two ladies sit having drinks

Office building or wedding venue? Photo: Signal House, courtesy of Carr + Events

Apartments. Art galleries. What to do with D.C.'s glut of unoccupied office space is the topic du jour, and one mega-developer thinks it's found an answer: upscale private events.

Why it matters: Carr Properties is behind some of the glitziest developments in town — think the billion-dollar Midtown Center — and their new venture is an intriguing pivot for the trophy office market.

The big picture: Less than half of D.C. office workers are on-site compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to a recent report from building security firm Kastle — the lowest percentage of ten large metro areas surveyed.

What they're saying: "We need to think more like hotels," CEO Oliver Carr tells Axios. "We've got beautiful buildings in great locations with spectacular views, but we haven't been maximizing the potential of the asset."

  • Think private dinners, corporate off-sites, cocktail receptions — even weddings.

Zoom in: The company realizes that saying 'I do' in a half-empty office building might give Dunder Mifflin vibes. So it's homing in on four of its most amenity-rich properties, along with one in Boston.

  • Signal House in the Union Market District has an indoor/outdoor penthouse, firepits, and fun features like a DJ booth and karaoke room, plus catering from ground-floor tenant Stephen Starr.
  • 1700 New York Avenue has expansive views of the National Mall from its rooftop terrace.
A rooftop terrace overlooking the Washington Monument
The terrace at 1700 NY Ave. Photo: courtesy Carr + Events

How it works: Carr + Events venues can serve anywhere from 10 people to 700. Carr says the pricing structure is market-based, depending on the date, season, and what comparable spaces are offering (so, not cheap).

  • It's a soup-to-nuts operation with janitorial services, security, a parking attendant, plus optional day-of events coordinators.

Between the lines: Full-time tenants, who can also use the events program, are still a top priority for the developer. Despite the down market, Carr says their properties remain 90% leased overall.

  • "We're sensitive to what kind of events are appropriate for any given building," he tells Axios. "Having a bachelor party probably wouldn't work."

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