Square 54 stays on schedule

The multi-use complex being constructed at Square 54 is on schedule and finalizing negotiations with an unnamed grocery store chain.

For many months, Square 54 was merely a large hole in the ground, but the underground parking garage has been completed and the building has risen three stories above street level in spots. In addition to physical progress, negotiations with a grocery chain are also moving along, and Boston Properties has a letter of intent to lease from a particular chain, Senior Project Manager Jake Stroman said this week.

“The next step after you secure a letter of intent is to go to a full lease agreement,” Stroman said, at which point the identity of the chain will be announced. While no new leases have been signed for the commercial space under construction since last fall, Stroman describes the activity as “very strong.”

“You would ideally have major tenants for the building lined up prior to starting construction,” Stroman said, but because of Square 54’s size and the amount of time they needed to excavate the site, he said Boston Properties began building on a speculative basis.

“Shortly after we began construction we signed a lease for about 43 percent of the office space,” Stroman said, referring to the lease law firm Hunton & Williams signed last fall.

Last year, the Washington Business Journal reported that Giant Food had agreed to lease the grocery store space.

The buildings will reach their final height and facade work will be underway by the time most students leave campus for the summer next May, Stroman said. The project is still on track to be finished in early 2011.

A traffic lane on 22nd Street between I Street and Pennsylvania Avenue will continue to be closed Monday through Saturday for utility work.

Construction will continue uninterrupted through the winter months, Stroman said, with the biggest challenge being the close proximity to the Metro tunnel running along I Street. Work at Square 54 is only a few feet away from the tunnel at spots.

Though earlier discussion regarding the complex had included a possible additional entrance to the Foggy Bottom Metro station, Stroman said the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority had studied the issue and determined not to incorporate a new entrance into the Square 54 project.

Currently builders are pouring concrete and framing the slab for the courtyard between the buildings of the complex. To create green space, the roof of the parking garage has been designed as a green roof to support 2 to 3 feet of soil.

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