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High vacancy prompts office-to-apartment conversion proposal in Old Town North

1201 E. Abingdon Drive in Old Town North (via Google Maps)

(Updated 5:25 p.m.) The owner of an aging office building in Old Town North wants it converted into a 136-unit apartment building, and credits the decision to the “ongoing and diminished office market and current high vacancy rate.”

The five-story, 112,000-square-foot office building was built in 1983. It’s owned by Principal Life Insurance Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, and managed by PF III Abingdon LLC, an affiliate of the D.C.-based real estate investment firm the Pinkard Group.

“Due to the on-going, diminished office market and current high vacancy rate, the Applicant seeks residential use to repurpose the building,” PF III Abingdon LLC said in its application.

The group wants approval to build a new 43,352-square-foot building wing at the south of the property, which is currently occupied by a surface parking lot. They want to increase the 50-foot height limit to 65 feet to accommodate a mechanical penthouse on top of the building, as well as make lobby, courtyard and other aesthetic improvements. The plan also includes seven on-site affordable housing apartments.

The plan will go to the Planning Commission on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

Despite having a high vacancy rate, the applicant said that traffic in the area will diminish.

“The surrounding streets will operate at a less congested state with residential use as compared to office use,” the applicant said.No new parking will be constructed as the existing parking is sufficient for the proposed number of residential units.”

The proposal joins a trend of local developers converting outdated offices to residential properties, as roughly a quarter of workers in the D.C. Metro area continue working remotely.

Image via Google Maps

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