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Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

14 September 2016

Spy Museum launches construction on new landmark

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser and Museum founder Milton Maltz today joined in celebrating the start of construction on a new International Spy Museum (SPY) building, a landmark that will be a permanent cultural resource at L’Enfant Plaza in the nation’s capital.

More than 120 people attended a celebratory lunch held at the L’Enfant Plaza construction site, including members of the City Council, Congress and the defense and intelligence communities, along with city tourism leaders and representatives of the development team.

The mission of the International Spy Museum is to educate the public about intelligence and espionage in an engaging way and to provide a context that fosters understanding of its important role in and impact on national security and historic events.

“When I served in the National Security Agency in the 1950s, intelligence activities were rarely in the public spotlight,” said Museum founder Milton Maltz. “Half a century later, I founded the International Spy Museum with two goals in mind. First, I hoped to reveal to the public the secret history of history—the stories of clandestine operatives around the globe who worked in the shadows. My second goal was to illuminate the nature and broad range of intelligence, illustrating the techniques of spycraft and its vital role in both war and peace.”

In spring 2016, SPY converted from a commercial museum to a nonprofit when the Maltz Family gifted it as public educational institution.

At 140,000 square feet, the new Museum will provide more than double the floor space of the existing building, at 800 F Street NW, and will include new resources for educational programing, a lecture hall/theater, and multifunction event space with sweeping views of DC.

“It is important in today’s world, that the International Spy Museum exists to help the public recognize and understand the vital role that intelligence plays and its impact on history,” said Museum board member Ambassador R. James Woolsey, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency who also served as ambassador to the Negotiation on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.

SPY, opened in 2002, was the recipient of the city’s first-ever tax increment financing agreement. The deal proved profitable for the city as SPY provided a boost in economic activity in the Penn Quarter area, resulting in an estimated 150 new jobs and $2 million in new annual tax revenue, according to city records. Since opening 14 years ago, SPY has drawn nearly 8 million visitors.

“The District of Columbia is very pleased to bring an expanded Spy Museum to L’Enfant Plaza—permanently,” said Mayor Bowser. “We are fortunate to be able to retain this important resource that was such a catalyst for new investment in Penn Quarter. We fully expect the same kind of return in Southwest, both economically and culturally.”

The District of Columbia worked with The Malrite Company since 2011 to ensure SPY remained in the city. Through the District’s Revenue Bond Program, SPY issued a $50 million bond to help finance construction.

Ivan Harbour, Partner in charge of the project for Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners said: “The bespoke building will be as intriguing as the subject matter it contains. It will attract visitors to its central location moments from the National Mall and in turn help catalyse the evolution of 10th street into one of Washington’s most vibrant people places.”

Design features include a glass “veil” suspended in front of an enclosed “black box” exhibition space that will allow the movement of people to be visible from both inside and outside, contributing to new energy along 10th Street. The veil-and-box motif reflects the Museum’s espionage-related themes of secrets revealed yet hiding in plain sight.

Below-grade construction is underway. Steel construction begins this fall and the new facility is expected to open spring 2018. The JBG Companies will act as owner’s representative during the construction period. Malrite and JBG collaborated on plans for the new Museum, which will be situated directly in front of the glass atrium on the Plaza. Washington-based Gallagher and Associates is the museum exhibition designer and Hickok Cole Architects is the architect of record for the project.

The SPY development at L’Enfant Plaza will create more than 300 construction jobs. Additionally, the new and larger Museum is projected to generate a 20 percent increase in staff.