Woodward & Lothrop Building

Woodward & Lothrop Building

Bringing Modern Sensibility to a Historic Gem

More than a century ago, Woodward & Lothrop opened the doors of its flagship department store. Over the years, the Woodies Building became such a beloved landmark that books were written to pay tribute to its history. But by 1995, the store closed and the retail space was left abandoned.

When Douglas Development bought the property, they wanted to breathe new life into this historic building — and the neighborhood itself. At the time, this was the largest project that Douglas had ever developed. Comprising a full city block along F Street NW, the Woodies Building called for a general contractor that could handle an extremely difficult workload within a tight timeline.

This was a risky, challenging project for us to take on, but we had proven ourselves capable. We'd just wrapped up a unique job with Douglas and architect Shalom Baranes — the Spy Museum and 800 F Street NW — so to be selected for the Woodies Building demonstrated the strength of our partnership with the same team.

  • Project type
    Commercial Repositioning
  • Architect
    Shalom Baranes Associates
  • client
    Douglas Development
  • awards
    DC Preservation League, Preservation Award; AIA DC, Merit Award

Instead of panicking, we got together with our subcontractors and our design team to make sure we did everything in our power to pull this off. That’s just how we do things at DAVIS. We deliver on promises. We won’t let anyone down.

Tom Gnecco, Project Executive, DAVIS

Making it Work

The Woodies Building is located just above the WMATA Metro Center station, a major mass transit hub. This posed access and safety challenges for our team. It’s always difficult to manage the flow of pedestrians on a downtown construction site of this size, but the busy Metro station beneath us made it that much harder. To preserve sidewalk space and allow an uninhibited flow of pedestrian traffic, we mounted a tower crane on the top of the building, and sequenced and conducted intrusive work during off hours.

Codes required that we kept a sidewalk around the building open for foot traffic at all times, so we created pedestrian walkways and were cautious and strategic with our staging. In order to mitigate pedestrian and commuter disturbances while meeting the projected timeline, we operated on a two-shift schedule for the first several months — running from 6:00 a.m. until midnight — to solve the logistical complexities of the busy location.

In Time for the Summer Collection

The building was vacant when we began, but four months into construction, a major retailer — H&M — signed a lease to take 50,000-SF of the ground floor for its flagship store in the District. At H&M's groundbreaking ceremony, DC's Mayor spoke about the rebirth of this historic landmark as a retail destination, promising that H&M would be open in time for summer. This was much earlier than the original building completion date, but we didn't think twice. Our team quickly resequenced the construction plan and schedule to meet the Mayor's timeline, and completed the building after H&M occupied the space.

Classic Aesthetic — Prime Tenants

Structurally, this historic landmark required a lot of work to bring it up to code. Originally constructed in several phases between 1903 and 1925, we encountered diverse construction methods and materials, and hidden challenges to address — all while meeting complex historic building requirements.

We modernized building systems and the interiors for prime retail areas and office space — for signature tenants like the EPA and FBI — and restored and preserved this landmark's beautiful character to meet the National Park Service Historic Preservation Tax Credit standards.

An Award-Winning Restoration

Ultimately, our team effectively tailored our approach to overcome extensive restrictions and meet the aggressive schedule. The building has won many prestigious awards, and the developer recognized DAVIS by placing a plaque with our team members' names in the building lobby. If you take a walk downtown today, you'll find countless new, modern buildings — and we're proud that the treasured Woodward & Lothrop building stands out as a glimpse into DC's rich cultural history.

Photos by Dan Poyourow Photography; H&M photo by DAVIS