The Freedom Forum, founder of the Newseum, on Tuesday presented Washington, D.C., with an offer they might find hard to refuse – $100 million to purchase the land at Pennsylvania Avenue and 6th Street. If the city accepts, officials hope to relocate the interactive news museum and The Freedom Forum headquarters, which are currently in Arlington, Va., to this site.
The deal consists of $75 million in cash for the land, and a $25 million grant to provide low and moderate-income housing. “We need to have the transaction closed by the end of the year in order for the package to go through,” explained Charles L. Overby, chairman and chief executive officer of The Freedom Forum and Newseum. “We have asked the city to make a decision by the end of the summer.”
Anthony Williams, mayor of the District of Columbia, said the city is “going to move heaven and earth to get this done as quickly as possible.” He described the possibility as a magical, major moment for the city.
The Freedom Forum construction would replace the Department of Employment Services building, which will be relocated. Williams foresees great results if the proposal is accepted. “It will bring additional resources to vitalize our neighborhood,” he said.
Aside from the Newseum and The Freedom Forum's headquarters, plans call for an international conference center, a street-level, quality restaurant open throughout evening hours, a Newseum retail store much larger than the one at the current location, and approximately 100 condominiums.
“We have run out of room,” said Peter Prichard, president of The Freedom Forum and the Newseum. “We need a much larger facility to better serve our public.” The Newseum is expected to more than double in size from its present 72,000-square-feet. The whole project is expected to cost more than $250 million.
The lease for the Arlington building is up in 2003. If the project is approved, it is expected to be ready anywhere between three and five years. The process seems to be going quite smoothly. “We are comfortable with the way things have gone so far,” said Overby, “but ask me again in September.”
Adam Clayton Powell III, vice president of technology and programs for The Freedom Forum, is convinced the new location is ideal. “Pennsylvania Avenue is the avenue of freedom,” he said. The Freedom Forum and Newseum seem to have found a good home. Downtown D.C. beat out Madison Avenue in New York City, and managed to keep the world renowned news organization.