Adaptive Reuse

Foster-designed Apple store proposed for historic Carnegie Library in D.C.

East Preservation
Foster-designed Apple store proposed for historic Carnegie Library in D.C (Courtesy NCinDC/Flickr)
Foster-designed Apple store proposed for historic Carnegie Library in D.C (Courtesy NCinDC/Flickr)

The Carnegie Library at Mount Vernon Square, a historic building next to Washington’s Convention Center, is likely to become the home of a flagship Apple store designed by Foster + Partners of London.

Events D.C., the convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, last week entered into a letter of intent with Apple to lease portions of the 63,000-square-foot library, which is under its jurisdiction.

If negotiations are successful, the development will reimagine the historic site for the 21st century, while remaining consistent with its original purpose.

The plan calls for the tech giant to renovate the 1903 library at 801 K. Street N. W. and pay market-rate rent to operate a store designed by Foster + Partners, which was founded by Norman Foster and also designed Apple stores in San Francisco and London.

“This is an extremely important repositioning of an iconic building—a building whose original purpose was about community, information and sharing of knowledge,” said Max Brown, chairman of the board of Events DC. “Amid rapid change in our city, we are confident the space can become a true blend of the square’s past and future.”

“We are excited that Apple is interested in joining our growing tech ecosystem,” said Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser. “The store’s proposed location… will link D.C.’s rich history to our continued economic renaissance, will demonstrate the strength of our retail market, and will tell companies across the globe that the District is open for business.”


According to Events DC, the proposed arrangement calls for Apple to lease portions of the library’s ground floor and basement levels under a 10-year lease, with two five-year options to renew. Events DC will have certain rights to use non-retail areas of the library for special events, and Apple will “co-locate” in the library with its existing tenant, The Historical Society of Washington.

“A partnership with Apple would be a tremendous opportunity for Events DC, for the Historical Society, and for the District,” said Gregory A. O’Dell, president and chief executive officer of Events DC. “Not only can this new partnership cement the Shaw neighborhood as a convention and entertainment district in the city, but it can also drive economic impact with substantial revenue opportunities.

Designed by Ackerman & Ross in the Beaux Arts style, the Carnegie Library was one of thousands of libraries funded by steel industry titan Andrew Carnegie, and it was the first fully-integrated public building in Washington, D.C.

In 1999, Congress granted $2 million and a 99-year lease to the historical society to use the building as a history museum about Washington, D.C. After $20 million worth of renovations funded by local donors, the library has served as the home of the historical society’s exhibits, public programs, and renowned Kiplinger Research Library since 2003.

The area around the library has seen rapid growth in recent years, with the opening of the Marriott Marquis Washington and a series of new restaurants, stores and housing developments.

In 2014, Carnegie Library was considered as a new home for the International Spy Museum, which had outgrown its current location at 800 F. Street N. W. But the museum and its architect, MGA Partners, wanted to build additions to the existing structure and their plan was turned down by historic preservationists.

Now that Events D. C. has shown support for Apple’s project, plans still must be approved by the National Capital Planning Commission and Washington’s Historic Preservation Review Board before construction can begin. It would be the second Apple store in Washington, after one in Georgetown.

Related Stories