Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center

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Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
Ronald Reagan Building.JPG
14th Street, NW side of the building
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center is located in Washington, D.C.
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
Location within Washington, D.C.
General information
Address 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Town or city Washington, D.C.
Country United States
Coordinates 38°53′38″N 77°1′51″W / 38.89389°N 77.03083°W / 38.89389; -77.03083Coordinates: 38°53′38″N 77°1′51″W / 38.89389°N 77.03083°W / 38.89389; -77.03083
Inaugurated May 5, 1998
Cost $768 million
Owner General Services Administration
Design and construction
Architect James Ingo Freed
Architecture firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
Ellerbe Becket

The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, named after former United States President Ronald Reagan, is the first federal building in Washington, D.C. designed for both governmental and private sector purposes. It is the second-largest government building in the Washington Metropolitan Area.

Each of the organizations located in the Pennsylvania Avenue building are dedicated to international trade and globalization. Organizations headquartered in this building include the U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The first private sector lease was signed with investment banking firm Quarterdeck Investment Partners, Inc. The building hosts conferences, trade shows, cultural events, and outdoor concerts. However, following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, security requirements for high-profile federal buildings have limited the extent of the public/private access anticipated by the center's designers.


Bethany Chapel in a drawing from the 8/15/03 Post. A mission of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, it was built in 1874 and appears to have been razed for the construction of Federal Triangle.

The building is located near the Federal Triangle Metro station in Washington, an area once populated heavily with saloons and brothels. The federal government purchased the land in the 1920s, and it was to be part of the Federal Triangle redevelopment of the late 1920s and 1930s. Until development on the current building began, the area known as the "Great Plaza" was used as a massive downtown parking lot.[1]

In August 1987, the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Triangle Development Act, authorizing a Federal building complex and international cultural and trade center to complete the redevelopment of Pennsylvania Avenue, for $362 Million.[2] The Act specified that the building "reflect the symbolic importance and historic character of Pennsylvania Avenue and the nation's capital" and "represent the dignity and stability of the Federal Government." The law realized President John F. Kennedy's goal of revitalizing Pennsylvania Avenue.

Under the direction of the U.S. General Services Administration and the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation, architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners of New York, in association with D.C. architects Ellerbe Becket, were selected as the building architects in 1989. The building was designed by James Ingo Freed of Pei Cobb Freed. Construction began in 1990. The building is located in front of the Oscar Straus Memorial.

In 1995, the Congress voted unanimously to name the building after President Ronald Reagan, who had signed the legislation authorizing its construction. The building was officially dedicated three years later on May 5, 1998. At the time it was built, the Ronald Reagan Building was the most expensive federal building ever constructed, at a cost of $768 million. As a federal office building, it is third in size only to the Pentagon and new headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security. Its naming was controversial, because Ronald Reagan was considered to be a champion of small government and the building was seen by some as an example of "big government" and government waste.[3][4][5][6]

In early 2015, the General Services Administration announced that the interior spaces of the Reagan Building had "reached the anticipated end of life cycle in nearly all areas of finishes, carpets, furniture, fixtures and equipment", and it began seeking contractors to extensively renovate the structure.[7]


The conference center hosts over 1,200 events each year, including many of Washington's annual social galas such as the Washington International Trade Association's Annual Dinner, and formerly including the Conservative Political Action Conference.[8] The International Trade Center offers two large ballrooms, exhibition space, pre-function space, and other reception spaces. The outdoor, four-acre Woodrow Wilson Plaza is also used in special events and galas.

With the city's largest parking garage, information center, and a metro rail station, the building is visited by over one million tourists each year. The summer concert series held on the Woodrow Wilson Plaza and the many food options draw many to the building during the lunch hour.


See also[edit]

The building houses a segment of the Berlin Wall, and an accompanying plaque describes Reagan's 1987 "Tear down this wall" speech.


  1. ^ Benjamin Forgey (April 18, 1987). "Energizing the Great Plaza; Trade Center Proposed for Federal Triangle". The Washington Post. 
  2. ^ Judith Havemann (August 8, 1987). "Completion of Federal Triangle Voted;$362 Million International Cultural and Trade Center to Be Built". The Washington Post. 
  3. ^ Paige, Sean. "An Ironic Boondoggle." Insight on the News. October 27, 1997; Molotsky, Irvin. "Building Is Unlikely Tribute to Reagan." New York Times. July 7, 1997; Apple, Jr., R.W. "A Huge Building Honors A Foe of Bigness: Reagan." New York Times. May 6, 1998.
  4. ^ Kirstin Downey Grimsley (December 5, 1993). "Federal Triangle's Points of Contention; Delays, Rising Costs, Changing Concepts Beset Project". The Washington Post. 
  5. ^ Paul Duggan (September 17, 1995). "Progress on a Massive Scale; Federal Triangle Project Hums Along Toward Completion". The Washington Post. 
  6. ^ Peter Behr; Kenneth Lelen (June 5, 1997). "Reagan Building Nears Its Debut; Five Years in the Making, Federal Offices to Begin Opening Next Month". The Washington Post. 
  7. ^ Neibauer, Michael (February 5, 2015). "Changing spaces: Reagan Building interiors have 'reached the anticipated end of life'". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
  8. ^ "CPAC 2005",, January 7, 2005.

External links[edit]

Media related to Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center at Wikimedia Commons