Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton’s former offices in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton said Monday that it moved into new offices at 2112 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., relocating approximately one-quarter mile up the road from its old offices in Washington, D.C.

The New York-headquartered firm inked the deal to relocate within Washington’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood in 2016, when it signed a lease for 114,600 square feet in a new 250,000-square-foot building. The firm nabbed the top five and a half floors in the building, which was developed through a ground lease with George Washington University.

Cleary isn’t the only Big Law firm in the process of swapping one Pennsylvania Avenue address for another these days. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr is also relocating along Pennsylvania Avenue to a new location under a ground lease with GWU. Wilmer made plans late last year to move about one-half mile to 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., next door to Cleary, in August 2022. (Washingtonian fine-dining connoisseurs will recognize the address as the former home of the only TGI Fridays in the nation’s capital.)

GWU is among D.C.’s largest private-sector landowners, and law firms remain atop the list of the city’s largest private-sector office users, per CBRE’s legal sector trends report in 2018. The commercial real estate and investment firm’s report showed many large firms continuing to prize relocation, with the largest firms shrinking their geographical footprints, i.e., their square foot per lawyer, consistently since 2011.

Pennsylvania Avenue’s gravitational pull on Big Law has grown in recent years, including for firms that didn’t already have an address there. Miles & Stockbridge, a Baltimore-based Am Law 200 firm, is moving from K Street to 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. in April 2019. The firm has other offices in the suburban Washington region—in Northern Virginia and Rockville, Maryland—and its newest offices located kitty-corner to the Trump International Hotel are part of a strategic growth plan for the mid-Atlantic region.

Unlike other major metropolitan areas, the waterfront has not historically served as the locus of business for the District of Columbia. A major multibillion-dollar development growing along the Potomac River, however, attracted Fish & Richardson to become the first Big Law tenant to set up shop in the Wharf earlier this year.

Fish’s 120 attorneys and staff moved into the top two floors of a 250,000-square-foot building at 1000 Maine Ave. S.W. Michael Best & Friedrich, a favorite landing pad for prominent Republicans decamping President Donald Trump’s White House, is following Fish’s lead and moving into the same building in early 2019.

As the district grows increasingly crowded, more firms looking to land or relocate within the Beltway may choose to cross the Potomac and look for real estate in Northern Virginia’s Arlington and Alexandria. The D.C.-adjacent towns, which lack the capital’s height restriction, have already attracted Amazon’s coveted HQ2 project and may attract law and lobbying firms looking to grow their footprint in the New Year too.

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