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WASHINGTON, DC—A media foundation has offered $100 million in cash for the last developable site on Pennsylvania Avenue here. The Freedom Forum wants to buy the property on 6th Street next to the Canadian Embassy so that it can move its Newseum across the Potomac River from Rosslyn, VA.

The offer to the District of Columbia government includes $75 million for the building and a $25-million grant to build low and moderate-income housing. It is said to be the largest price ever paid for a parcel of land in the District. Building the museum and residences on the site would raise the total project cost to $250 million.

The foundation wants to build a mixed-use project of 300,000 sf for the Newseum, the Freedom Forum’s headquarters and a conference center. Some 30,000 sf are also being set aside for a restaurant and Newseum store. The group plans to top the building with 100 condominiums comprising 145,000 sf in keeping with a requirement for housing on the development.

The museum, now in 72,000-sf space, wants to expand. It has had 1.5 million visitors since it opened in 1997, a spokeswoman says. With its lease in Rosslyn expiring in 2003, the foundation needs to know if the offer is accepted by the end of the year.

DC Mayor Anthony Williams would not comment on the disposition of the offer. It is unclear whether the city can sell the property without first putting it up for bid. Because the Federal government holds an interest in the property, city officials may have to put out an RFP.

Local industry sources say few have the resources to match the all-cash, no-strings-attached offer. The Freedom Forum is backed by a $1-billion endowment. The foundation would also waive its right to exemption from the real estate and retail sales taxes that it would incur if the property were used for retail or office development. The DC Department of Employment Services currently occupies the site, and city government officials have been formulating plans to move the agency out.

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