Infamous Watergate Office Up for Rent

The site of the infamous Watergate burglary is now up for rent. To some, the old Democratic headquarters that the Nixon White House tried to bug is just another office. But historians want to commemorate the space.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

There was a time when the Watergate building complex had more buzz than it ever wanted. It gave the name to the scandal that destroyed President Nixon. It became a suffix for every scandal sets - Iran-gate, Monica-gate, Foley-gate. Now, its most famous office space is up for rent. And we have a report, not from Sacha Baron Cohen, but from Stuart Cohen.

STUART COHEN: Some might say, you can't put a price on history. But the owners of the Watergate certainly are trying. For $42 a square foot, Suite 610 at 2,600, Virginia Avenue, Northwest - is up for rent. That's a pretty average price by Washington's commercial real estate standards. But Suite 610's past is anything but average.

(Soundbite of news broadcast)

Unidentified Newscaster #1: The illegal bugging apparently was one of aim of a team which broke into the Democratic National Headquarters in Washington during the weekend. And the political backgrounds of the men charged in the case, have kicked up a storm.

(Soundbite of key opening a lock)

Unidentified Newscaster #1: Barry Serasin(ph) has this story.

BARRY SERASIN: The Watergate apartment hotel office complex…

Mr. DOUG MULLER(ph): Well, this is a - this is Suite 610, it's about 4,000 square feet, comprised of eight windowed-offices. You can see that the space is in fairly good condition, and the paint and carpet is on good shape.

Mr. COHEN: Doug Muller is the leasing agent at the Watergate. He's shown the office to five perspective tenants so far.

Mr. MULLER: We mention it's part of the Break In Suite and that automatically gets a smile or a nod. It's not really what they'd expect, it's more of a modern contemporary suite. It's finished off very nicely, and I think they have the impression of the Nixon era - guys in Bellbottoms, the weird shirts with the funny collars - I think that's what they're expecting when they walk in.

Mr. COHEN: Some historians aren't happy with Suite 610's decline to just a footnote in history. The building's new owners are aware of that, and manager Jason Salisbury(ph) says they are planning something to memorialize the country's biggest political scandal.

Mr. JASON SALISBURY (Manager, Watergate Hotel): Certainly I'm old enough to have lived through Watergate. And one of the things we are considering is almost homage to the Watergate break in. A graphic collage, perhaps - a historical collage - that we'd represent on each of the floors of the building. And just bring back some history of Watergate.

Mr. COHEN: But that history of scandal hasn't scared all the politicians away from the Watergate.

(Soundbite of ringing phone)

Unidentified Woman #1: Libertarian Party. Yes, hold on one second, let me transfer your call.

Mr. COHEN: Four floors below the old DNC offices are the headquarters of the Libertarian National Committee. Shane Corey is their executive director.

Mr. SHANE COREY (Executive Director, Libertarian National Committee): Us being a third party and an alternative, we like to showcase the Watergate. We don't mind that.

Mr. COHEN: So do you worry about bugging?

Mr. CORY: Well, I'd say, you know, we've been around for 35 years. We have never won a federal race. Once we win a seat or two then we'll start worrying about it - but for now, no, we don't.

Mr. COHEN: The previous tenants say political sightseers stopped knocking on their door years ago. It's likely Suite 610 will now have a new life as a place to get your will drafted, or have your teeth filled.

For NPR News, I'm Stuart Cohen in Washington.

INSKEEP: You're listening to NPR News.

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