The Federal Triangle occupies the wedge of land between Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues and 14th Street. In the early 1900s, city planners, architects and government officials launched a movement to resurrect Pierre L’Enfant’s glorious plan for the nation’s capital, which would have developed the Federal Triangle area. The great surge of construction yielded eight monumental buildings between 6th and 15th Streets. By the mid-1930s, the country was deep in the Depression and construction halted prior to its completion. The undeveloped area was paved over and used as a parking lot for more than 50 years (pictured above).
In 1987, 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. It 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.” This law fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s dream to revitalize Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Federal Triangle Development Act provided the ITC enabling legislation and called for the initial construction and its ongoing operation and maintenance. This Act instituted the requirement that the International Trade Center (ITC) operate in a financially, self-sustaining manner. The ITC legislation and the planning goals require that the following be achieved:
- Facilitate and support a Federal Trade program designed to enhance the exchange of American goods and services in the international marketplace
- Enhance the vitality of Pennsylvania Avenue and its environs
- Create a pedestrian link between the National Mall and the city’s central business district
- Create a facility that provides a visual testimony to the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American Government
- Maximize the financial return on the Government’s investment to support the Center’s activities
Under the direction of the U.S. General Services Administration and Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners of New York – in association with Ellerbe Beckett, Architects and Engineers of Washington, DC were selected as the building architects in 1989. Construction began in 1990. In 1995 Congress voted unanimously to name the building after President Ronald Reagan, who had signed the legislation authorizing its construction. Three years later, the building was officially dedicated on May 5, 1998.