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Watergate, the building, starts renovation process

Tuesday - 6/12/2012, 6:00am  ET

The Watergate Office Building, known best for the 1972 break-in on its 6th floor that led to the resignation of President Nixon. 40 years after the scandal, the building is about to be renovated. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
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Michelle Basch,

WASHINGTON - The crime that happened within its walls led to the first and only resignation of a U.S. President: Richard Nixon.

Forty years after the Watergate scandal, the office building of the same name is headed for a renovation starting this week.

"The vision is to return the building to its glory. It's a work of art," says Matt Pacinelli, senior vice president of leasing at Penzance. The real estate company bought the building in November 2011.

The 11-story building, one of five in the complex, dates to 1967.

Pacinelli says changes to the building's fašade will be relatively minimal.

"We really want to respect the original design, the (Luigi) Moretti design. It's sort of a 'less is more' approach," Pacinelli says.

Pacinelli says one change involves removing part of the concrete wall in front of the building and replacing it with glass.

The break-in that brought down a president happened on the building's sixth floor, which at the time was the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.

The sixth floor offers no distinguishing features. It looked like any typical office.

There's a rumor that the floor has a plaque commemorating its history.

Pacinelli says his company heard the same story.

"We didn't find the plaque when we acquired the building either," Pacinelli says with a laugh.

He says he thinks the explanation may be that the previous tenants put up their own plaque, and then removed it when they moved out.

There are no plans to place a plaque inside the building, and so far talks with local museums about placing something outside the building have not panned out.

Pacinelli says some have suggested setting aside space on the sixth floor for a museum or gallery, but that won't happen.

"We're just going to market it as office space. We don't really want to disrupt the experience of our other tenants in the building, but we're hopeful that we'll find a tenant that appreciates the history there," Pacinelli says.

Renovations are expected to be finished in the fall.

Pacinelli says in addition to its excellent location, tenants interested in moving into one of the top four floors will find stunning views.

"All the major monuments, the D.C. skyline which is Rosslyn, and the Potomac River."

Penzance also owns the retail plaza connected to the building, and is in the process of coming up with design concepts for it.

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