Comptroller's Staff Roughs It At Remote New Headquarters
Cabbies question whether the building actually exists. Messengers struggle to find it. And people who work there have designated it "federal wasteland."
Welcome to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's new headquarters - somewhere off the beaten path in southwest Washington.
In May, the Comptroller's office uprooted 700 employees and contractors and moved them to the new Independence Square, a remote address bordered by a freeway on one side, rusty railroad tracks on another, and a dingy electrical substation out in front.
The agency swapped the new digs for its old space in the heart of the capital, at L'Enfant Plaza, which has stores, restaurants, banks, and its own Metro station.
Employees haven't quite settled into their new home.
"It's inconvenient," said one.
"I'm worried about how I'm going to get shoes," groused another. "The only nice thing about this location is that you can walk to the Botanic Gardens."
There are hardly any stores for block after block, just squarish government office buildings. The only convenient dining spot besides the cafeteria is the Market Inn, an informal restaurant next door that is known for fresh seafood and paintings of nude women on the walls.
Folks at the restaurant are glad to have new neighbors. "I think they have helped out our lunch business," said Aurellia Clontz, the Market Inn's office manager.
Defenders of the new building claim it's much more functional and efficient than the L'Enfant Plaza facility. It is comfortable, well appointed, and has a roof garden, they say.
A Fair Bill of Fare
And the cafeteria food get's passing grades. "I eat down there every day," said Jimmy F. Barton, deputy comptroller for multinational banking.
In addition, the agency projects that it will save about $2 million on its lease over the first five years at the out-of-the-way location, said Frank Maguire, senior deputy comptroller for legislative and public affairs.
He said he favored the move because the old building had too many shortcomings. On occasion the toilets wouldn't flush, he said, and it was difficult to leave the building late at night, because the elevators were shut off.