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PTO Opens Its Doors

Ribbon-cutting ceremony marks first of five buildings ready for occupancy.

After 14 years of discussion, competition, development and controversy, the first of the five buildings that will serve as headquarters to the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office opened its doors at Carlyle in Alexandria this week.

"This all began with a little piece of paper that was handed around in the U. S. Senate that said Prospectus,” said Virginia Senator John Warner at Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. “The U. S. Patent and Trademark Office was looking for a new headquarters and 49 other states wanted it. The reason I got so interested in this project is because Alexandria is my hometown. Alexandria is a historical landmark. And what I’m about to tell you relates to history. It’s about the Constitution of the United States. Article I Section 8: To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries…

“There it is. One of the very few entities of our vast federal government that has specific origins by the founding fathers. This community is where much of it started so it was the right place for it to be and I happened to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time on the committee that received that prospectus from the General Services Administration…” he said.

US Representative James P. Moran (D-8) has also supported the project since its inception. “It’s been a long road but we are finally here, opening this magnificent new headquarters for the Patent and Trademark Office,” he said. “We are proud that the PTO and its employees will be part of the Alexandria community.”

THE PTO CAME to Alexandria largely due to the lobbying of Warner and Moran and of former mayor Kerry J. Donley. Current mayor, William D. Euille, recognized that contribution. “We began looking at economic growth opportunities for Alexandria in 1995 and will realize not just the millions of dollars in benefits from the PTO headquarters being in the city but also the contributions that PTO employees and LCOR have and are continuing to make to our community and our young people. Bill Hard promised that LCOR would be a good citizen and he has more than lived up to that commitment. We look forward to a long partnership with PTO, GSA and LCOR,” Euille said.

When the cast of dignitaries cut the ribbon, they opened the Henry Remsen building. By February, the Jefferson building will open and by early 2005, all five buildings will be occupied.

“We broke ground 23 months ago and, in less than a year, we will have completed this two million square feet of office space and will have a project that we can all be very proud of,” said William Hard, the executive vice president of LCOR, the owner of the PTO campus.

“We worked closely with our unions to design the interiors and the work space,” said Mike Bevenoin, the architect from PTO who worked on the project. “By using the same carpet and simply alternating colors on even and odd floors, we were able to buy in bulk and reduce our price significantly. Our examiners work at computers and wanted to have colorful entry spaces and neutral work spaces.”

THE FLOORS HAVE rows of offices, a conference room, a kitchen/snack area and central space for copiers, supply rooms and support staff. Each office is 150 square feet of space. Senior staff have private offices and junior staff share an office with one other person.

“The lobby of each building has public space and all of the buildings are connected through a series of walkways,” said Rick Hendricks, the project executive for the General Services Administration. That public space includes an auditorium, a cafeteria that is open to the public, meeting rooms and an eight-story atrium.

“We have the same amount of space that we have in Crystal City but we are getting conference rooms that we don’t have, an auditorium that we don’t have, a cafeteria that we don’t have and a child development center,” Hendricks said.

And, they are saving money. “When we move into this space, we will be paying $5 less per square foot than the people around us,” Hendricks said. “That price is fixed for the next 20 years. So, we will have saved the government $200 million over the next 20 years just from that alone.”

The buildings are equipped with energy-saving mechanisms that will allow lights to go off at certain hours if no one is on the floor and for heating and air conditioning to be turned down to night time levels. The sprinkler system comes on one head at a time depending on the temperature in that particular area of the floor and turns off when the temperature decreases to appropriate levels.

There is space for “hoteling” as well. “Right now, 150 trademark employees telecommute,” Bevenoin said. “If these employees want to come in to collaborate with others, there will be office space for them that will be equipped not with desks but with tables and chairs. Those who work at home can come in, open their laptops and begin to work with colleagues.”

WITHIN A WEEK, there will be 500 employees in the Remsen building and some number of cars in the one garage that is open. By 2005, there will be 7,100 employees and 3,500 cars in two garages. There will be traffic and congestion and a tunnel under Duke Street that has yet to be built. For now, however, there is one shiny new building and a cause for celebration.