Inside Out Blog

22 Jan

History and Landscape Design Meet at AEI

Inside Out Services recently completed a major landscape design installation during the summer of 2016 at the new headquarters of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C. We performed both an exterior enhancement as well as a major interiorscaping effort for the historic building that will serve as the new home of AEI. It truly was an inside-out project! In the next series of posts we’ll share the challenges we faced in this monumental project and the innovative solutions our design and operations teams devised to meet them.

The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, AEI for short, is a conservative think tank with their current headquarters in Washington, D.C. – 1785 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, to be exact. The AEI was founded in 1938 and was originally located in New York City. It later relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1943 to be closer to Congress and the seat of the American Government.

mellon builing dc aei hq
Historic Mellon Building

Some of the leading lights of conservative politics have been part of AEI over the years. In fact, more than twenty AEI staff members served in the George W. Bush administration. This fact caused Bush to quip during an address to the organization, “I admire AEI a lot—I’m sure you know that. After all, I have been consistently borrowing some of your best people!”

The AEI bills itself as non-partisan and claims it doesn’t push policy positions to the government. In this sense, it’s unlike the Heritage Foundation and the Center for American Progress and is often compared to the left-leaning Brookings Institution in this regard.

Historic Andrew Mellon Building

Where the history of the AEI and Inside Out Services intersect was the planned move of AEI’s headquarters into the Andrew Mellon Building – another piece of American history. The Mellon Building, also known as McCormick Apartments, has stood for over one hundred years on Massachusetts Avenue Northwest on Embassy Row in Washington, D.C.

Some of its famous residents have included Thomas R. Ryan, Sumner Welles, and of course, Andrew Mellon. Mellon was Secretary of the Treasury from 1921 to 1932. Besides being the author of the Mellon economic plan he also founded the National Gallery of Art after purchasing $21 million dollars’ worth of paintings from an art dealer leasing the apartment below him.

The building was converted to office space during the early 1940s. In 1950, the building’s owner, Katherine Dexter McCormick, transferred the deed to the American Council on Education. In a twist of fate, the building was conveyed to the left-leaning Brookings Institution in 1970 and later sold to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1976. The building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976 as the Andrew Mellon Building.

AEI gets a permanent and historic home

Attempts to sell the building after the National Trust had outgrown the space fell through when first put on the market in 2009. Potential buyers considered turning it into a museum or luxury apartments, but there were no takers. The trust took the building off the market in 2010 and began a project to renovate its physical plant including the windows and HVAC system. The AEI purchased the building in June 2013 for $36.5 million.

In 2014, Daniel A. D’Aniello, Vice Chairman of AEI’s Board of Trustees and Chairman and Co-founder of The Carlyle Group, pledged $20 million to AEI to support its mission and facilitate the organization’s move into their new home. The building on Mass Ave. becomes the first permanent home in AEI’s 75-year history. The building has since been renamed the Daniel A. D’Aniello Building.

The National Trust holds a permanent historic preservation easement on the building which protects both the interior and exterior of the Andrew Mellon Building. The mission of Inside Out Services was to perform major landscape installations to both the exterior and interior of the historic building while strictly adhering to the historic easement. You can view some interior photos of the building and get directions on the AEI website. Stay tuned for more details!

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