ATF Building History

Site History

A historically industrial area, the New York Avenue corridor was home to a thriving warehouse district and Baltimore & Ohio Railroad hub in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As trucking replaced rail service in the delivery of goods to the city, the neighborhood declined and buildings were abandoned. Today, New York Avenue is one of the region’s most congested daily commuter routes. The corridor carries significant local traffic as well as high volumes of truck traffic due to the industrial and commercial businesses that line the avenue. The industrial nature of this strip, however, is changing. Interest in redeveloping the area is growing as Washington faces an unprecedented demand for housing and commercial development.

Responding to the June 1995 presidential directive to upgrade federal facilities after the Oklahoma City bombing, the site selection of the ATF building sought to accommodate general office space, training rooms, an auditorium, underground parking and auxiliary services while providing the required security setbacks. The emerging North of Massachusetts Avenue (NoMA) neighborhood provided an ideal location for the new building with easy metro access and the opportunity to integrate mixed-use facilities along the eastern edge of the complex.

Design & Construction

The building’s intriguing shape - combining a commanding gateway and a courtyard memorial - made it an instant landmark in the emerging North of Massachusetts Avenue or NoMA neighborhood. Designed by architect Moshe Safdie, the 422,000 square foot ATF headquarters is one of the most geometrically compelling buildings in the city. It consists of three inter-connected wings in the shape of a reverse L with a crescent nestled inside. The main entrance is located at the intersection of N and 2nd Streets NE, directly across from the NoMa-Gallaudet U Metro Station. The entrance has a large rectangular gateway that opens onto a courtyard containing a memorial honoring those who died in service to ATF and its predecessor agencies. Completed in 2008, the highly secure ATF Headquarters facility meets the most stringent blast-resistance requirements and is certified at the silver level of the U.S Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) rating system.

Ariel Rios

On May 20, 2016, President Barack Obama signed legislation into effect naming the new ATF Headquarters Building in honor of former ATF Special Agent Ariel Rios. Special Agent Ariel Rios joined the Bureau in 1978 and was one of the most effective agents assigned to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush’s Anti-Drug Task Force. As part of the task force, Special Agent Rios worked as an undercover agent. In 1982, Special Agent Rios and another agent arranged to meet two suspects at the Hurricane Motel in Miami, Florida to purchase large quantities of illegal paraphernalia. A confrontation ensued and in a struggle, Special Agent Rios was shot and seriously wounded. He died shortly after on December 2, 1982.

Special Agent Rios received a number of posthumous awards including the Secretary of the Treasury’s Exceptional Service Award and a Meritorious Service Award from the Dade County Chiefs of Police Association. In 1985 the former ATF headquarters at 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue was named in honor of Ariel Rios. Following the relocation of ATF, the Environmental Protection Agency took up occupancy of the building and in 2013 it was renamed in honor of President William Jefferson Clinton. The dedication of the new ATF Headquarters Building reinstates the original honor given to Special Agent Rios in tribute to his sacrifice.

Last Reviewed: 2018-01-03