The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, named after former United States President Ronald Reagan, is the first federal building in Washington, D.C. designed for both governmental and private sector purposes. Each of the organizations located in the Pennsylvania Avenue building are dedicated to international trade and globalization. Organizations headquartered in this building include the U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The first private sector lease was signed with investment banking firm Quarterdeck Investment Partners, Inc. The building hosts conferences, trade shows, cultural events, and outdoor concerts. However, post-9/11 security requirements for high-profile federal buildings have limited the extent of the public/private access anticipated by its designers.
The building is located above the Federal Triangle Metro station at what was once known as the "plague spot" in Washington, an area once populated heavily with saloons and brothels. The federal government purchased the land in the 1920s, and it was to be part of the Federal Triangle redevelopment of the late 1920s and 1930s. Until development on the current building began in 1996, the area known as the "Great Plaza" was used as a massive downtown parking lot. The building, designed by James Ingo Freed (of the architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners) and Ellerbe Becket, is located in front of the Oscar Straus Memorial.
At the time it was built, the Ronald Reagan Building was the most expensive federal building ever constructed, at a cost of $768 million. As a federal office building, it is second in size only to the Pentagon. Its naming was controversial, because Ronald Reagan was considered to be a champion of small government and this building was seen by some as an example of a government waste. The conference center hosts over 1,200 events each year, including many of Washington's annual social galas. With the city's largest parking garage, information center, and a metro rail station, the building is visited by over 1 million tourists each year. The summer concert series held on the Woodrow Wilson Plaza and the many food options draw many to the building during the lunch hour.