Washington's second most notorious hotel, the Washington Hilton, has sailed through the Historic Preservation and Review Board's (HPRB) approval process with their plans for an 11-story residential addition. With a unanimous 6-0 decision in the bag, the hotel's current owners, Lowe Enterprises Real Estate Group, can move ahead with their intent to bring 160 new apartments or condos to the historically-registered landmark at 1919 Connecticut Avenue NW. The project received historic landmark status in July, triggering the HPRB review.
Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners LLP have been tasked with designing the addition to what is consistently designated one of the Washington area's more aesthetically challenged edifices (up there with Dulles Airport's Jetsons-influenced terminal). Their design will “echo its curvilinear form” – although it will be comprised mostly of glass, in contrast to the Hilton’s concrete-on-concrete facade. According to documents submitted to the HPRB, there is no firm start date for construction, but work on the Hilton is described as “a multi-year project that will occur in phases so that the hotel can continue in operation as the work proceeds.” The cost is expected to total more than $100 million.
In addition to construction, several other elements of the hotel will be renovated. Landscape architects Rhodeside & Harwell will be redesigning the hotel pool, courtyard and residential terrace, while the hotel’s 110,000 square feet of meeting and conference will undergo a dramatic reconfiguration and possibly see the addition of a new restaurant and coffee bar. Parking will also undergo a shift as a new entrance/exit to the residential garage is installed along T Street NW. The residential addition is expected to be sold as condominium units.
Prior to last week’s approval, the project – and the prospect of a massive construction project along Connecticut Avenue, blocks from Dupont Circle – was predictably quick to draw the ire of local citizens associations, including the Kalorama Citizens Association, the Dupont Circle Conservancy, and the Dupont and Adams Morgan ANC, all of which have cited almost-certain complications relating to the project’s bulk, design scheme and traffic.
“Apparently, under zoning law they’re allowed to have some additional amount of FAR [floor area ratio] – which we’re disputing,” said Matt Forman, Executive Vice President of the KCA, whose organization has filed an appeal with the zoning board to contest the addition. “It then comes down to a question of [changing the] design. I didn’t think it was ever going to be a question of HPRB denying the entire project.”
Built in 1965, the Washington Hilton was purchased by Lowe and the Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund in May of last year for $290 million. The renovation plans were announced almost immediately afterwards. Paris Hilton could not be reached for comment.