Friday, December 16, 2011

Friedman/Schrager AdMo Hotel Rebuked by Office of Planning, May Shrink

The Brian Friedman/Ian Schrager/Marriott International Adams Morgan hotel project received a mild rebuke when the Office of Planning issued a setdown report last month criticizing the hotel design as too tall, among other things. The report went on to list several other points of contention, including concerns about the roof design, the inadequacy of Champlain Street as a main thoroughfare, a dearth of information about potential transit use by hotel patrons, and an “overall lack of information and inadequate drawings.” (!!)

The most potentially problematic of the Office's objections was the height overrun, which at 92 feet was two feet over the C-2-B PUD maximum. While the Office does have the prerogative to grant a 5% flexibility height exception, an anonymous source tells DCMud that developers are now leaning towards lopping off that two feet rather than making the case that the 92-foot height is "essential to the functioning of the project."

One possible avenue to this (speculation alert!) would be amendment of the roof design, to which the Office of Planning also took exception. Looking at the mockups, the present roof design seems to consist of multiple stacked tiers or platforms ("the rooftop would exhibit multiple heights where only one is allowed"). Amending this to a flatter, more consistent design seems like an obvious two-bird-one-stone solution.

Friedman’s plan to convert the historic First Church of Christ building at 1782 Columbia Road into an 174-room Ian Schrager-designed Edition boutique hotel has traveled a bumpy road from the very beginning. Early community resistance centered around a 20-year $46 million tax abatement the city awarded the project. With the D.C. budget in tatters and the tide of conventional wisdom starting to turn against Nineties-era orthodoxy about the public value of municipal givebacks like tax abatements and publicly-funded stadium construction (many studies have shown the economic benefits promised by builders seeking subsidies have been negligible or nonexistent), many observers wondered why a luxury hotel needed handouts. (Standard rebuttal - a number of hotels in DC received similar abatements; the abatement is a vital part of the financing package, i.e. the hotel can't be built without it; the abatement is just a discount on future tax revenues - estimated at $7 million per year - none of which will reach city coffers if the hotel isn't built.)

Local critics also wondered if the location was right for a high-end hotel, pointing out the neighborhood’s lack of access via public transportation, its potential harmful effects on area rents and, again, the narrowness of adjacent Champlain Street (some online commenters astutely observed that design mockups seemed to fudge street proportions). Friedman assuaged some of these concerns by emphasizing the number of jobs that will be created by the hotel's construction (1,500 construction jobs alone), partnering with the Adams Morgan Youth Leadership Academy to provide jobs and apprenticeships to local youth, and throwing in a 4,000 square foot Adams Morgan community center.

Overall the plan calls for a conversion of the existing church building into a restaurant and bar, with the southfacing c-shaped hotel itself being built on the church's rear parcel (now a parking lot) and on the adjacent lot on Champlain, the present home of Washington City Paper and jazz radio station WPFW.

Washington D.C. real estate development news


Anonymous said...

I swear to God, the small mindedness of people in this city never ceases to amaze me. This project is a huge boon to a neighborhood trying to transition from a public urinal trough into a livable, semi-upscale neighborhood and a city that wants so desperately to be as cool as any other city of it's size and importance. The design isn't overwhelming, but I'm certain Ian Schrager isn't putting his name on a ratty flop-house. The finishes and interiors I'm sure will be stunning. It seems the people on these boards are all terrified of any kind of growth for the city and what they're going to end up with is a perversion of a big city that satisfies nobody. How do we get these people canned?

Anonymous said...


mediocre bad guy on Dec 18, 2011, 11:53:00 AM said...

Oh good, they're going to simplify the roofline so now it will just look like a standard DC box. And since when does an upscale hotel reduce rents in the surrounding neighborhood?


Anonymous said...


Craig Dionto on Mar 5, 2012, 5:13:00 AM said...

This is an important project yet very few people know about it and how it may impact the community for the long-run.

Please send your feedback about the hotel here >>

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