Friday, November 30, 2012

Trump Emphasizes Preservation in Plans for Old Post Office

Old Post Office building
From the top, 315 feet above the street, a visitor is greeted with sweeping 360 degree view of the city.  The Capitol Building dome rises in the near distance, airplanes appear to graze the Potomac, and the city's radial streets fan out in all directions. In the far distance, the Washington Cathedral and the Pentagon anchor opposite skylines.

The Old Post Office Building and tower, the third tallest structure in DC (behind the Washington Monument and the Basilica), at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, with its cavernous atrium and spectacular architecture, is finally getting deserved, if delayed, attention as a destination venue.  Long underutilized as nondescript federal offices and a food court to match, details of a new design have finally emerged.

In February, the General Services Administration (GSA) selected the Trump Organization to overhaul the building.   Thursday night theTrump team presented in-depth plans for the overhaul of the Old Post Office Tower building at the annual membership meeting of the DC Preservation League.

Bird's-eye view of existing floor plan
David Horowitz of the Trump Organization told the preservation group - the very group that that helped save the building over 40 years ago - that the Trump group sees the hotel as its top project and that the project will place a heavy emphasis on preservation.

"Our goal for this property is to build the best hotel in Washington, DC, and realistically, the world," Horowitz told the crowd. "We see an important role as the caretaker of this historic building on our nation's Main Street."  He emphasized that the plans are still in development.

Architect Hany Hassan, FAIA, partner at Beyer Blinder Belle in DC, presented the vision for the building.  He sketched a tentative plan that would extend the original ground floor level in the building's central cortile - bringing back the "slab" on which the first post office workers sorted mail - and then open it up to public entrances from all sides.

Hotel drop-offs are penciled in for 11th and 12th streets, with retail and cafe space with outdoor seating on C Street and on Pennsylvania Avenue. "The building will finally be accessible to the public from all directions," Hassan said.

Idea to extend ground floor. Image: Trump Org. presentation
The south side is where the Trump Organization would locate the public entrance to a lobby leading to the tower elevators and the Clock Tower Museum, which first opened to the public in 1985.

The existing mezzanine will likely be expanded for a restaurant or cafe, Hassan said.  He asked the audience to imagine Grand Central Station in New York.  "The only difference here is that while you are at this mezzanine level you are not only appreciating the ground floor, you will also be able to look up to the north and see the clock tower, which is one of the most beautiful features of this building," Hassan said.

Hassan said that, for him, the restoration was a dream project to be approached with humility. He said the project entails a great responsibility to preserve and enhance the building "and the synergy and energy that it will bring to Federal Triangle and connecting the National Mall and the monumental core to the downtown."

Hassan said the glass annex that was added to the building in the 20th century would house banquet rooms, conference rooms, and public event spaces. The upper levels will house guest rooms that will preserve the building's original room layout. The larger, postmaster general's office on the fifth floor, for example, might become a suite, Hassan said.  Some windows might be added on the ninth floor to "give incredible views of the city."

In Hassan's eyes, “the building has these incredible bones and all you have to do is work with it and respect it.” The Trump team - with Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump heading the DC project - has set a timeline for breaking ground in 2014 with delivery of a 250-room hotel in 2016.
Tentative rendering. Image: Trump Organization presentation

The building, dating back to 1892, was almost torn down in 1926 when construction on the neo-classical Federal Triangle began and the building went out of style.  Demolition permits were again issued in the 1970s, but a small group of protestors formed the "Don't Tear it Down" movement to save the building.  That group later turned into the DC Preservation League.

Washington D.C. real estate development news


Anonymous said...

I would like to see the architect's plans for "adding windows" to the ninth floor. If he thinks that adding. for example, large plate glass windows to the building's facade is OK, some might have issue with that. Insensitive additions have ruined many a gorgeous older building.

Rebecca Miller on Dec 3, 2012, 10:28:00 AM said...

Anonymous - there is further information about the project at There is also information and pictures in the Historic Structures Report that show the windows that were original to the ninth floor - but have since been covered up.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to see the Trump family so close to the White House...hopefully "Trump trumps" won't be on the Hotel.

Skidrowe said...

The Trump connection makes me nervous, too. But Beyer Blinder Belle is top-notch, and this is a relatively rare case in which the almost limitless powers of DC's preservationists provide relief instead of disgust. I feel confident they'll keep Trump on a short leash.

Anonymous said...

If they cover over tge first floor that doesn't seem like preservation. I thought the original building had a glass first floor over the sorting areas on the basement level?

Anonymous said...

The use as a hotel is brilliant and overdue. However, the imagery in this article suggests little will be done to address the original design flaws including the gloomy daylighting in the atrium. It needs something brilliant to bring better natural light in to that cavernous old airshaft. Don’t make it a place no one wants to be in - again.

Anonymous said...

This is one of my favorite buildings in the world. I've never been a Trump-hater - they know how to spend money on what needs to be done (see Mar-a-Lago) - but any massive redevelopment here makes me a little nervous. However, those worries are largely assuaged by learning that Beyer Blinder Belle is the architect. I am very excited to see this place revitalized once again, and made even more accessible to the public.

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