City Desk

City Paper Hotel, Drawings Circulating


First, let me explain this strange, barely discernible image. The blue rectangle: that's a pool. The green blobs: those are trees. The dark gray parts: asphalt, and the big intersection at the top left side of the picture is the crossing of 18th Street NW and Columbia Road in Adams Morgan.

Now that you have your bearings, let's discuss that lined structure in the center: a boutique hotel occupying the space currently home to the Washington City Paper and Pacifica radio's offices.

A hotel deal has been in the works for quite some time now, as we reported last fall. But, this spring, developer Brian Friedman has been making the rounds to various neighborhood associations to talk about his vision. Recently, the local advisory neighborhood commission endorsed the idea of the project, though members oppose the 90-foot height of the building, which would set a new precedent in the area. The Reed-Cooke Neighborhood Association took a similar stance.

"I’m in favor of the preservation of the building and the idea of a hotel. My problem is the bulk of it and the height of it. It would be asking Champlain Street to absorb an awful lot—the traffic, the cabs," says Denis James, head of the Kalorama Citizens Association, who attended last week's ANC meeting. James said he knew the height of the building was going to be a hot-button issue for his group, so he told developer Friedman to bring plenty of plans showing the size.

That, apparently, was a no-can-do.

"I met with him for two hours. I pointed out four or five different things. He didn’t bring any of them," says James.

Of course, City Paper itself will not be affected by these concerns, should the hotel plan be approved. We will be gone—hopefully, in a funky converted warehouse in some part of town that is both Metro-accessible and not terribly conducive to random employee muggings. At least, that is the dream, says our real estate agent Susan Cohn.

Creative Loafing, our parent company, would ideally like us to relocate in a renovated industrial space, but if there's nothing available within our budget, then a regular office will have to do.

Developer Friedman already has a contract on our current building. He has also sniffed out a new space for us in Tenleytown and would like to purchase that building if we agree to move there, says Cohn.

The newspaper is not quite on board yet.

"We have to be a competitive shopper and look around," according to Cohn, who says the City Paper should aim to lock down a warehouse space, which would probably need a fair amount of construction and rehabbing, by the end of the summer, or a regular office space by the end of the year. She's already picked out a couple industrial options to examine in and around Fort Totten Park, NoMa, the Washington Navy Yard, and neighborhoods by the National Arboretum. If those prove unattainable, she's also found possible offices all over the city (we're talking Dupont Circle to Georgetown to Southwest). In other words, the future is entirely uncertain—except for this fact: the move would likely take place in fall 2009.

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  • Joshua

    What? A swimming pool in Adams Morgan and no one has yet made a 'peeing in the pool' joke?

  • Matt

    Good luck finding your funky warehouse space "not terribly conducive to random employee muggings" in some of the proposed locations (e.g., near the National Arboretum). I'm sure going to-and-fro via Trinidad checkpoints each day will sit really well with your Creative Loafing staff--none of whom chafe in the presence of Police, I'm sure . . . .

  • Howard

    I think Matt, ironically and acidentally, brought up a good point...this neighborhood could really use some new attention. There is no doubt that those bringing a chic boutique hotel to the area are concerned with the safety and appearance of the neighborhood, and will go to great lengths to make the area safer, cleaner, and generally better looking. I think the idea is great, and although the height of the property may be a concern, as a resident of the area there are many more things I am concerned with that take precedence. In other words, I will happily take some extra shade from the tall building than have another crappy little restaurant that closes 8 months after it opens, or an abandoned building where bums migrate. I think the hotel would no question to more good than bad for the neighborhood.

  • Mary

    Doesn't City Paper, in fact, still have an interest in the success of this proposed hotel project? Has City Paper already gone to closing on the sale of its Champlain Street property?

    It seems that City Paper has a conflict of interest in this rather uncritical report about a project that would radically change the Adams Morgan/Church of Christ Scientist skyline, not to mention impose another set of unwieldy, outsized commercial needs on a residential neighborhood.

    Once it's gone--the airspace, the light, the need to keep Adams Morgan at a human scale--it's virtually impossible to get it back.

    Good luck to City Paper, since it's not your problem once you're gone. But how about an honest disclosure regarding your conflict of interest in the reporting of this story?


  • Mike DeBonis

    Mary: City Paper does not own the building any longer. The former owners of WCP and Chicago Reader, now known as Quarterfold, retained the building when the papers were sold to Creative Loafing. We are tenants. Your instincts are correct to think there might be a conflict, but there is no financial interest. if anything, we have a financial interest in the deal falling through, thus delaying moving costs and a potentially more expensive lease. You can add to that many staff members' fondness for the place as it is now.

  • R. Peterson

    From the rendering the building doesn't look that much larger than it already is. Remember that church sets up high and you have to walk at a lot of stairs to get to the door of the building anyway. I do, however, have a problem with the developer conveniently forgetting to bring bring the "five different things" the writer requested. That smells like a cover up of some kind.

    Love the idea of the hotel though. Doesn't bother me a bit.

  • Lee

    Do you think the pool will be open to the neigborhood if you use the businesses within the hotel? In Los Angeles, at the Standard Hotel, you are free to come in and use the pool, no questions asked. And there's a cool barbershop on the first floor. I hope they have one at this too like that. I think this will really add some glamour and glitz that Adams Morgan could use. I love the grit, but it's time the area had a little bit more polish.

  • Louie123

    Very nice post.