Housing Complex

Kazam! Developers Try to Make Adams Morgan Hotel Disappear

You can't see it now, right?

Faced with a community that's of many minds on their proposal for a 227-room luxury hotel, developers Brian Friedman and Matt Wexler have tried to make the building as inoffensive as possible while making good on their investment. In the latest revised submission to the zoning commission, the building's facade—which began, several years ago, as an all-glass checkerboard pattern—has turned into traditional black brick, differing substantially from the July version. In response to neighborhood noise concerns, what used to be an outdoor pool on the third floor has been put inside on the first floor, the Champlain Street lobby has shrunk down, and the top floor has been set back.

The new application also has some world class architect blather to describe what it'll look like:

A materially contextual response in massing in design, creatively imagined, will foster a sense of community. At street level, a glazed green brick datum will engage with trees and reiterate the landscape. The material response and color scheme of the building's skin—brick in black and cream—will accent the neighborhood's graceful contours. Seeking neither to borrow nor oppose, this building will be realized intuitively with reverence to existing heritage. The muted presence of a black brick building will recede into shadow and silhouette its surroundings, respecting the aesthetic and cultural heritage of its neighbor. Repetitions of the familiar–brick, double-hung windows, cream and black exteriors—will resonate with the community. The Addition's facade, with cream window frames and black sashes, will converse with surrounding architecture and flora, and the deep green of ivy growing against the black exterior will settle eloquently into relief with the landscape.

You'll barely even notice it, they swear!

It's unclear that'll sway local residents, though. Even though they're willing to waive the use restrictions of their zoning overlay for a hotel, the Reed Cooke Neighborhood Association has steadfastly insisted that the project is simply too big for Champlain Street, and they're the kind of folks the zoning commission listens to when deciding to grant big exemptions like this project will require.

And yes, if you hadn't realized already, the hotel will displace the offices of the Washington City Paper.

  • Johnny

    I like the July version a lot better... Eitherway I hope it get's built.

  • S

    This would be a huge loss to the city and the neighborhood if it doesn't get built. Cities across the nation would absolutely love to have developers come and build a luxury hotel such as this in their neighborhoods.

  • Hillman

    Welcome to Bugtussle, where we fight investment and new jobs even as the national economy is in the crapper.

    Way to shoot yourself in the foot, DC.

  • Disclaimer

    Just one minor nitpick with the piece, when City Paper writes about the Hotel project you all really need to put a disclaimer/note in every piece that the hotel project will be displacing the City Paper from it's current location. I don't think the fact that that is happening has colored your reporting, but the CP is indeed impacted by this project and it should be noted whenever CP reports on the project (just like when NBC does a story about GE--or whoever their corporate owner is this week--they always note that as a quick takeaway at the end of the story).

  • D

    Build it already.

  • J

    I am an adams morgan resident. I love the new version and I look forward to having the opportunity to work there.

  • Snarky

    Why does the writer use such snarky language? The developers are making the hotel disappear? All they are doing is making a better building that is smaller and supposedly responds to community concerns. I doubt the developers are suggesting at all that the hotel is disappearing.

    The City Paper's coverage of this project is very disappointing, especially considering the widespread community support for the Hotel.

  • Stryax

    A huge loss to the city if it doesn't happen? Surely A Morgan can more than thrive without it. I've seen us do it.

  • Lydia DePillis

    @Disclaimer

    You're right, I overlooked the disclosure this time, but it's worth including.

    @Snarky

    We're equal-opportunity snarkers here at WCP. More directly, though, I thought it was funny that the developers have taken the architecture from something very bold and modern to something that tries to blend in with its surroundings in every possible way, in order to appease people who'd rather have it be half the size or not there at all. I made no negative comments about the design itself, or the developers' efforts.

  • S

    @Stryax, yes, this is a huge loss if this developer and hotelier pass us up because of our NIMBYism. An Ian Schraeger boutique hotel is exactly what you would want. We lose this and we end up with a Courtyard or worse yet...a boarded up building that sits for another decade.

  • Ben

    It's almost comical to read comments from those who want to either "preserve" or "bring back" the residential charms of Adams-Morgan, and cite the construction of a luxury boutique hotel as priority one in accomplishing their goals. The whole "Adams Morgan as a residential neighborhood" ship sailed a long time ago. yes, there are many residents there, but it's clearly a dynamic neighborhood with a substantial commercial investment. Opposing developments such as the hotel simply because they run afoul of a vision of Adams Morgan as some pristine residential oasis is spitting into the wind.

  • NE John

    We are dealing with crazies here in NE who want to stop positive development, such as the 901 Monroe Street proposal. The is a city folks, get used to it!

  • foodim

    Just because the RCNA is okay with a hotel there, doesnt mean everyone who lives there is okay with it being a hotel, new design or not. Hotels don't add taxpaying citizens who care about their neighborhood and care about maintaining the streetscapes. Hotels bring a lot of vehicles and traffic, a lot of transient activity. Add to that a restuarant and 2 bars, in an area that is already saturated with restaurants and bars. Also important to note that the main vehicular access will be on Champlain St at the south end of the Citypaper building (2390 Champlain), surrounded by residential properties. This street is already congested, and not wide enough to accomodate current traffic. Add to that 3 more development projects in the pipeline on the 2300 block of Champlain St and a 4th project on the next block and you have a nightmare. Adams Morgan is considered fully-built out according the Comprehensive Plan. Where do you expect all those cars to go? I suppose if they end up in your neighborhood then we can have an honest discussion about the "merits" of this project.

    Also, if you allow a currently non-allowable use, all the other developers on the block are going to want the same leeway. There are already a number of hotels within easy walking distance of Adams Morgan so why do we "need" this one?

    And it begs the questions: Why have zoning at all? Why have distinct neighborhoods? Do you want everything to look like Federal Center SW or Chinatown? Why even call it Adams Morgan, a reference to the civil rights movement and the fight for integration, if the name is simply a relic of times past and according to some of you, irrelevant? According to most of the people commenting here, any history isn't worth remembering and we should just bring in the new and wipe out the old. Why not raze the entire block on 18th St and build a fancy new shopping center? Wouldnt that create jobs and get rid of the rif raf? Oh wait, the rif raf might be you -it reminds me of a saying....be careful what you wish for.

    And for the record, there is no guarantee this would even be an Ian Schrager or Marriott hotel. The last time I checked the letters from Marriott, they have no binding committment to the developer. I would bet my money that if this project were approved, the current developers will be selling this property so fast we wont even feel the wind slap us in the face. Most developers don't care about neighborhoods, they care about making money, and lots of it.

    They might paint the prettiest picture you want to see, and tell you how amazing their project is, and give you erratic emplyment figures where over 20% of the expected workforce for the hotel will be personal trainers making $105,000 a year. Yeah, that's right, 135 out of 565 employees of the hotel are going to be working at the hotel's gym as trainers and apparently raking in $105,000 per year. That's according to the market feasibility study the hotel developers had done for them. If you believe all the junk the developers are selling you (or perhaps buying out of you) then I've got a bridge for sale you might be interested in too.

  • Anon2

    @foodim: yes, you have a lot of points to back up your complaints.

    However, do you have any alternate proposals for what to do with a boarded-up church and some under-utilized office space? While you bemoan that hotels bring visitors who aren't invested in the neighborhood, vacant property is certainly less economically productive than a hotel. With the project there will be construction activity as well as both tax receipts and neighborhood spending once the project is complete (yes, even a hotel restaurant is a neighborhood restaurant).

    Personally I find the new design to be more offensive than the original - glazed brick is ugly, phony architectural "reverence to existing heritage" foolishly neglects progress, and indoor pools stink (literally - walk past the RI Ave YMCA some time). But, I'm not going to go bonkers about the project simply because it doesn't appeal to my highbrow tastes.

    If you want to be stuck in a simpler time with a bunch of like-minded NIMBYs, save your pennies and move over the East Village section of Georgetown.

  • Foodim

    Anon2:

    The Church owners are preventing development, not the community. They want as much money as they can get and dont care about the impact on the residential neighborhood. They say they want to preserve the church but are preventing the HPRB from moving forward on landmarking the building. Rumor has it they have threatened to sue the city if they move forward on the application that was presented by the BID in 2008. Theres no reason another use couldnt be served in that building but the church is too greedy to let that happen.

    You make the assumption that everyone can just move wherever they want to. And you disregard the ties that many longtime residents have to the community. That seems to be at the heart of the controversial debate here. The developers and their business associates and friends are saying if you dont like it then get out. Dont stick up for yourself, dont try to make Adams Morgan a livable neighborhood, just get out. Developers come and go, hotels come and go. Residents have the most to lose here and will have to put up with the decisions for a long time. You shouldnt disregard that.

    I would also like to point out that there are some serious issues with infrastructure with respect to this high-density and transient type of developement. Just last night a sinkhole appeared on the 2200 block of Champlain street due to aging and overtaxed infrastructure. No cars could get through either. It is irresponsible to simply gloss over the severe negative impacts that this development project would have on neighborhood infrastructure and services, not to mention the additional nuiscances it would create.

    The best route would be to find an alternate development, one that balances neighborhood constraints and economic development. Being greedy is not the best solution and that is really what this project is, a case of the church and the developers greed, at the expense of residents who are already invested in this community.

  • Foodim

    Anon2:

    As for your point about finding an alternate solution. There many ways a community can address an issue like this. Open dilaogue between the Church and the residential community would be the first step. The neihgborhood associations and the ANC meetinng are exactly the kind of forum that could be used to have constructive dialogue about alternate development. No one here is saying that the Church shouldnt be repurposed, just that the developpment shouldnt overrun the residential neighborhood and should respect the dc comprehensive plan and the
    reed cooke overlay district.

    We could have a charette process that includes all members of the community, residents, building owners, and business owners to create an alternate vision. The Church could facilitate this. Or perhaps Councilmember Graham could arrange for the Office of Planning to facilitate this. Or we could look to an organization like the main streets program. The bottom line is that a hotel use is prohibited so it really should trigger a process like this. We shouldnt just have this project rammed down our throats because it might make money for the city. To use hyperbole, A strip club would make money for the city, that doesnt mean we should allow it. We have to assess the merits of development across many categories.

  • David

    Whenever I hear someone complain about a lack of "open dialogue," past experience has taught me to believe that what is *really* being complained about is "I'm not getting my way from the city/developer/property owner."

    And as to the idea of a 250 unit boutique hotel "overrunning the residential neighborhood": give me a break. Is the residential section of AM really so delicate as to be overrun and destroyed by a small, boutique hotel? Hyperbole doesn't serve any purpose other than to make your position less credible.

  • Conservemoral

    Yes, the Hotel rensderings lokk astounding and that is why City Paper should move to Southeast across the Sousa Bridge. You people (CP) have been isolated long enough and will help with gentrification across the river if you (in the words of Mick Jagger) 'Walk this way' and set up offices.

  • foodim

    David:

    The dialogue has been far from open. This is more about the developer wanting to disregard all zoning laws and the comprehensive plan so that they can get their way and make a huge profit. This project was ill-conceived and if you care to read the Office of Planning's report to the zoning commission you will become familiar with all of the innacuracies, inconsistencies, and lack of pertinent details in the application that was submitted from the developers. And if you look at the employment report submitted by the developer it is a joke. I suspect you have a relationship with them, either business or personal, so you probably don't care, but there are a lot of people who actually live in this neighborhood that do care.

    A project like this will have repurcussions beyond just this one site. It will open the entire block up to this sort of development. If the city and the residents want Adams Morgan to become a hotel and high-rise district, like Chinatown, then that is a matter to be taken up in a review of the dc comprehensive plan and the reed cooke overlay district plan. And a serious change in the existing infrastructure will be nececcasry. Currently Adams Morgan is a row house neighborhood with mostly mid-density apartment buildings. The area has been gentrifying significantly for the past 20 years, and the diversity of Adams Morgan is definitely in jeopardy. Just remember that if this project were approved it will have a domino effect. There are 4 more projects on Champlain St in the pipeline, several of which are holding off on their development applications waiting to see what happens with the hotel. Champlain St is a 30' wide street that can barely handle the influx of traffic from bargoers. Parking is a nightmare. Our sewage infrastructure is deteriorating. If you add a highrise hotel, 3 new condo projects, and another mixed used development, you will soon learn that our infrastructure is not at a scale that can handle the added growth. We are already OVER CAPACITY, so yes, this project will overrun the residential neighborhood.

  • J

    Okay people - I think a boutique hotel would absolutely benefit Adams Morgan. Look at all the empty spots on 18th? Its pathetic. Maybe retail and better quality restaurants would open. It will be hotel guests so you wont have to worry about cars except for taxis. As long as there is a good taxi - sedan plan - it will be okay.

  • Pete

    This isn't a "boutique" hotel. It's a large 227-room hotel with banquet facilities with its only entrance on Champlain Street. Anyone who lives or regularly drives on Champlain Street knows that the street is too narrow to handle its current traffic volume let alone the cars/cabs, buses and trucks that will come with a large hotel. Two full size cars driving in opposing directions have to come to a crawl just to get by each other. Ontario Road and Kalorama Street have the same problem. Regardless of what the developers say, my bet is that Champlain and may be some of the others will lose parking on one side within a year or so after this hotel is built. The residents themselves will be begging for it in order to end daily traffic jams and resulting horn-honking from hotel patrons and cabs similar to what takes place on weekend nights from bar traffic. Living there, I can't see how this will play out in any other way.

    I'm all for progress. I'd be for a small hotel, or may be a larger one if the entrance was exclusively on Columbia Road, which is meant for commercial traffic. But this project is just too big for the neighborhood that it will impact. It's simply not a good fit.

  • http://www.tinyurl.com/admohotel DC Feedback Team

    The DC Feedback Team has been collecting feedback from Adams Morgan residents and Ward 1 residents at-large about this highly contested hotel project.

    We want yours >>
    http://www.tinyurl.com/admohotel

    It is clear, the assertions put forward by the hotel developers have not been highly supported with a relevant chain of evidence. This makes it only harder for the community to get a real pulse of this project, fortunately or unfortunately, and thus why the opposition continues to mount.

    7 of 10 people we approach are unaware of what would be the biggest project in Adams Morgan history.

    Invite your friends to submit their feedback >>
    http://www.tinyurl.com/admohotel-send2friends

  • http://thegreenmiles.blogspot.com TheGreenMiles

    South Bend, IN has a 25-story hotel. Yet a 10-story hotel would ruin DC?

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