City Paper is not for tourists
Break out the politicos, the superlatives, and the Apprentice jokes: Donald Trump is in town.
The real estate magnate, TV personality, and near-presidential candidate stopped by the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue this morning to present his plans to convert the 1899 building into a $200 million luxury hotel. Mayor Vince Gray, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and half the D.C. Council turned out to heap praise on Trump and his aspirations for the Trump International Hotel. Trump will be leasing the property from the federal government for an initial base rent of $250,000 a month.
“Normally when you announce a hotel, two people show up,” Trump said, impressed with the political-media circus that packed the conference room.
Trump spared no superlatives in describing his plans for the hotel. “The rooms will be incredible,” he said. “The view are going to be absolutely amazing. The ballroom will be one of the great ballrooms in the country.”
So what’s going to be in the hotel? According to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, “The design juxtaposes the strength and masculinity of the building with gentler touches.” It’ll include a grand atrium, or cortile, that interior designer Betsy Hughes of Hirsch Bedner Associates calls “the most dramatic, beautiful, and chic place in D.C.”; a “library” whose walls will be line with bookcases; spacious guest rooms (an average of 600 square feet) with high ceilings; two presidential suites in the former offices of the postmaster general, with bulletproof windows; and entrances from 11th Street NW to both the hotel and the grand ballroom.
Trump highlighted his deep pockets as a reason that he was chosen over other developers to build the project, and a reason to expect big things from the hotel. “Cost is no object, ’cause if it were, I wouldn’t do it,” he said. “There are other ways to make a buck. It’s like a painting.”
Gray trumpeted the economic development the hotel will bring the city: $100 million of tax revenue over 10 years, 700 construction jobs over 18 months, and 300 permanent jobs. “This is a $200 million investment in the future of this city,” Gray said, “and I can’t think of a family better suited to it than the Trump family.”
Trump tells me that he plans to set up “a group, a committee” to ensure that a sizable portion of both construction and permanent jobs at the hotel will go to D.C. residents.
The redevelopment of the Old Post Office has been a long time coming. When the building was completed in 1899, it was D.C.’s first steel-frame building. But there were multiple attempts to demolish it: first during the Great Depression, and again starting in the 1960s. A group of activists helped persuade the federal government, which has overseen the property, to keep it intact.
“You have to love a building that survived not just one, but two concerted efforts to demolish it,” said Dorothy Robyn, commissioner of the General Services Administration’s Public Buildings Service.
“They have put to rest the saga of the Old Post Office building,” Norton said of the Trumps. “We’ve been trying for literally my entire time in Congress.”
Trump says the room rates have yet to be set. When I ask if they’re likely to be the priciest in town, he replies, “I dunno, depends what happens with the economy.”
But Trump is not lacking in confidence. “What I do best is build,” he told the crowd. “Better than The Apprentice, better than politics.”
Ivanka Trump has taken the lead in coordinating the process—-Norton said, “I’ve worked almost exclusively with Ivanka since the Trump Organization won this competition.” And Donald Trump is keeping the pressure on his daughter.
“You better do a good job,” he told her on stage, “or you’re fired.”
Below are renderings of the hotel:
Photos by Aaron Wiener. Renderings from the Trump Organization.