The Washington Post

Donald Trump says deal to begin work on Old Post Office Pavilion is only ‘weeks away’

View Photo Gallery: Donald and Ivanka Trump appeared at The Washington Post on Wednesday to share their vision for turning the historic Pennsylvania Avenue building into a luxury hotel.

After more than a year of negotiations, Donald Trump said his real estate company is now just “weeks away” from wrapping up a lease agreement with the federal government that would allow him to begin transforming the Old Post Office Pavilion into a Trump brand hotel.

Trump and his daughter Ivanka, a vice president at his company, told more than 100 audience members at a Wednesday morning event held at The Washington Post that negotiations with the General Services Administration were going smoothly and they had been in discussions with Tiffany & Co. about opening a store there.

Washington lacks a world class luxury hotel, Trump said, acknowledging that competitors such as the Four Seasons, Hay Adams and others might not agree with him. With his $200 million plan, he pledged to deliver one. “It’s going to be one of the finest hotels in America. It really will be,” he said.

Although the GSA selected Trump and private equity firm Colony Capital from a pool of bidders for the project in February of 2012 it has not finalized what is expected to be a 60-year lease with the Trumps. GSA officials hoped to complete negotiations within a year of the selection and have indicated that if a deal is not complete by June the agency could cut ties with Trump and work with another developer.

Neither side has cited a hiccup in discussions, however, only that completing agreements for preservation of the historic building took longer than expected. Trump, speaking at the event, spoke glowingly about GSA officials, saying he has “rarely met people who are as professional.”

“The GSA has the same passion for the Old Post Office as we do,” he said.

Trump shot down the suggestion that he might try to re-work the deal after having been selected for the project. “We think we’ll be signing within a number of weeks,” he added. The hotel would have 261 rooms and could open in late 2015 or early 2016.

Daniel Cruz, a GSA spokesman, said negotiations are ongoing but that the agency could not provide details until a deal was complete.

Trump touched on a few political topics, saying it was too early to predict who might succeed President Obama in the White House. He joked that former basketball star Dennis Rodman, who recently appeared on Trump’s “All-Star Celebrity Apprentice,” is “the only person who seems to be able to talk to North Korea.”

But much of the discussion was on the Trumps’ plans for the Old Post Office, which they said would include high-end restaurants and continued public access to the clock tower. The National Park Service will continue to operate the tours.

Officials with Trump’s company floated the idea of a tax break for the project with District officials earlier this year, something Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said he would not support. But Trump insisted on stage and in interviews with reporters afterward that he had not formally asked for one. He did not rule out that he may still, even if it was a long shot. “I’m not sure that we’ll get it,” he said.

The possibility of tax breaks proposal prompted a representative for Unite Here, a union that represents hotel workers in the U.S. and Canada, to distribute flyers at the event saying Trump was the wrong choice for the project and asking GSA administrator Dan Tangherlini to choose another company for the project.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

View Photo Gallery: Donald and Ivanka Trump have revealed some of the changes they plan for the Pennsylvania Avenue landmark.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.



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