Rendering of proposed hotel includes images of Michelle Obama, Samantha Cameron

For real estate developers, persuading people to let you build something in their neighborhood is more art than science.

Which is why companies seeking public approval regularly trot out architectural renderings of their projects featuring sunny skies and professional-looking, smiling people.

Including in one case, Michelle Obama.

Douglas Development, builder of projects across D.C., recently unveiled renderings of a hotel it has proposed building in the Franklin School building. Here’s a view of the hotel’s interior, courtesy of Douglas and Antunovich Associates.

See those ladies hanging out in the back of the lobby?


Zooming in a little bit, it’s clearly the first lady and Samantha Cameron, wife of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. It’s not as clear who the lady in the pant suit with the binder is. (The guy on the left looks a lot like Ricky Martin though, right?)


The Obama-Cameron photo was taken at American University in March of 2012, when the two attended a mini-Olympics event in advance of the summer games in London. Here’s a link to what appears to be the original image, and below is another shot from that day, with members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.


(Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Norman Jemal, principal at Douglas Development, said he had no idea that the first lady was in the rendering, which outside architects produced. The D.C. government has not yet selected a developer for Franklin School, and the capabicty for luring fashionable world leaders to the building’s lobby was not listed among the selection criteria.

Jemal said he would be surprised if having Obama’s picture improved his odds. “If it does then something is really wrong,” he said. “I think we’ll win it on the merits of our project and our design.”

That said, was it so farfetched that the First Lady might stop by, should Douglas win?

“What I think is great about it is to me the building is like art and the hotel is something that will be open to the public for people to enjoy. So she could roll in there for a drink if she likes, if she gets thirsty,” he said.

(h/t @sarahhalzack)

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

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