Puttin' on the Ritz in D.C.
By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
The rooms have 300-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets and pale-yellow-and-white feather-down comforters. A $250,000 sculpture -- orange-and-red-striped hand-blown glass by Seattle artist Dale Chihuly -- decorates a wall that descends the Oriental-rug-covered marble staircase to the ballroom. And guests can ring up the "Bath Doctor," who will wheel to their door a wooden cart covered with scented bars of soap, with names such as Up and Harmony, that will be cut for them at their request.
Welcome to the Ritz-Carlton at 22nd and M streets NW, a hotel with a seeming mission to push the limits of indulgence and give the city's current highest-end hotel, the Four Seasons in Georgetown, a run for its money.
After three years without a property inside the D.C. lines, the luxury hotel chain opened the 300-room hotel at a ribbon-cutting ceremony with hoteliers, dignitaries and celebrities.The Ritz-Carlton brand, owned by the Marriott International Inc. hotel chain, left the city after its executives had a dispute with a sheik who owned what is now the Westin Fairfax on Massachusetts Avenue NW near Dupont Circle. ...
"We're ecstatic to be back in the nation's capital and to have a Ritz-Carlton presence in a gateway city," James McBride, the hotel's general manager, said as he picked up lint off an Oriental rug. ...
The $250 million Ritz-Carlton has a 34,000-square-foot Japanese garden with bamboo plants, weeping willows and a 30-foot cascading waterfall. The rooms have beige and white marble tiles in the bathrooms, high-speed Internet access, cordless phones and a safe with an outlet inside of it to charge laptops. Concierges will carry palmtop computers to beam guests details on their reservations. An estimated $2 million worth of artwork decorates the guest rooms and hallways.The hotel also offers about 17,000 square feet of ballroom and meeting space, limousine service and a 120-seat restaurant. It has a staff of 380.
The new hotel represents a change in strategy for Atlanta-based Ritz-Carlton, which had $1.4 billion in revenue last year. The company is moving away from being a straightforward hotel company and getting into one of the fastest-growing areas among top-tier hotel chains -- luxury condominiums. At the new Ritz-Carlton there are 162 units -- half of which have been sold. If successful, the mixed hotel-and-condo project promises to generate almost guaranteed revenue streams for Ritz-Carlton in the form of management fees and a cut of all sales, while almost all of the risk is shouldered by the developers, New York-based Millennium Partners, according to developers and hoteliers.