Downtown D.C. Project To Include Posh Hotel

By Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A developer announced plans yesterday to build a luxury hotel and high-end retail on prime downtown property where former mayor Anthony A. Williams had proposed constructing a new central public library.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who supported the library when he was a member of the D.C. Council, said the hotel and retail stores are better suited for the vacant District-owned land, which once housed the city's convention center, between Ninth and 10th streets NW and New York Avenue and I Street. The city is leasing the land to the developer.

The hotel and retail, which a District official said will cost an estimated $150 million to build, will be part of a 10-acre site that District officials and the developer, Hines-Archstone, are promoting as a new downtown destination. The developer is building a mix of condominiums, offices, restaurants and shops, a half-acre park and a plaza on the remainder of the site.

"It is time we start calling this place what it is, our city center," Fenty (D) said in a statement, predicting that the parcel will "be a true retail and entertainment destination -- the heart and soul of our dynamic new downtown."

Williams (D) had promoted the proposed library building on a valuable downtown parcel as a powerful expression of the District's commitment to its residents. But his plan, which he proposed toward the end of his time in office, failed to win support from the D.C. Council.

Fenty said the District is looking at a number of sites for a new central library, but he declined to specify where. The District, Fenty said, has not decided whether to build a facility or renovate the system's headquarters, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library at Ninth and G streets NW, which was designed by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), whose district includes the former convention center site, characterized Williams's vision for a new library on the property as a "terrible idea."

"It's too valuable a piece of property," Evans said. He described the proposed hotel as "another exciting opportunity for downtown."

Williams did not return a call seeking comment.

John W. Hill Jr., president of the board of library trustees, had supported Williams's library project. But he said his interest waned as District officials reduced the amount of land they would devote to the building. Now, he said, the library system is exploring other options, including opening a customer services center at the Carnegie Library and moving administrative employees to offices east of the Anacostia River.

"We're excited about looking at these other opportunities," Hill said.

The proposed hotel will add 400 rooms to the neighborhood slated for the convention center hotel, a 1,150-room complex to be built by Marriott International and RLJ Development.

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