Richard W. Carr, 63

Developer Richard W. Carr dies; helped restore D.C.'s Willard Hotel

Richard W. Carr, who helped redevelop Washington's West End neighborhood and restore the Willard Hotel, died June 25.
Richard W. Carr, who helped redevelop Washington's West End neighborhood and restore the Willard Hotel, died June 25. (Family photo)
By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 9, 2010

Richard W. Carr, 63, the oldest son of Washington real estate magnate Oliver T. Carr Jr. and an executive with his family's companies who helped restore the Willard Hotel and revitalize the West End neighborhood in the District, died June 25 at an intensive care unit of the National Institutes of Health. He had aplastic anemia, a blood disorder.

Mr. Carr joined the Oliver T. Carr Co. in the early 1970s and became a key figure in his family's real estate empire. His father was the first major builder to make a concerted effort to redevelop downtown Washington after the 1968 riots that followed the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The company constructed large office buildings throughout the city and restored others that had been damaged or abandoned. By the late 1970s, the Carr Co. was the largest private landlord in the District, and The Washington Post described Mr. Carr's father as "the undisputed leader in Washington's booming downtown development market."

In the early 1970s, the younger Mr. Carr had a major role in reviving the West End, a 100-acre zone north of George Washington University that was filled with car dealerships, gas stations and parking lots. It was one of the District's first large-scale neighborhood revitalization projects and effectively extended downtown Washington west toward Georgetown.

About the same time, Mr. Carr participated in a feasibility study concerning the restoration of the historic Willard Hotel at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The hotel was vacant and was expected to be demolished, but after years of delays and legal battles it was saved from the wrecking ball, launching a wider preservation movement across the city.

The Carr Co. initially lost a competition to restore the Willard in 1978, but when the winning company ran out of money, the Carrs took over the renovation in 1981. It was not the first preservation effort in Washington, but the landmark project helped define the mix of old and new in the District's downtown redevelopment.

Mr. Carr, who was fond of writing and poetry, wrote a history of the Willard Hotel with his wife, as well as two children's books set at the Willard.

After being in charge of land acquisition for his father's business for many years, Mr. Carr formed an independent company, Carr Enterprises, in 1991. He worked in residential development and managed the site selection of a new national headquarters for the Salvation Army.

In 1995, after the original family business had become the publicly held CarrAmerica, Mr. Carr returned to the family fold as president of the privately held Oliver Carr Co., which managed many of the family's real estate holdings, including its interests in the Willard.

He was also president of Carr Hospitality, a business he and his father established in 2007 to develop and operate hotels.

Richard Wallace Carr, who was known as Dick, was born June 14, 1947, in the District. His family had been involved in construction and real estate in Washington since the 19th century.

He graduated from the private Landon School in Bethesda, where he played on the football team. He received a bachelor's degree in English from North Carolina State University in 1970 and a master's degree in urban and regional planning from George Washington University in 1974.

Despite his career with one of Washington's largest development firms, Mr. Carr kept a relatively low public profile. He was briefly in the news in 1987, when he led an effort to keep another developer from building condominiums on land near his home in Georgetown.

"I'm not fighting them as a developer," he told The Post, when asked about the irony of the situation. "I'm fighting them as a landowner."

In 1989 and 1990, he and his wife, Marie Pinak Carr, were hosts of the Cancer Ball, a local celebrity-studded charity fundraiser. Mr. Carr was on the local board of the Salvation Army and had a major part in establishing its Solomon G. Brown Corps Community Center in Anacostia. He was a member of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown and was an energetic promoter of high school rowing programs throughout the region. He enjoyed adventure travel and had visited all seven continents.

Survivors include his wife of 29 years of Washington; three daughters, Katharine M. Carr and Elizabeth A. Carr, both of Washington, and Ann L. Carr of Raleigh, N.C.; his mother, Martha A. Carr, and father, both of Bethesda; a sister, Mary O. Carr of Alexandria; and four brothers, Robert O. Carr and Thomas A. Carr, both of Washington, William T. Carr of Alexandria and Oliver T. Carr III of Potomac.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company