In black print, at the top of the letterhead for Marriott Corp., it states: "International Headquarters, Marriott Drive, Washington, D.C. 20058."
Marriott Drive, in D.C.? No, it's really in Bethesda, visible from Montgomery Mall and a mile away from the Capital Beltway.
Hundreds of other Maryland-based corporations also claim D.C. addresses, for various reasons, but they won't after next spring.
In the latest battle of economic development warfare among the region's jurisdictions, the U.S. Postal Service announced yesterday that all Maryland locations using Washington addresses are going to have their D.C. ZIP codes taken away. Some residential users also will be affected.
D.C. Mayor Marion Barry Jr. immediately claimed a victory. "The Washington, D.C., mailing address is prestigious and carries with it the connotation that the holder of that address is located in the heart of the metropolitan area," said the mayor in a formal statement.
Barry asserted that the Postal Service decision "will enhance our ability to attract and retain business firms in the District." The mayor, who had sought the change, said the D.C. mailing address is an advantage of a city location -- an advantage that "should be confined to those firms which have made a commitment to locating in the District and to being a part of this community."
But Marriott spokesman Thomas Burke said he was puzzled. When Marriott moved to its new headquarters last year, Burke was part of a pro-Washington faction against tough pro-Bethesda supporters in an internal corporate fight over what address to use. His first reaction was: "My God! We're going to have to reprint all that stationery." Marriot sends its own vans to the downtown D.C. post office twice a day to get its own mail, saving a day in delivery time. Burke said he thought the company was helping cut postal service costs.
"I'd think the city would be happy for the international identification. I had no idea anyone would be offended or bothered about it, since Washington is a lot more meaningful to people in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bethesda and Montgomery County are not that well known," Burke added.
A Postal Service official sought to downplay the economic development fight, stating that growing congestion at the main D.C. post office is a serious concern. Eugene Fleming Jr., regional director for postal customer services, said citizens and local government officials had expressed concern over conflicting addresses in Maryland and D.C. But expected growth in D.C. and suburban mail volume dictaated the action, he added.
The changes will go into effect next Spring, coinciding with the introduction of a nine-digit ZIP code for which we've all been awaiting. Mail for affected suburbs will be re-routed through two interim facilities, one in the Bethesda area and the other in southern Maryland suburbs.
Fleming said present ZIP codes of 200 to 207 in Montgomery County will be changed to 208 or 209. Prince George's County ZIPs of 200 or 208 will be changed to 207. Residential customers will be affected, too. For example, a Bethesda address that is listed for Washington, D.C. 22014, will be listed after next spring as Bethesda, Md. 20814.
Some other ZIP codes changes are planned in Anne Arundel, Calvert and Howard countries of Maryland, unrelated to the D.C. situation.