The Oliver T. Carr Co., after parting company with the Fairmont Hotel Corp., has selected the British-based Inter-Continental Hotel chain to operate the historic Willard Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Henry A. Berliner Jr. chairman of the agency supervising the redevelopment of the avenue, said, "Fairmont operates a fine high-class, upper-echelon hotel but Inter-Continental has considerable experience in operating international hotels and in the convention field."
The Willard is expected to draw much of its clientele from the new Washington Convention Center about six blocks to the east and is regarded as the cornerstone to the revitalization of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Inter-Continental operates 83 hotels around the world. Fairmont, a San Francisco-based chain operates four hotels in the western part of the United States. The Willard would have been their first East Coast project.
Fairmont withdrew from the Willard project about two months ago because "we had some misunderstandings about the development of the hotel," said Fairmont Chairman Richard Swig.
"We are of course disappointed. I spent four years in that building," said Swig, who refused to give further details of the withdrawal.
Carr would only comment that both chains run excellent luxury hotels. A press release issued by his company last week said Fairmont withdrew from the project because of "a difference in design criteria."
Fairmont's name has already been removed from the large poster in front of the hotel announcing the coming renovation.
Inter-Continental was Carr's first partner at the Willard in 1978 when the two made a joint bid for the redevelopment rights to the $90 million renovation project and were among nine contenders. But they lost out to Florida businessman Stuart S. Golding and the Fairmont chain.
In 1981, Carr won a three-year battle to wrest control of the renovation project from Golding, who had failed to obtain the necessary financing. Fairmont remained in the deal and began working with Carr.
Berliner said earlier this year that Carr would begin the long-awaited renovation by Dec. 29 or risk losing the project again. Carr has said "everything is very much in order" and that his firm would have no trouble meeting the deadline.
Inter-Continental, which is known for operating first-class hotels through wars and hardships, was owned by Pan American World Airways until September 1981, when the financially ailing airline sold the chain for $500 million. The Willard would be the chain's first Washington hotel.