The 1,400-room hotel planned for a site next to the Washington Convention Center at Mount Vernon Square NW may be financed mostly with private rather than public money.

RLJ Development LLC, owned by Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson, has told District officials that the hotel company and its partner, Marriott International Inc. of Bethesda, are willing to pay about $350 million of the estimated $500 million cost of building the hotel, according to an executive at RLJ Development. The executive spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan has not been announced officially.

The rest of the money for the hotel at Massachusetts Avenue and Ninth Street NW would come from tax-increment financing, which pays debt from the tax revenue that a project generates.

The city had long planned to use publicly financed bonds to build the huge hotel, which convention and tourism officials say is crucial to attracting more business for the $1 billion Convention Center.

But months of wrangling in the D.C. Council over using public funds to build a stadium for the Washington Nationals have undercut support for another large, publicly financed project such as the hotel, according to D.C. Council aides.

Directors of the Washington Convention Center Authority, which oversees operation of the center, recently met with Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) in closed-door sessions to present the new financing plans, said Jim Abdo, a developer who serves on the Convention Centerboard.

City officials are trying to make a deal within weeks to swap a portion of the Massachusetts Avenue site owned by developer Kingdon Gould III for property on the old convention center site two blocks south. Convention Center officials said they hope to put the hotel deal on the D.C. Council's agenda for a vote in January or February.

Construction would start in 2007 and be completed in 2011.

A Boom in Bowie

Simon Property Group Inc., a major mall owner based in Indianapolis, is expected to build 270 luxury residential units, an underground parking garage and a 45,000-square-foot office building at the Bowie Town Center at Route 197 and Interstate 301 in Prince George's County.

The project will be built behind the food court and the Old Navy store in the complex, according to Joe Meinert, director of planning and economic development for the City of Bowie.

The 274-acre Bowie Town Center already has 1,300 housing units and stores including Hecht's, Sears, Barnes & Noble and Safeway.

Helping Catholic Schools

Developers who make big money in the Washington area are giving some of it away to favorite causes, and the Center City Consortium has become a prime example.

Local developers gave about $10 million in cash, building materials and labor to help the consortium, a nonprofit group under the Archdiocese of Washington, to renovate 14 rundown Catholic schools in the District.

"We've had problems in our schools where if you plugged in the microwave the lights went out," said Mary Anne Stanton, executive director of the consortium. "These are some of the best builders in the city, and they came in and assessed problems like that and figured out what needed to be done to fix it and are helping to fix it."

Stanton's group was created in 1997 to help a group of inner-city parochial schools with about 3,000 students -- 56 percent of them living at or below the poverty level and nearly 60 percent of them living in single-parent households, according to the organization.

Developers Joseph F. Horning Jr., Jack Griffin and Jim Donohoe together account for about $3 million in help for the schools.

"There were old boilers, leaky roofs and just drab environments," said Griffin, who graduated from Archbishop Carroll High School in Northeast Washington. Griffin retired after making his money building high-tech office buildings over two decades in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Griffin and Horning "adopted" two schools and agreed to clean them up.

"I went to Catholic schools as a child, so getting involved in helping was something close to my heart," said Horning, who is known for renovating the Tivoli Theater in Northwest Washington.

Horning lured other big names to help the parochial schools, including Oliver T. Carr Jr., the founder of CarrAmerica Realty Corp., one of the largest office builders in the region, and Chris Smith, who runs William C. Smith & Co., one of the largest residential building companies in the city. The developers have helped to renovate 11 of the 14 schools and hope to finish the rest by fall 2006.

Donohoe, chief executive of Donohoe Cos. -- one of the largest builders of offices, retail complexes and residential towers in the region -- said he has put in about $900,000 in materials and labor to fix up a school. "I'm Irish and I'm Catholic," Donohoe said. "It sounds trite, but I wanted to help by giving back."


* ING Clarion Partners of New York paid $67.5 million for 2121 K St. NW, a 140,000-square-foot office building.

* Somerset Partners LLC, a New York private equity firm, bought 1801 K St. NW for $250 million. The 562,000-square-foot building, which was built in the 1970s, will be renovated.

* Motley Fool Inc., a financial advising company, signed a 10-year lease for 41,000 square feet of office space at 2000 Duke St. in Alexandria.

* Highland Hospitality Corp. of McLean paid $49 million for the 144-room Churchill Hotel on Connecticut Avenue NW in Dupont Circle. Crestline Hotels and Resorts of McLean will manage the property.

* Corporate Office Properties Trust of Columbia bought a 61,000-square-foot office building in the Columbia Gateway Business Park for $9.2 million. The building is fully leased to Broadwing Corp., formerly known as Corvis Corp.

* Columbia Equity Trust Inc. of the District agreed to buy Georgetown Plaza, a 151,000-square-foot office and retail building at 2233 Wisconsin Ave. NW, for $23.5 million.

Dana Hedgpeth writes about commercial real estate and economic development. She can be reached at

BET founder and now hotel developer Robert L. JohnsonNew housing, parking and office space are coming to Bowie Town Center.