Although weathered gray letters over the door still spell out "The Almanac," a small, artsy sign above the entrance of the nine-story building reads "The River Inn."
Inside, the lobby smells of new carpeting and fresh paint. Workmen are moving furniture, protective plastic covers portions of the floor and a large sign begs visitors to "Pardon Our Dust - We Hope You'll Be Pleased With the Results."
But upstairs in apartment 717, Donna Honeycutt is not pleased. Chain-smoking and pacing a small path between the window and sofabed, the medical secretary expressed her frustration at being forced to vacate the apartment she's lived in for 14 years.
"I feel it's a very sad commentary on life in Foggy Bottom that residents are being put out of the community to make way for hotels," sighed Honeycutt, gazing at the topsy-turvy array of belongings strewn around her small efficiency, casualties of her whirlwind packing effort.
"When I first found out that we had to move, I was shocked and depressed. I'm bound and determined to stay in The Bottom, because it's a unique little village where I know the people at the corner market, at the church and at the cleaners. I don't have a car, I can walk to work and I feel it's my home," she said.
Honeycutt is one of a handful of Alamac Apartment tenants still residing at 924 25th Street NW, which officially became The River Inn apartment-hotel last weekend. The first guests, 17 members of the London Festival Ballet, checked in on Sunday.
Since the notices to vacate were issued in February, Honeycutt has had the "lonely, scary" experience of watching her neighbors leave in a steady stream as the building has undergone its conversion.
Although she must vacate her $184-a-month efficiency by August 31, she still has no place to go.Determined to remain in Foggy Bottom, Honeycutt says she's tried every apartment building in the area. "They all have long waiting lists, and very little turnover so I'm out of luck," she shrugged.
Residents of the Foggy Bottom and West End areas are very concerned that the accelerating intrusion of apartments-hotels and hotels is cutting back on the amount of housing available in the area, according to Ann Hume Loikow, vice chairman of the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission.
Loikow cited the 128-unit Alamac and the 124-unit Lombardy at 2025 I Street NW, as the most recent converts. She noted the existence of at least 12 other hotels or apartments-hotels in the area, including The Watergate Hotel. One Washington Circle, Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge, The Guest Quarters and The Intrigue Hotel.
"The Foggy Bottom area is also hard hit by the condominium conversion boom," she added. "Several weeks ago, six of our largest high-rise apartment buildings received their certificates of eligibility to convert to condominiums." These buildings are The Bonwit, The Carriage House, The Jefferson House, The Monroe, The Letterman House and The Hamilton House.
The shortage of rental accommodations in Foggy Bottom is pushing many long-time residents out into the suburbs, according to Honeycutt, who added that moving out of the city is a fate she doesn't want to share.
"Washington, D.C. residents are being driven into Maryland and Virginia, and I say it's destroying the city," she said, staring out her seventh-floor window at the "little slit of the Potomac" still visible between sections of the Watergate. "Plus, this building is going to be occupied by transients, people who are not taxpayers and are not part of the city."
Developer Conrad Cafritz, principle owner of Alamac, Inc., which leases the building from its owners, a partnership consisting of members of the Howar family, said rent control made it impossible for the owners to continue operating the building as a rental accommodation.
The small size of the building's 128 units, 96 of which are efficiencies, made the conversion to a hotel preferable to condominium conversion, said developer Cafritz, who is also the principle owner of "One Washington Circle Hotel, Inc.
"To one extent Washington, D.C., is losing an apartment, but on the other extent it is gaining a hotel facility," Cafritz said. "Hotel rooms are in dire demand. We'll provide the equivalent of an apartment-hotel accommodation to people who need them, and they'll pay less than at the Watergate or the Madison."
"The River Inn is going to be a very nice addition to Foggy Bottom," added Mobashire Ahmed, director of opertions for the International Hospitality Group, which manages the building will have a quiet, low-key, residential atmosphere, he said.
"Washington is a very mobile environment," noted Ahmed, who said the building will cater to a clientele of government and private sector executives who need temporary quarters while attending seminars, serving as consultants or relocating in the area.
Most of the conversion from apartment to hotel has consisted of such "face-lifting" renovation measures as installing new carperting, new kitchen and bathroom fixtures and color televisions, rather than tearing down walls, according to hotel general manager Bob Johnson.
The hotel is scheduled to have a restaurant added and be completely renovated by the end of the year. Alamac apartment residents will have the option of remaining at The River Inn, with daily maid and desk service, for a cost of between $800 and $900 a month, Ahmed said. Daily rates will be $35 for a one-bedroom executive suite and $30 for an efficiency guest suite.
But most Alamac tenants have accepted the relocations payments of $125 for efficiencies or $250 for one-bed-room apartments provided by Alamac, Inc., rather than remain at the hotel.
"While being kicked out was very depressing, there's one thing that bothers me the most," said Ruth Lipman, formerly the president of the Alamac Tenants' Association, who took out a loan to move to a one-bedroom apartment on California Street last month.
"We're not affluent - I'm a school teacher - but we are supposed to be well-educated and vocal. If it could happen to us, in this neighborhood, what are other people around the city going to do when it happens to them?"