The Sheraton Park Hotel will soon have a new owner, a new name and a new building, hotel managing director L. Nord Schweibert told a Woodley Park community task force last week.
Schweibert said that ITT-Sheraton expects to sell within 60 days the 16-acre hotel complex at Connecticut Avenue and Woodley Road NW for an undisclosed price to the Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum Development Washington Partnership, an offshoot the architectural firm that designed the new 1,520-room hotel and convention center, scheduled to be completed in the fall of 1979. The new facility will be called the Washington Sheraton Hotel.
The architectural firm also designed the National Air and Space Museum.
"We want to present a completely new image," said Schweibert, announcing the name change. Sheraton will continue to manage the hotel under a long-term contract and will retain a minority interest in the hotel, according to Schweibert.
"This is consistent with our efforts throughout the U.S.," said Schweibert, explaining that ITT-Sheraton was getting almost completely out of the hotel ownership business while continuing hotel management through contracts. The Sheraton Carlton at 16th and K Streets NW is one of approximately eith SHearton hotels in the country that ITT-Sheraton plans to retain ownership of, according to Schweibert.
Lindsley Williams, a member of a task force set up by Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3C about a year and half ago to work out problems caused by the hotel's $74 million rebuilding project, told the prospective new owners that, "This community would like you to consider reinserting the word 'park' in both name and spirit."
"In spirit we will," replied James Gilman, a principal of Hellmuth, Obata, and Kassabaum who has been involved in the hotel's negotiations with the task force. Gilman affirmed the hotel's intention to save 90 percent of the surrounding trees.
Landscaping has been one of about 60 community concerns the task force brought to the attention of the hotel - concerns ranging from the construction hours to the size of the new swimming pool. According to William Carroll, chairman of the task force, agreement has been reached on most of the points.
According to Carroll, some problems have not yet been resolved to the community's satisfaction, however. The hotel, with its frequent banquets and conventions, affects the neighborhood with parking and traffic congestion, according to Woodley Park residents, who fear that the hotel's enlargement from 1,400 to 1,520 rooms and the doubling of its exhibit space will add to existing problems.
To alleviate these problems, the task force wants the hotel to add parking spaces and to contruct an inner loop on the hotel grounds so that cars dropping off passengers and proceeding to the parking lots will not have to leave the hotel grounds and travel one neighborhood streets. In response to the task force requests, the hotel commissioned a traffic and parking study by a private consultant. The study has not been completed.
According to Gilman, the new 10-story hotel with its inceased exhibition space will attrat more conventions, thus boosting the prosent occupancy rate of about 65 percent.
"Poeple who go to conventions don't wnat to stay in an old hotel," said Gilman, showing members of the task force through some model rooms planned for the new facility.
"We consider it a great loss," Carroll said of the planned demolition of the crescent-shaped hotel built by Henry Wardmen in 1918.
The new structure is being built next to the present hotel, which will continue to operate until the new facility is completed. At that time the old structure will be torn down.
The Sheraton Motor Inn, the Cotillion Ballroom, and the Wardmwn Tower, all on the grounds of the hotel, will remain.
Gilman said that the owner would make a decision later on whether to keep the tower as hotel space turn it into condominium apartments. If the tower is converted to condominiums, the woner would build another structure on the grounds to replace the 250 hotel rooms the tower holds. That possibility has raised community fears that a second new structure might be placed too close to Woodley Road to their liking and that it will decrease the park-like open space that has made the hotel grounds a neighborhood amenity.
Hotel officials claim that when the current building program is completed they will steill be allowed to build 250,000 additional square feet under the zoning regulations. Community residents despute that point and say they has not yet received definitive answer to their questions on the matter from the city zoning administratro.
The Y-Shaped building now under construction will be red brick, compatible with the brick of the Wardman Tower, according to Gilman. A previous plan for a concrete, glass and steel structure was opposed by the community.
Members of the task force included representatives of the Woodley Parks Community Association, the Cleveland Park CItizens Association, the St. Thomas the Apotle Parish Council, and ANC 3C. Although the hotel has thus far not signed a 52-point joint statement drafted by the task force, Carroll characterized the negotiations as successful.
"We've kl characterized the negotiations as successful.
"We've kept the lines of communication open," he said.