Within the next few months, the owners of the 53-year-old Mayflower Hotel will decide on renovation plans for the Conecticut Avenue landmark. The plans could range from a major updating of the interior to the demolition of the Connecticut Avenue facade, which would be replaced with a retail and office complex connected to hotel space behind it.
The hotel, managed by Western International Hotels, is owned by a partnership of local businessmen. Richard Cohen, an investor, controls about 50 percent of the hotel through the estate of his father, William Cohen. Kingdon Gould Jr. and his son, Kingdon Gould III, heirs to a railroad fortune, own about 35 percent. Restauranteur Ulysses (Blackie) Auger owns about 10 percent, and parking lot magnate Dominic F. Antonelli owns about 1 percent.
Kingdon Gould Jr. said last week the owners want to develop the site - 64,000 square feet at Connecticut Avenue. DeSales and 17th streets - to its fullest potential.
"It's not returning the potential it could," Gould said, "given the land value." Office space fronting on Connecticut Avenue is considered more profitable than hotel space, according to Gould, who said he believed a combination of hotel, office and retail use would be best use for the site.
Whatever changes are made, Gould emphasized, would be aimed at assuring the Mayflower's "continuance as a first class hotel and its preservation as a Washington tradition."
Gould said a decision on plans for the hotel would be made in six to nine months after a feasibility study, being conducted by the architectural firm of Vlastimil Koubek, is completed. Gould added that the study was commissioned because many of the hotel's 700 rooms are small by modern standards and because the mechanical systems need replacement. He also noted that the hotel site is underdeveloped - the building is about 35 percent smaller than zoning regulations allow in that location.
Koubek, who designed the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, said he is considering a 13-story atrium with offices, shops and hotel rooms built around it. He said he also is studying the possibility of building a four-story addition atop the 17th Street side of the hotel. A rooftop swimming pool and health club, underground parking and an arcade of shops connected to the Farragut North Metro station also are being considered.
Gould said no decisions have been made yet and that the final plans might well leave the Connecticut Avenue facade intact while remodeling the interior.
Because the building is listed on the D.C. inventory of historic sites, any plans to demolish or alter the exterior of the hotel would have to be reviewed by the Joint Committee on Land marks, a federal-D.C. review board. Under current District Laws, the committee, in conjunction with the State Historic Preservation Officer, can delay demolitions or alternations to landmark buildings for six months and require owners to consider other options.
Under legislation now being considered by the City Council, however, the city, after public hearings, could refuse to grant demolition permits for landmark buildings.
"The landmark committee is a reasonable bunch of people," said Koubek. I think that if we decided on the mixed-use plan (retail, office and hotel space) we could convince them that it would serve the city better."
"We hope that whatever program we develop will have value to the community," said Gould. "You can't do anything without the support of the community. We don't want to get involved in any type of litigation."
According to employes at the Joint Committee on Landmarks, Mayflower officials have appeared before the committee in the past in connection with permits for exterior alterations, such as new doors. At one point, according to these employes, the Mayflower officials requested forms to have the building's landmark status rescinded. The forms have never been completed, however.
The Mayflower opened in 1925 on the site of a former convent. It has been the site of inaugural tolls and J. Edgar Hoover's solitary lunches and has served as the temporary quarters of the People's Republic of China delegation.