The Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp. yesterday chose Quadrangle Development Corp. and Marriot Corp. to build a mammoth complex containing a hotel, offices and stores surrounding the National Theater just off Pennsylvania Avenue downtown.
Quadrangle and Marriot plan to put up a $110 million, 16-story building that will occupy most of the block bounded by 13th, 14th, E and F streets NW. The theater would be saved from razing under the plan.
The building will be the tallest commercial structure in Washington, the first to take advantage of the recent zoning changes allowing 160-foot-high buildings to be build along Pennsylvania Avenue. The limit elsewhere is 130 feet.
The project is the first step in the plan to revitalize Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capitol under auspices of the federally financed development commission.
Marriot and Quadrangle - both Washington-based - will build the project with private capital and will lease the land from PADC.
In choosing the Quadrangle project, PADC's board of directors rejected a much publicized plan by the National Press Club and Atlanta developer John Portman to put up an even larger project and tear down the National Theater.
Portman and the Press Club offered Monday to include a theater in their $165 million complex, but said the theater would have to raise several million dollars to pay for it.
The theater's chairman, Maurice B. Tobin, told the commission's board of directors yesterday that the theater was opposed to the Portman/Press Club plan, but endorsed the Quadrangle-Marriot proposal and a third plan from the John Akridge Co.
Commission chairman Gen. Elwood Quesada, who reportedly favored the Portman project, said the conflict with the theater was a factor in the decision.
Sources close to the commission said its board voted 9 to 2 in favor of the Quadrangle-Marriot plan.
"Portman lost on several counts," one source said, criticizing the Press Club project for its "overwhelming, overpowering architecural design."
The project, the source added, "would have overpowered the avenue, overpowered National Square [the park to be built in front of the block] and overpowered the Federal Triangle."
The Quadrangle-Marriot building will occupy the entire block except for the National Theater, the National Press Building and the corner of 13th and E streets, where Quadrangle is now building an office building for the National League of Cities.
Although the block now faces on E Street, it will gain a Pennsylvania Avenue address when the avenue is rerouted for construction of National Square, a park that will feature two 140 tall stone pylons and a marble replica of famous monuments of the city.
Quesada said Quadrangle-Marriot project "is going to have a profound effect on the development of all of Pennsylvania Avenue. It's going to lead to the revitalization of the downtown portion of this city and restore the monumental avenue that connects the Capitol and the White House."
In December, the avenue commission board will take the next step in its project by choosing one of nine developers to remodel and reopen the Willard Hotel, just across 14th Street NW from the Quadrangle-Marriot project.
The project chosen yesterday by the development corporation calls for an 830-room hotel, 450,000 square feet of offices and 100,000 square feet of store space and 760 underground parking stalls.
Quadrangle president Robert Gladstone said the building's major entrance would face south toward Pennsylvania Avenue. A multistory entry will lead into an enclosed arcade opening onto the hotel and office building lobbies.
The hotel will be the flagship of the Marriot chain, said Thomas E. Burke, Marriot's vice president for public relations. "We're going to do a super job that the whole city can be proud of," he said.
Although founded in Washington and based in Bethesia, Marriot does not have any hotels in the District of Columbia. A few months ago it announced to Blackie's House of Beef, at 22nd and M streets NW, in partnership with restaurant owner Ulysses S. Auger.
The project would be the biggest ever bulit by Quadrangle, a relatively small, privately owned Washington Company that has $80 million worth of projects under way in the District.
In addition to the office building already going up at E and 13th streets, the company plans an office building at 19th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW and has built apartments in the west end section of downtown, Quadrangle president Gladstone said.
He said the Rouse Company of Columbia, Md., will also participate in the project, leasing the retail stores in the complex. There will be a row of stores facing the F street mall, plus stores on the interior arcade at several levels, said James Crozier, Quadrangle's executive vice president.
Offices in the building will be along to F Street side, with the hotel facing Pennsylvania Avenue.
Crozier said the developers will acquire and improve the National Theater building, connecting the theater lobby to their interior arcade. The League of Cities Building will also have interior access to the project.
At present there are no plans to tie the project to the National Press Building, which is largely owned by the National Press Club. Press club president Frank Aukofer said the club has no plan for participating in the Quadrangle-Marriot project.
The developers now have six months to negotiate a binding agreement for the project with the development commission. Commission executive director W. Anderson Barnes estimated it will take 14 months - until early 1980 - to acquire and clear land on the block. It will take about three years to build the project, Gladstone said, with the completion perhaps in 1983.
Commission sources said they expect the National Theater building to be designated a national landmark to ensure it preservation. The facade of thejbuilding occupied by Bassin's restaurant until a recent fire may also be preserved and moved to another site in the project.
As a consultant to the city, Gladstone prepared a major study advocating construction of the District of Columbia Convention Center to revitalize the downtown area.
A decision on the convention center is to be made later this year by a Senate subcommittee whose chairman is Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
The convention center "will be a big plus" for the Marriot hotel, but is not essential to its success, said Burke, the Marriot vice president for public relations.
A final decision on another major downtown development, three blocks of offices and stores atop the Metro Center subway station, is to be made about a month by the Redevelopment Land Agency, which is negotiating a contract with the Oliver T. Carr Co.
The conflict between the Press Club and the National Theater arose after Portman and the press club unveiled plans for a massive development that featured two soaring, 16-story atriums, but no theater.
Press club officials at first offered to design a theater on another site. Then they made a half-dozen proposals for incorporating the theater into the project, but said they could not afford to put up a building for the theater.
On Monday the club announced it was adding a 1,600-seat theater to its project, but it would cost $7 million.
The club offered to contribute $1.5 million in cash and to help the theater raise the additional money. But theater officials rejected the offer, saying they preferred to remain in their present building, on which they have a 35-year lease at below-market rent.