Northern Virginia's largest hotel opened last weekend at Tysons Corner, and a former house salesman was there to see his "baby" serve as a fitting setting in which to greet inaugural guests.
Realtor George Kettle, now a two-region executive for 415 Century 21 brokerage office franchises in nearby states and D.C., formerly had his own brokerage office on part of the Leesburg Pike-Beltway site that now seats the 398-room Tysons Corner Marriott. In addition to a 4,680-square-foot ballroom, the 15-story hotel also has a three-story lobby, a large restaurant, a lounge, a tavern, an indoor atrium pool and a variety of guest services -- plus parking for 634 cars.
General partners, in addition to nancial stake in the $25-million hotel at $800,000, include Washington attorneys Donald A. Brown, Joseph B. Gildenhorn and Benjamin R. Jacobs, who have been associated in the development of other hotels (most notably the new Four Season in downtown and the untraditional Holiday Inn in Old Town Alexandria).
Other general partners are restaurateur Manuel Fernandez and builder A. James Clark, a top executive in the George Hyman Construction Co. and Omni Construction Co.
Kettle recalled this week that the idea for a hotel on the six-acre Tysons Corner site was hatched as the result of difficulty in getting short-notice hotel reservations for visiting Century 21 officals in 1973 and 1974. "I had thought about doing a small office building for our Century 21 regional office on the site but Don Brown convinced me that anything less than a 100,000-square-foot building would be impractical. Then I mentioned the need for first-class hotel rooms in Northern Virginia and Don encouraged and supported that concept. So did our market research."
Because Kettle's realty office site was located on a lot in the small subdivision called Hollinswood, other properties had to be acquired by Kettle and Brown for the large building project. Rezoning and exceptions took a couple of years and some additional land and building height were obtained from a deal with the Marriott Corp., which has a nearby Roy Rogers restaurant that continues in operation. A Shell gas station also is nearby.
Kettle said he soon recognized that developing a large hotel property required more experience and money than he had. So he and Brown formed the Hollinswood Associates partnership. When more money was needed, the group took in 41 limited partners, including architect Alex Jeffries, structural engineer Allyn Kilsheimer, accountant James Beers, news commentator Carl Rowan, several doctors and attorneys and others.
Limited partners usually put up a minimum of $25,000 for a share in such a large project.
Don Brown said that Marriott was selected to operate the hotel on a 25-year agreement because the firm's record of operating many other hotels here and elsewhere was so impressive. He said that Marriott also approved the hotel plans and layout in an early stage of the development. Weihe Black, Jeffries, Strassman & Dove designed the hotel built by Omni.
Kettle said that the hotel was completed in 18 months, ahead of schedule, because "we wanted to be ready for inaugural week. It was a big one for me because the hotel had the Medal of Honor winners as guests and was the site of the reception. I personally also had a lot of friends in town for the inauguration too."
Only a block from the vast and successful Tysons Mall, the hotel is located at 8028 Leesburg Pike off Beltway exit 10-W. Other hotels in the area include the new Best Western Westpark, a Ramada Inn and a Holiday Inn.
Kettle, who attributed his move into development as the result of his success as a master franchiser with Century 21, also is chairman of the new Commercial Bank of Tysons (scheduled to be open this summer).