Twenty Republican businessmen have bought the Embassy Row Hotel for $15 million, including $9 million in cash, and they say they hope to turn it into a place where Republicans can be with their own kind.
But they want Democrats to stay there, too, the investors stress because they are, after all, entrepreneurs.
"We hope Jimmy Carter stays here when he comes to town. In fact, we'll invite him," said Nashville businessman Joe Rodgers, a former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and one of five general partners in the hotel venture. "It's not a social club or a Republican club."
At the same time, they expect to see more Republican faces because of their connections. All of the investors have been RNC "Eagles" -- contributors of $10,000 -- and all, Rodgers says, are "sophisticated and succesful businessmen."
The investors plan to spend another $3 million transforming the Embassy Row into a "five-star hotel," a process they hope to complete within a year.
The 203-room hotel at 2015 Massachusetts Ave. NW was built in 1970 at a cost of $8 million by an investment group headed by Washington dentist Cyrus Katzen. It was sold in 1975 to the Watergate Development Corp., a subsidiary of an Italian-based firm that has been divesting itself of its hotel properties recently.
The idea of buying a place for Republicans to stay was first discussed at the Republicans national convention in Detroit in July 1980, but the original intent was to buy an apartment building and turn it into condominiums, said Chip Christianson, another general partner.
Rodgers, Christianson and Jim Caden, another general partner, are also partners in CRC Equities Inc., a Nashville real estate investment firm that handled the acquisition.
The other general partners are Klaus Reincke, who will manage the hotel, and Washington attorney and real estate investor Brad Cook. The other 15 investors are limited partners.
The group may buy other hotels, not necessarily in Washington, if this one proves a success, Rodgers said.
Cook was responsible for finding the Embassy Row property once the group decided to buy a hotel. He said he investigated purchasing six or seven Washington hotels, including the Hay Adams and the Fairfax, across the street from Embassy Row, but they weren't for sale.
The partners say they plan to "completely redo" the interior of the hotel within the next year to give it an "Old World" style. They will spend a half-million dollars on the outside to give it more of an embassy look, with a wrought-iron gate and cobblestone drive -- "like Buckingham Palace," Rodgers said.
The hotel will not cater to conventioneers but will be designed to develop a steady clientele of about 5,000 "transient repeat" customers, "the upper 2 to 3 percent of traveling businessmen," Reincke said.
The hotel has not been successful in recent years, Rodgers said, at least partially because of its passive foreign ownership. One key element of the plan to upgrade the hotel is to have Reincke -- who has managed hotels in Europe and the United States, including the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill -- as both a general partner and hotel manager in charge of operations.