The Penn Theatre and the Commodore Hotel, fixtures on Capitol Hill for much of this century, have been sold to a Wisconsin-based developer which plans major changes on both sites.
The developer, the Carley Capital Group, has already begun gutting the 62-year-old Commodore for renovation into a luxury 84-room hotel. David Carley, a partner in the group, said he expects the total cost of the project to be about $10 million.
"The Commodore represents just what a developer is looking for," Carley said this week. Its location, at the corner of North Capitol Street and Massachusetts Avenue near Union Station, places it not only within walking distance of the Capitol, but also in the middle of a cluster of trade association offices and union headquarters.
Carley said the exterior of the building will be cleaned up and some accents, such as a canopy added, but the major changes will be inside. "All of the rooms will be completely redone," he said, reducing the number from the original 120 to 84. Meeting rooms will be added and a "high-quality -- perhaps English-style" restaurant installed on the second floor.
Carley said the hotel will be renamed the Phoenix Park, after a park in Dublin, and the Dubliner, a popular Irish restaurant, will remain. "The Dubliner is a given," he said.
The hotel should be ready for occupancy in July, he added, and room rates are expected to be slightly over $100 per night -- "above the Hyatt and below the Fairfax," now the Ritz-Carlton.
Plans for the Penn Theatre, acquired by the Carley Group last month, are much less clear at this point. The site, at 650 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, is relatively large for the Hill, running from Pennsylvania Avenue north to C Street SE, and the developers have acquired, or are seeking, several adjacent properties.
According to Carley and the group's Terry Lierman, they are leaning toward a four-story mixed-use project, with underground parking, possible retail space at the English basement level, a restaurant above and three stories of offices above that. Along with this might go an arcade leading in from Pennsylvania Avenue through the existing entrance in the old theater's art deco facade; an interior court and, on the C Street side, 30 to 40 condominiums or possibly an inn.
If done this way, Lierman said, the project would contain about 15,000 square feet of retail space (including the restaurant) and about 40,000 square feet of offices.
"We have a commitment to maintaining" the theater's art deco facade, he said.
Carley noted that his group has hired David Schwartz, whom he touted as "the best architect in Washington for this kind of project," and both he and Lierman made it plain that whatever the final design they are aiming for something out of the ordinary for the site.
Carley, who as president of the Inland Steel Development Corp. in the early '70s was involved in the Foundry in Georgetown and other projects, is enthusiastic about Washington as a development market. "We just bought $3.5 million worth of land at the corner of 15th and P" streets NW, he said, and his group is seeking other property as well.
In addition, the Carley Group is doing 88 townhouses in Frederick, 190 apartments in Takoma Park, and has an interest in an office development at the Duke Street Metro stop in Alexandria. It is also working with the Southern Railway on two other projects in Alexandria.