The competition to redevelop the Old Post Office Pavilion in the District is increasingly resembling a heavyweight real estate bout mixing celebrity, politics and development know-how.
Respondents to the government’s request for proposals, for which a selection could come as early as Nov. 17, continue to come forward. Carpenter & Co., a Boston firm which turned a 150-year-old jail in that city into the 298-room Liberty Hotel, has proposed a similar makeover for the Post Office, according to Richard L. Friedman, Carpenter’s president and chief executive.
Friedman, a former chairman of the National Capital Planning Commission, proposed a 280-room hotel by Montage Hotels & Resorts, and said no other firm in the competition possessed “the same personal commitment that we have and the same level of experience at restoring a National Historic Landmark into a hotel.”
“We’re not a big company, but we have very, very good backers and very good people who believe in us, and a team that is very committed to doing for Pennsylvania Avenue the best possible job,” Friedman said.
Meanwhile, a bid organized by backers of a proposed National Museum of the Jewish People suggest a museum addition designed by architect Daniel Libeskind and a Park Hyatt Hotel in the original building.
Julius Kaplan, chairman of the museum’s board, said the $80 million museum would become an “educational tool” where people from around the world could learn about Judaism and its people, possibly through high-tech exhibits allowing guests to try hitting a pitch from Sandy Koufax or play chess against Bobby Fischer.
The two proposals join a competition that includes big names such as Ivanka M. Trump, the international model and television star, and Christopher J. Nassetta, the homegrown executive who now runs Hilton Worldwide, both of whom have proposed luxury hotels for the building.
Carpenter & Co. has its own high-profile backers, including Pierre Omidyar, founder and chairman of eBay, who is a major investor in the Montage line. Carpenter’s Friedman lists former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd as a personal reference.
Not to be outdone, the museum’s honorary chairman is Elie Wiesel, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and Presidential Peace Prize. And Penny Pritzker, chairman of Vi, formerly known as Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, was national finance chair for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
Not that any of that should matter.
“I would like to believe that on a project as important as this, dealing with Pennsylvania Avenue in the nation’s capital, and a historical building, that they will be scrupulously careful not be influenced by politicians,” Kaplan said. “I would be hopeful.”