The Marriott Marquis opens Thursday, ending a lengthy drama involving big city politics and big money developers. How did we get here?
1990: Mayor Marion Barry proposes a convention center and hotel complex for a six-block area north of Mount Vernon Square. The city’s first convention center is only seven years old. He proposes replacing the original with a 25,000-seat sports arena.
1998: Work begins on the new $685 million convention center without concrete plans for a hotel. Developers express interest in building new hotels nearby. “I think you’re going to see development very soon,” said Chip Akridge, founder of the real estate firm Akridge.
2001: The city receives two competing hotel proposals: Marriott, developer JBG and developer Kingdon Gould, propose a 1,500-room hotel in the 900 block of Massachusetts Avenue NW. Hilton, Landmark Organization and local developer Doug Jemal, propose a 1,400-room hotel on Jemal’s property at Seventh Street and New York Avenue NW.
2001: Politicos debate whether a convention center hotel will need a subsidy. Council member Harold Brazil (D-At Large): “Ideally, the bidders will come up with their own funding, without public assistance.”
2002: Hotel delays begin to frustrate William A. Hanbury, president and chief executive of the Washington Convention & Tourism Corp.: “There’s a lot riding on us building that hotel. We are selling the new convention center based on the assumption we will have a headquarters hotel adjacent to or near the convention center by 2004 or early 2005.”
2002: Marriott is selected to build the convention center hotel on Ninth Street, though it does not control all the needed land. Meanwhile, the cost of the convention center rises to $834 million.
2004: The original convention center is detonated, 22 years after it opened.
2007: After years of negotiations between the District and Gould Property Co., Mayor Adrian Fenty announces a land swap that provides enough space for the hotel. Gould gets part of the old convention center site. “It really is the key action needed for us to get this project going and finished on time,” Fenty said.
2009: Mired in the recession, Greg O’Dell, chief executive of the Washington Convention Center Authority, proposes floating bonds to pay for the entire $750 million convention center hotel. “They’ve been pursuing private financing, and in this market, you know, that is very difficult,” O’Dell said of the developers. The D.C. Council approves $206 million in public money instead.
September 2009: Developer JBG sues the District over what it calls an “invalid sole-source procurement” for the hotel contract to Marriott. JBG is accused of using the lawsuit to lean on Marriott for concessions at another property, the Marriott Wardman Park. Construction is delayed.
July 2010: JBG and Marriott work out their differences, allowing the hotel project to continue.
November 2010: Construction begins on the hotel, a $520 million, 1,175-room Marriott Marquis.
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