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Trumps begin work on $200 million Washington hotel

A photo illustration of a Trump room in the Old Post Office. (Courtesy Trump)
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Donald and daughter Ivanka Trump on Wednesday gave a glimpse of what’s to come as work begins on transforming the Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue into a 270-room luxury hotel, showing off some model accommodations

At an average of 600 square feet, the new rooms will be larger than many of the new micro-unit apartments being designed and built in the city. Two presidential suites located in the former offices of the postmaster general will be much larger, at 3,500 and 5,000 feet.

The Trumps have not released the room rates but say they plan to compete with the best hotels in the city. The hotel will be named Trump International Hotel, Washington, D.C.

With cameras rolling and flashes flickering, the Trumps celebrated the start of construction with D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), members of the D.C. Council and officials from the General Services Administration. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who has overseen GSA work in the House, also attended.

Trump repeated his previously made claim that the hotel, when completed in 2016, will be one of the best in the country and the world, and he credited officials at the General Services Administration and Ivanka, who headed the project for the Trump Organization.

“Ivanka has worked so so hard, so I want to thank her and I want to congratulate her,” he said.

The Trump family broke ground on Wednesday on it's D.C. hotel, set to open in 2016. Ivanka Trump, daughter of real estate mogul Donald Trump, is spearheading the redevelopment of the city's Old Post Office building into a luxury hotel. (Video: JulieAnn McKellogg/The Washington Post)

Inside, the Old Post Office is now vacant. The food court is to become part of a grand entrance from 11th Street, which will be extended south to allow guests to drive or be dropped off at the building’s eastern entrance. The upper level of what is now the food court area will have a restaurant. The upstairs is also empty, following the transfer of the federal agencies that operated there to other locations.

In the rear annex, long vacant after a failed redevelopment effort in the 1980s, the Trumps have constructed a sample guest room to run through construction logistics and test out materials, furnishings and furniture.

The model room was built to closely mimic the rooms that will ultimately be built upstairs, Ivanka Trump said. Because of space constrains the ceiling, the model unit is slightly lower (15 feet instead of 16) and the floor space is slightly smaller (500 square feet compared to an average of 600).

The trick, Ivanka Trump said in designing the rooms, was combining the historic feel of a building from 1899, with a “fresh, elegant and crisp” feel for luxury travelers. To that end the bathroom is trimmed in gold.

“We’re really excited about how we were able to accomplish that, with keeping the sense of tradition, keeping a federal spirit, introducing some European accents and bringing great warmth. I think it really accomplishes that,” she said.

The Trumps attracted criticism in Chicago recently when they added a 20-foot high “Trump” nameplate to their new Chicago skyscraper. Ivanka Trump defended the Chicago sign. “It’s a 92-story building. It looks totally contextual — it looks beautiful,” she said.

She said it was important that the signage at the Old Post Office indicate that the building was a luxury hotel, but not that it mimic what the company built in Chicago.

“I think it’s really important that people know that this is a commercial building, that’s open to the public, and you’ve got to be careful — you can’t allow people to walk by thinking it’s a post office or a former food court. So I think it’s important to make it lively and beautiful. But also, Chicago is a 92-story building, this is not, so the signage is appropriate for the building,” she said.

Other than the sign, little else will change about the building’s exterior facade because it is protected by historic preservation rules.

Norton said she expected the building to become the “centerpiece” of a revived Pennsylvania Avenue. A combination of agencies have re-started an initiative to re-think the corridor in the mold of former New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s vision.  She passed legislation requiring the federal government to dispose of the property.

“Look what the Old Post Office had been reduced to — something of an ugly duckling on Pennsylvania Avenue,” she said.

Mayor Gray said the project would culminate a revival of the District’s downtown.

“This symbolizes where we with our  city today,” he said. “And that is a place where people are now living downtown, people are downtown 24-7. [It] is an active, vibrant energized place and we know that when the Trump hotel comes here ladies and gentlemen that it will add even more vibrancy.”

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz