The new owners of the Watergate Hotel plan to reopen it next summer, hoping to lure luxury-seeking travelers to a location in the infamous complex that has been closed for years after a previous redevelopment effort ended in foreclosure.
Designed by Italian architect Luigi Moretti and first opened in 1967, the hotel is part of the office and residential complex made famous by the 1972 burglary that led to President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation.
After falling into disrepair, the hotel was purchased by D.C. developer Monument Realty during the go-go years of the real estate bubble. Monument planned to turn the property into condominiums and rename it Belles Rives at The Watergate, but the property fell into foreclosure during the real estate bust and was purchased at auction by Euro Capital Properties for $45 million in 2010.
Euro Capital, with headquarter offices in Paris and New York, is pouring $125 million into gutting and remaking the property, adding nearly 100 rooms, ballroom space, a spa and a rooftop lounge. An upscale restaurant promises to offer “American cuisine with a French twist.” When it reopens next summer, the 343-room hotel will welcome its first guests in more than seven years.
Room rates will begin at $450, according to Euro Capital principal Jacques Cohen.
“The hotel originally had no terraces and very little meeting space,” Cohen said in an interview. “What we’re doing is creating 17,000 square feet of meeting space including a 7,000-square-foot ballroom with 16-foot ceilings and the hottest rooftop bar in town with a 350-person capacity.”
Because the Watergate complex is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, most of the changes permitted in a renovation were to the interior, leaving the modern-era exterior architecture largely untouched. The lobby, bar and other interior spaces will feature large metal work by Israeli artist and designer Ron Arad.
“What we’re doing is bringing true luxury, but in a modern and fresh way that also really celebrates the mid-century modernism of the Watergate complex and the Watergate hotel building,” Cohen said.
If construction remains on schedule, the Watergate will open months before another notable new entrant into Washington’s luxury hotel market — the Old Post Office hotel, being built by Donald and Ivanka Trump. That project — another luxury retrofit of a historic building — is in the midst of a $200 million renovation and slated to open in early 2016.
The two properties are less than two miles apart, with the White House as a selling point in between, but Cohen said there will be few similarities. He pointed in particular to the views of the Potomac River that he said will be available in all but a handful of rooms.
“They are completely different properties,” Cohen said. “Not comparable.”
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