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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Convention Center's Bad Press

It's not a good press day for the convention center. First, as Anon pointed out in the comments, two articles appear in today's Washington Times: one focusing on the Convention Center's failings relating to its retail spaces, and one discussing a lawsuit filed by nearby businesses regarding promises made by the WCCA relating to grants to abate the effects of the construction of the Center. Second, as several blogs have posted, there's an article in today's WaPo about the fact that the proposed Convention Center Hotel at 9th and Mass (stretching over L Street to the north) may not move forward due to all of the delays, the hotel boom ending, the credit market, and rising construction costs.

8 comments:

Shaw Rez said...

Although I've been a huge advocate for the city/Mariott/etc. to move forward with the planned 1400 room convention center hotel, I will not be too disappointed if it doesn't move forward. 9th North of Mass is revitalizing quickly and organically already, with several large and small projects coming online within the year. The new and unique businesses will prosper with or without the gigantic hotel--and may even thrive without it (a mongoidal hotel might have spelled a district void of uniqueness and character). I think "A" hotel--even if it's not the largest in the city that was called for--makes natural sense for the location, and I'll still hold out hope that a hotel is built.

Greg said...

I agree, with one exception: the hotel needs to be really big. As things stand right now, even though the convention center technically has the space to host big conferences (national medical meetings, for example), the hotel room situation in DC is something of an embarrassment in the industry. For a big national meeting to take place here, hosting organizations have to book pretty much every hotel in the city plus a significant number of blocks in the northern Virginia corridor -- and then bus attendees to the center from all over. This adds to traffic congestion and definitely affects the city and how people perceive it -- think about a few months ago when the GI congress was in town.

A large hotel near the center would alleviate some of that, at least traffic wise. And it would help "sell" DC to outside groups, which would help bring in more dollars. As the ability to book more meetings in the city increases, so will the demand for more places to eat, drink, and buy stuff for the folks back at home.

Large citywide meetings can bring quite literally tens of millions of dollars of revenue into a city, and that's revenue that goes to locally owned businesses such as restaurants and bars.

Having spent 15 years planning and hosting large meetings like this, I can tell you we sorely need a large convention hotel here. I think once it gets built, you'll see an increase in more related businesses opening nearby to target the people staying in that hotel. Conventioneers tend to stick close to where they're staying.

Having spewed on about this, though, I do think it needs to be done correctly. I'd rather see DC put some thought into this instead of quickly throwing up some piece of crap - that's just as embarrassing as building a large convention center without having enough hotel rooms to support it.

The interesting thing about the lawsuit over the grants to help carry businesses during construction is that many of the P Street businesses affected by the construction project going on in Dupont are using the grant program established by the city for the convention center-area businesses as a precedent to ask for help themselves. Should be interesting to see what pans out.

Anonymous said...

There was a related column in the Business section by Steve Pearlstein re: the convention center hotel that I thought was interesting...if you haven't seen it already...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/11/AR2007091102152.html

Anonymous said...

ShawRez, could you please mention which projects are coming online north of Mass Ave on 9th? I am very interested and hopeful...

Anonymous said...

from the Perlstein chat at WaPo:

Lives Near the Convention Center: Can citizens help Marriott or others hasten the move to a smaller footprint hotel and get rid of all those folks that are standing in the way of breaking ground. What real hurdles are left if they embrace the concept of a smaller property?

Steven Pearlstein: The mayor is probably your best bet here -- he is impatient, he's made it clear that these private sector actors either have to accept the deal as previously offered, or step aside -- there will be no more public subsidy. And his people are comfortable with the multiple hotel options. Marriott, unfortunately, is part of the problem here at this point. They are still clinging to the idea that when the credit markets stabilize in 60 to 90 days, financing will become available and affordable again and they can get back to the bargaining table. I think that is really overly optimistic. First, the credit is going to be significantly more expensive. Second, the 1,400 room hotel with all that meeting space just isn't viable, even if it were a good idea, which it isn't. But it is the solution that makes the most money for Marriott. At this point, I would say that the Mayor has to put it very bluntly to Marriott: either come up with a smaller project on 9th street that you can do quickly, or we'll find somebody else who can.

Shaw Rez said...

Thanks for the insight, Greg--very interesting. Anons, thanks for the links.

Anon @ 1:26, who asked about projects North of Mass... Starting from the south: 1) Corduroy Restaurant is coming to the 1100 block, and renovations are underway for its February 08 opening (this will be a huge draw to our neighborhood); 2) The building next to Corduroy is being redeveloped--it will feature a cool, modern 4 story residential condominium in the back with a retail condominium in the front that utilizes the one story facade on 9th; 3) The Flats at Blagden Alley project, which has frontage on 9th Street (behind the Modern liquors building), is set to break ground this fall. This *BEAUTIFUL* workorce condominium project will feature a retail spot on 9th and will bring affordable housing opportunities to hard working, invested citizens; 4) Nima's Italian Restaurant/Wine Bar is coming to the 1300 block and is currently renovating a historic row home for its venue; 5) Next door to Nima's is another historic structure under renovation for a yet-to-be-named commercial structure; 6) There are several other signs of life and renovations along the 1200 block of 9th, however I've been unable to uncover any details on the projects; 7) The Exchange, a mixed use residential/retail project by Douglas Development at 9th and N, is nearing completion and will feature ground floor retail and a cafe. Finally, there's a lot going on south of Mass that will impact the North of Mass development, notably: 1) The (huge) Mount Vernon Place Methodist Church mixed use redevelopment, which is already under construction, will bring a lot more office workers to the area; and 2) The old convention center redevelopment will fill in a huge gap that really divides us from downtown. Pedestrians don't like gaps, so are less likely to venture north on 9th because of this vast nothingness.

Anonymous said...

Sweet, thanks for the info, ShawRez. Those projects will be huge for the 'hood when completed. Also, a smaller hotel on 9th is fine by me...

si said...

i peeked in the windows where corduroy is under construction, looks like the space is still pretty raw but work is progressing nicely.