Jonathan O'Connell reports for The Washington Post
The General Services Administration has selected a proposal from Trump Hotel Collection, the lodging brand that bears the name of the New York real estate magnate, to turn the historic Old Post Office pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue into a luxury hotel with at least 250 rooms, conference facilities, a spa and restaurants.
Robert Peck, GSA’s Commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, issued a statement saying Trump was selected to save taxpayers money and take better advantage of the historic property.
“Deciding to move forward with redeveloping this iconic property will save millions in taxpayer dollars each year. The tremendous response from the private sector allowed us to select a proposal that will provide a consistent revenue stream for the Federal Government and better utilize a historic property on our nation’s Main Street,” Peck said in a statement.
“The Trump Organization plan will preserve the historic nature of the building and improve the vitality of Pennsylvania Avenue,” Peck added. “This redevelopment represents good business sense on behalf of the American taxpayer, the Federal Government and the District of Columbia.”
Ivanka M. Trump, Donald Trump’s daughter and executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization, told the Post in July that the company held the building’s historic nature in high regard. “Preserving the architectural integrity of this great asset should be fundamental to all plans presented to the GSA,” she said then.
Though listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol, the Old Post Office has been deemed under-utilized by the government. The General Services Administration began soliciting proposals.to redevelop the property in March.
Trump bested number of other high-profile suitors for the property, including one from Hilton Worldwide to turn the property into a Waldorf Astoria.
The Trump Organization, along with California private equity firm Colony Capital, plans to invest $200 million into acquiring the property and redeveloping it.
In a Tuesday interview shortly after GSA’s announcement, Ivanka Trump said the existing hotel that best compares with what she plans for Washington is the Plaza Hotel in New York City. The new hotel will be called Trump International Hotel, Old Post Office, Washington, D.C.
“The Trump Organization is committed to making this the finest luxury hotel in the world and we think the building’s location and historic nature will allow us to do that,” she said.
The Trump Hotel Collection already operates luxury hotels in Chicago; New York; Las Vegas; Waikiki, Hawaii; and Panama, where the Trump Ocean Club became the tallest building in Latin America in July. Its newest hotel opened in Toronto earlier this year.
How prominent will the famous and controversial Trump name be on Pennsylvania Avenue? Ivanka Trump said the company would take great care to preserve the building’s exterior while incorporating its brand into the redevelopment.
“I think the historic facade of the building will be the greatest signage of all,” Trump said.
Built in the 1890s, the Old Post Office is a national historic landmark and one of the tallest buildings in the city. The property underwent a makeover in the 1980s that failed to revive its fortunes. Now home to a smattering of federal offices and tourist-oriented retail and restaurants, the building loses more than $6 million annually and the annex is empty and in disrepair, with broken tiles, exposed beams and unfinished storefronts prevalent despite its enjoying one of Washington’s most prestigious locations, on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol.
The government and Trump still must come to terms on a final financial agreement, one that also governs usage of the building and preservation of its historic aspects. The GSA needs to relocate government agencies that are still operating inside the building, including the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. If negotiations proceed as expected, the GSA said that redevelopment could begin in 2014 and the hotel could be ready for occupancy in 2016.
Among other respondents to the GSA’s solicitation for development partners were organizers of a National Museum of the Jewish People, which submitted a detailed proposal for a museum of Jewish heritage on the lower levels and a Park Hyatt Hotel above. Local firms the JBG Cos. of Chevy Chase and Monument of the District also made submissions.
Members of Congress, particularly House Republicans, have sharply criticized the GSA in recent years for not doing more to use vacant or under-utilized real estate, taking particular aim at the Old Post Office. The House subcommittee that oversees the GSA plans to hold a hearing Thursday at the Old Post Office and earlier Tuesday, the House passed a bill that would create a new process for selling under-used federal buildings.