Neighborhood groups discuss Watergate changes

The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission discussed upcoming changes to the historic Watergate complex in a late-night meeting Wednesday, including upgrades to the Watergate Hotel and Safeway’s impending shutdown.

Jacques Cohen, president of Euro Capital Properties – the group that bought the Watergate Hotel in May 2010 – outlined planned renovations, ranging from increasing the number of rooms from 251 to 355, in addition to reconfiguring the ballroom, sprucing up landscaping, expanding dining space and reorganizing the spa and gym.

Cohen said his team is looking to transform the hotel, shuttered for the past four years, into a luxury site that can compete with more posh hotels in the city. The group projects an April 2013 reopening.

He was hopeful that reopening the hotel would attract retail back to the plaza, where retail is in “very bad shape.”

“I don’t think that the retail can really happen without the hotel coming back online. It will have a lot of impact on the complex,” Cohen said.

The group has not yet filed for approval from D.C. Zoning Commission and is waiting on a letter of support from residents at the complex to create a smoother the hearing process, he said.

Local residents have expressed concerns surround the closure of the Watergate Safeway, worried about a lack of brand-name product choice at other nearby stores and higher prices.

Commissioner Armando Irizarry, who represents the Watergate area, said he invited Safeway representatives to attend the meeting and discuss the grocery store’s shutdown with residents, but received a message declining the invitation.

The commission sent a resolution to Safeway officials in October, expressing community support for the store. More than 1,300 neighbors also petitioned to keep the shop open.

Ward 2 D.C Council member Jack Evans, who wrote a letter to Safeway offering to help negotiate with landlords after the corporation cited landlord issues for its shutdown, told neighbors at the meeting he would work on determining the feasibility of starting a shuttle service to transport seniors who live in the Watergate to other grocers.

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