Developer plans facelift for century-old Allen Lee Hotel

A high-end District retail developer is beginning a 14-month project to inject “new life” into Foggy Bottom’s oldest hotel, the company’s president said Wednesday.

ABDO Development laid out an extensive plan to transform the century-old Allen Lee Hotel into an upscale restaurant and hotel, six years after purchasing the worn-down property at 23rd and F streets.

President and CEO Jim Abdo presented the company’s plan for the five-story, white brick building with a peeling exterior at a neighborhood meeting Wednesday.

“We have been wanting to get to this building to upgrade it to give it a new lease on life,” Abdo said. “We’re not about knocking buildings down, we’re about giving them new life.”

The company, which has transformed dozens of historic buildings in D.C. into luxurious venues, bought the hotel for $3.6 million and has sat idle on the project until now.

Media Credit: Francis Rivera | Assistant Photo Editor

The company plans to gut the inside and upgrade the outside so it doesn’t “stand out like the sore thumb” it is now, Abdo said.

He said he could not yet provide the estimated cost or more details of the design.

“We just know we want to upgrade this facility, provide a much better hotel for this community and much better on-site amenities than what are available today,” he added.

The hotel’s cheap rates – as low as $60 per night, according to some hostel websites – would rise to about $200 per room. Abdo said the company would likely downsize the number of rooms from 80, but each unit would feature more amenities, like private bathrooms.

The hotel also helps house clients from My Sister’s Place, an organization that assists women affected by domestic abuse.

Pam McNeil, operations director for My Sister’s Place, said the organization has not been advised of any specific changes for the women who stay at the hotel.

“Working with folks at the Allen Lee, as far as we know, won’t be a change in the kind of services we provide there,” McNeil said.

Abdo said the shelter’s victims receive a government stipend to stay in the hotel as a safe haven, and he said the site will continue to accept any paying resident.

News broke of the project last month, when the company applied for a liquor license with the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration.

William Hager, the record and data management supervisor at ABRA, said the liquor license was approved Oct. 9.

The Allen Lee is one of the largest Foggy Bottom properties that GW has not touched, though the hotel has fielded several requests to partner in the last few decades.

Alicia Knight, senior associate vice president for operations at the University, said last week that there have been “no conversations” about a partnership with ABDO over the Allen Lee. She declined to comment on the company’s presentation after the local meeting.

The University has not attempted to purchase the hotel in the last decade, but made multiple offers up until the 1990s.

Steve Timlin, a long-time resident of Foggy Bottom, said the development would be in the neighborhood’s best interest.

Timlin said he scoped out the hotel in the 1990s as a potential stay for guests, but decided, “I would not take anyone in that place.”

“I’m glad to hear someone will improve the Allen Lee,” he added. “If the hotel could be improved, I would go in again.”

Sarah Ferris and Frankie Kane contributed to this report.

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