The Watergate Hotel’s opening has been pushed back at least a year, with developers now looking to add rooftop terraces and summer gardens, worrying neighbors about outdoor noise.
Luxury developer Euro Capital Properties presented renovation plans last year, pledging to enliven the slumping complex and restore the hotel’s iconic reputation by this spring. The project will now cost developers $85 million, up from the previous estimate of $70 million.
And in the last month, developers have seen another potential holdup. Neighbors have jeopardized the hotel’s application for a liquor license by calling attention to issues of noise from the new outdoor spaces.
“Neighbors want to make sure that these new additions to the hotel do not have a negative impact on their homes and their property value and their value of life,” Asher Corson, who sits on the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said at a meeting earlier this month.
The Watergate Hotel changed owners several times between the 1980s and 2007, when the building shut down for a proposed $170 million renovation. But the remodeling plans fell through and the hotel sat empty until Euro Capital Properties bought the space for $45 million in 2010.
The following year the company proposed to add more than 100 rooms to the building and redesign its ballroom. Corson said Euro Capital Properties principal Jacques Cohen caught neighbors off guard when he showed them blueprints for the gardens, which were not included in initial plans, a few weeks before the ANC meeting.
“Without the garden, we’re not a resort. We’re just one of the many hotels in D.C.,” Cohen said. “In order to really make this work, we have to make real reasons for people to come to the Watergate and what the complex has is those beautiful water views.”
Residents of the Watergate buildings, who only expected alcohol to be served indoors, are concerned noise will travel into apartments overlooking the outdoor patios.
The ANC, which has a say in matters like restaurant permits and city rules, said it would oppose the hotel’s application until Cohen negotiates with neighbors who live closest to the hotel. The group agreed to withdraw its protest once every building hammers out a formal, written agreement with the company.
Corson, an alumnus, added that the ANC often protests liquor license requests, ensuring neighbors make agreements with the applicants and have their concerns included in Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration documents.
Euro Capital Properties’ portfolio includes luxury hotels like D.C.’s Hamilton Crowne Plaza and the Hilton Arc de Triomphe Paris.
“We want to see the hotel be successful,” said Armando Irizarry, who represents the Watergate complex on the ANC. “But there are concerns that are legitimate.”
This article appeared in the January 28, 2013 issue of the Hatchet.