The Largest Hotel Opens in DC

May 2, 2014

After more than a decade of planning, D.C. finally has a new biggest hotel.

The Marriott Marquis opened its doors to the public at noon on Thursday. With 1,175 rooms, it’s the largest hotel in the District. It’s also the most anticipated, by far. Back when Mayor Marion Barry first pitched the idea of a new convention center north of Mount Vernon Square in 1990, the proposal included a hotel. (It also included a 25,000-seat sports arena on the site of the old convention center, now home to the CityCenterDC development.) Marriott was selected to build the hotel in 2002. Twelve years later, here it is.

But it’s not the only new hotel in the District. Just a few blocks to the north, in a move seemingly designed to be overshadowed by the Marriott festivities, the 187-room Cambria Suites at the CityMarket at O development also opened its doors today.

The District is experiencing quite a hotel boom. And it’s only just beginning.

According to Destination DC, the nonprofit corporation that serves at the D.C. government’s marketing arm for tourism and conventions, today’s two openings bring the total number of hotel rooms in the District from 28,471 to 29,833—a 5 percent jump. That figure will continue to grow in the coming years, with 886 more rooms under construction, 1,165 beginning construction in the next 12 months, and 1,613 in early planning.

Destination DC President and CEO Elliott Ferguson says the key thing about today’s hotel openings isn’t what they do for the city’s hotel supply, but their location. “The most important thing about the inventory that’s coming online today is that they’re in close proximity to the convention center,” he says. “It’s very crucial that we have those additional rooms, because it has been a competitive disadvantage. Most of the first-tier cities we compete against have major convention center hotels.”

But for anyone hoping that the arrival of new hotels will bring down rates, Ferguson has bad news for you. “These companies do a lot of homework before they break ground,” he says. “There’s no hotel that’s built with the anticipation of rates going down.” Some of the companies opening new hotels, he notes, already operate others in the District—Marriott, for example. They wouldn’t open new locations that would cut into their business elsewhere.

Rates at the Marriott Marquis start at $180 in the low, summer season. During peak times—say, when tourists flock to the District for a certain festival that rhymes with “hairy possum”—expect them to be much higher.

As published online in Washington City Paper – 5-1-14 – Aaron Wiener.
Photo by Aaron Wiener.

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