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DC: Where Are the Hip Hotels?

National Hotel

The streets of DC are peppered with hotels, but few boutique ones. Why? Hotel guru Nelson Migdal of Greenberg Traurig, who's also speaking at BLIS, says the answer is demographics. For years, older lawyers, lobbyists, and government types have made up the bulk of hotel guests in DC, and they prefer older, household name brands "and a steak at the Prime Rib," instead of newer, hipper options. (We hate to break it to you, DC elite, but Frank Sinatra's been dead for 16 years.) But with the city skewing younger, things could change. Also, he says, conservative lenders prefer the financial stability of an established brand over new concepts when financing projects. That's why DC's newest hotels bear flags like Marriott and Hyatt instead of Ace, Standard, or James.


But help is on the way, Nelson says—for example in the form of NYC-based Sydell Group's proposed redevelopment of the old First Church of Christ, Scientist building on Columbia Road in Adams Morgan. Sydell, developer of the megahip Ace and NoMad hotel brands, reportedly plans to bring its The Line flag to DC with a 100-plus-room boutique hotel on the site. Sydell has already opened a successful one in LA's Koreatown; work could begin soon. Nelson says neighborhoods like Penn Quarter, NoMa, and Capitol Riverfront might be primed for similar concepts, since each spot offers the amenities and accessibility boutique hotels demand.