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Why Doesn't DC Have Hip Hotels?

The streets of DC are peppered with hotels, but few boutique ones. Why? That's among the issues we'll be addressing at our big two-day Bisnow national hotel conference next week. (We call it BLIS, for Bisnow Lodging Investment Summit, both because fancy annual events need acronyms, and because we want to subliminally convince you that's the state of mind you'll be in if you sign up.) 

As to the question of lack of hip hotels in DC, hotel guru (and movie star-looking) Nelson Migdal of Greenberg Traurig says the answer is demographics. Nelson says that 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. 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. 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. It has already opened a successful one in LA's Koreatown; work could begin soon.

If The Line and other proposed projects work out, 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. (Georgetown may be a good candidate, too, but Nelson says accessibility could be an issue.) Nelson and over 40 other hospitality experts (including political pundit Tucker Carlson to open things up) will descend on the brand new Marriott Marquis next week for BLIS—the first-ever public event at the hotel. More info here.