Watergate Hotel renovation could begin in March

The renovation of the iconic Watergate Hotel, on the drawing board for several years, could begin in March, according to the project architect.

Bahram Kamali, an architect with D.C.-based BBGM who is leading the renovation for New York-based Euro Capital Properties Inc., said the renovation will increase the number of rooms from 251 to 348. It will be operated as an independent hotel, he said.

Euro Capital Properties bought the hotel, closed since 2007 after a failed attempt to turn the building into condos, in 2010 for $45 million. The owner could not be reached for comment.

Kamali said a renovated lobby with a bar and lounge, a specialty restaurant with some outdoor terrace seating and a rooftop bar with a small reflecting pool are some of the other changes slated for the 265,000-square-foot property.

A price tag for the project has not been disclosed, though the GW Hatchet pegged it at about $85 million a year ago.

BBGM, a boutique hospitality design firm, has several of D.C.’s big-name hotels in its portfolio. The firm designed the Mandarin Oriental and did the renovations at The Madison Hotel and the Sofitel Lafayette Square. Its renovations at the Omni Shoreham in Woodley Park, meanwhile, totaled $80 million.

While there will be substantial changes to the interior, the look of Watergate Hotel’s exterior will remain the same, because of the building’s historic landmark status. It opened in 1967, and the name became famous because of its connection to a 1972 robbery that took place at the complex of buildings there. The Watergate break-in eventually led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

“The challenge is the form of the building. It’s very hard to make it work with the curve,” Kamali said. “We had to maximize the number of rooms. We finally got to 348 [while] still making sure the rooms were big enough for a luxury hotel.”

What changes they do make to the exterior will likely go unnoticed to the naked eye, he added.

“The exterior we can’t change. For example, we have to replace all the windows, but we’re putting it back in exactly the same form,” Kamali said. “We have to make all railings per current code by designing it to be very similar to existing in order to obtain approval due to historical nature of the project.”


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