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Georgetown Hotel’s Plan to Convert Row Houses Prompts Mixed Reviews

By Kirk KramerCurrent Staff Writer

The Rosewood Hotel at 1050 31st St. NW, overlooking the C&O Canal, is expanding around the corner and down the street. The Georgetown hotel will soon operate six historic row houses in the same block of 31st Street and nearby on South Street as luxury short-term rental properties.

It’s a move that makes Elsa Santoyo of the Citizens Association of Georgetown feel a trifle apprehensive. She praised the Rosewood as a classy addition to the neighborhood since its 2013 opening, but expressed concern about the character of the neighborhood changing.

“We would be opposed to setting a precedent of large landowners buying up private houses and turning them into short-term rentals,” Santoyo said. “We want to ensure that the individuation does not disappear.”

Michael Winstanley, the architect for the hotel’s project, discussed the plans at this month’s meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E (Georgetown, Burleith). Among the alterations he outlined were the installation of awnings and repainting all six houses the same color, plans that commissioners opposed.

Lisa Palmer, whose single-member district includes the hotel and row houses, also wants to ensure that the buildings each retain their individual character.

“We want to make sure they respect the history of the block,” Palmer told The Current. “Those are multiple townhouses built in the 1800s.”

The houses in question are at 1026, 1032, 1040 and 1042 31st St., and 3103 and 3105 South St.

Palmer said that in general, however, the project looks like a good thing. “That area of 31st Street would benefit from the care that will come from this project,” she said. “Generally we welcome it. We want to have a conversation about the details.”

In an interview, Winstanley said the owner of the structures, 31st Street Townhouses LLC, has already agreed to some of the changes ANC 2E had asked for at its Dec. 4 meeting — dropping the proposed awnings and agreeing that the houses can be different colors. Winstanley also presented the revised plans to the Old Georgetown Board on Dec. 7, which took no formal action.

“The concept review before the OGB was generally very positive,” he said. “They asked for some revisions and want more specifics.”

Pascal Forotti, the Rosewood’s managing director, said the hotel hopes to fill a niche market with the townhouses, making them available to guests starting in the last quarter of 2018.

“People like the services of a hotel but want more independence,” Forotti told The Current. “The houses could rent for a day or two, a week, a month, a year.”

He said that the charge for renting one of the houses has not been determined, but a night’s lodging in a suite at the hotel currently runs between $1,000 and $3,000.

The houses are about a thousand square feet each, Forotti said, with a ground-floor living room, a kitchen area, and a single bedroom and bathroom. Each house will have outdoor garden space with “room for a bistro table and two or three chairs.” Meanwhile, “two houses that are close to each other would connect so a family could have two bedrooms,” he said.

The Old Georgetown Board will continue to review any changes the hotel proposes for the buildings’ exteriors, and ANC 2E has the option to make further comments as the plans develop.

This article appears in the Dec. 20 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.