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Hotel Roof-Deck Proposal Raises Concern

By Brady HoltCurrent Staff Writer

The new owners of Savoy Suites Hotel near the U.S. Naval Observatory are in the midst of a multimillion-dollar renovation that will include overhauling the facade, upgrading the rooms and public areas, and — most controversially — adding a roof deck atop the eight-story building.

Matt Wexler of Foxhall Partners, one of the owners, said the group purchased the property at Wisconsin Avenue and Davis Street in December 2012, and promptly began studying ways to overhaul the 1970s building. They elected to rename it the Glover Park Hotel and have it operated by the Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants boutique chain, Wexler said at last Thursday’s Glover Park advisory neighborhood commission meeting.

The company’s plans don’t call for expanding the building except for adding the rooftop space, which would feature alcohol service and “light fare” food options until 1 a.m. most nights, as currently envisioned. The hotel is now working with its residential neighbors who worry about noise and parking impacts. The Glover Park neighborhood commission voted unanimously to oppose the roof deck’s alcohol license if no agreement is reached with neighbors by the city’s Aug. 10 deadline.

“We would like these negotiations to succeed,” commission chair Jackie Blumenthal said. “But if they don’t succeed we have to file a protest.”

Wexler said he’s confident they will reach an agreement.

“We as the hotel owner have a strong alignment of interest with all of you to get these things right,” he told residents at the meeting. “We don’t want there to be a trash problem. We don’t want there to be a parking problem.”

And about noise and light concerns, added Wexler, “It’s not like we’re a bar under the roof deck — we have 153 guest rooms where our customers are paying to sleep. We don’t want it to be loud either.” And from the neighbors’ perspective, he said, the ground-floor restaurant’s existing outdoor seating has a greater impact: “There’s more noise that’s heard from that street-level patio than could be heard 90 feet up in the air and surrounded by 6-foot-high glass walls.”

The Savoy Suites is a rare high-rise building for that area in northern Glover Park, surrounded on three sides by much shorter structures.

“The views are mostly treetops and the park,” Wexler said in an interview, “and we think that’s something that’s very different about this hotel and unique and we want to take advantage of that. At a lot of the other Kimpton hotels [in Washington], the surrounding views are typically of other buildings.” The roof deck in particular will have “spectacular” views, he said. Current plans call for 136 seats, with total standing capacity not yet determined.

Conceptual renderings of the building — which Wexler emphasized are not yet finalized — show the replacement or removal of various awnings, the removal of metal elements on the upper story, and artwork that would decorate a blank wall facing Wisconsin Avenue. The room layout will see almost no changes, but each room will be heavily updated.

Wexler said he doesn’t expect the customer base for the updated hotel to change wildly, and he hopes that the hotel will also continue to draw community members and their guests. Residents from the neighborhoods near the hotel are eligible to receive a 15 percent discount.

The facade work and renovations to the rooms and hallways are underway and will wrap up by the end of October. As planned, improvements in the sidewalk area will begin next month and continue through October; outdoor work around the porte-cochere will run from September to November; and roof deck construction will last from September through February 2016. The hotel will remain open during the project, though some rooms will be unavailable as work proceeds in or near them.

“We’re just moving forward with a plan to improve the property and make it one that we think will be certainly more upscale than the hotel has been in the past, but also still approachable for community members and neighborhood residents who want to get a good bite to eat,” said Wexler.

The hotel sits at the boundary between the Glover Park neighborhood commission and the commission to the north and east that covers neighborhoods that include Massachusetts Avenue Heights and Cleveland Park. That commission will discuss the hotel’s alcohol license application on Monday.

This article appears in the July 15 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.