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Latham Project Cleared to Proceed

The redevelopment of the Latham Hotel site in Georgetown is moving forward after a brief dispute with neighborhood leaders over the scale and use of a proposed rooftop lounge atop the building. The New York-based development firm Thor Equities closed on the property at 3000 M St. NW for $53.35 million last month with plans to rehabilitate the vacant 10-story building into a luxury hotel with retail on the three lowest floors. The Board of Zoning Adjustment voted last month to approve relief from land-use regulations to construct a partially enclosed rooftop deck, and the Old Georgetown Board approved the historic preservation aspects of the project design concept in May. With those decisions out of the way, the developer can proceed with construction, scheduled to begin early next year and conclude in time to open both the hotel and retail by early 2019, Thor’s Joshua Greenwald told The Current. Back in May, members of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E (Georgetown, Burleith) balked at the roof deck proposal, urging the developer to scale back the outdoor portion and consider the harmful effect of noise pollution on surrounding neighbors. Since then, Thor representatives sat down with ANC 2E members and crafted a settlement agreement that limits the volume of noise audible from the street, prohibits amplified music on the unenclosed portion of the roof deck and prohibits trash pickups between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. The document also requires the developer to install 16 bicycle parking spaces in the building and 20 more outside in public space. ANC 2E member Bill Starrels told The Current he thinks the resulting document is “very comprehensive as far as possible negative effects on the surrounding neighbors.” The size of the proposed roof deck has not changed from the initial proposal of 2,700 square feet, but the activities there have been limited, he said. The Latham Hotel and its accompanying restaurant, Citronelle, closed with severe water damage in 2012. An earlier development plan from SB-Urban would have transformed the hotel into 140 “micro” apartment units and front-facing retail. That concept fell through because the developer chose to focus its efforts elsewhere in the city, but Greenwald said Thor’s current design retains most aspects of the original plan, aside from the interior use. According to Greenwald, Thor CEO Joe Sitt had the idea to launch a development in D.C. after spending time in the area with his two children — one of whom recently graduated from George Washington University, with the other currently attending Georgetown University. “Over the years, he’s really fallen in love with the Georgetown area,” Greenwald said. “He was looking to purchase a property and felt that it would fit with our portfolio.” No retail vendors have been chosen for the lower floors, but all options, including grocery stores and restaurants, are under consideration, Greenwald said. The 27,000 square feet of open retail space could be filled by one large retailer or several smaller ones, he said. Starrels said he hopes the developer will consider adding a high-end grocer, like Whole Foods or its new grab-and-go operation, “365 by Whole Foods Market.” Overall, Starrels said he has heard largely positive responses to Thor’s plan for the site. “It’ll be nice to see a quality project moving forward,” he said. This article appears in the Aug. 10 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.