It’s been widely reported that Donald Trump won the bid to redevelop the Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue. He plans to renovate the historic building and construct a luxury Trump International Hotel with 260 suites and penthouses, plus a spa, shops, and restaurants. In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Trump wrote, “One of the most important responsibilities and goals that I have as a developer and business operator is to create tens of thousands of jobs and bring beauty and life to key cities around the world.” He said the Post Office project would create 500 construction jobs and 500 hotel jobs.
We caught up with him today to talk more about the Post Office, what he loves about the area, and whether he would consider creating a Washington season of his hit NBC show, The Apprentice.
Washington is intensely curious about you now, but as a developer rather than as a politician. Do you feel an obligation to get to know the local city, apart from the official city?
Yes. We’ve spoken with the mayor. We’ve spoken to many members of the City Council. They know we’re going to do such a beautiful job.
Do you have a favorite part of the Post Office Building?
The tower itself, and the atrium is one of the underutilized spaces. We will do something special with the atrium, bringing it back to its original grandeur.
Will it serve as the lobby of the hotel?
It will be part of the hotel lobby.
You will share Pennsylvania Avenue with a historic hotel, the Willard; a global chain, Marriott; and a hipster brand, the W. How will you complement or compete with them?
I think its good for everybody. We’re doing a very high-end renovation. The product will be something everyone can be proud of. Having us there will complement everyone else.
Have you explored how the city is run? The mayor is under investigation, the head of the City Council is under investigation. Do political issues like that matter to you?
No. We really focused on the location and the physical beauty of the structure.
Why do you think your bid was chosen?
We were chosen because we have an amazing plan and balance sheet. We have a great balance sheet. Let me say, the people at GSA are so capable, so aggressive in the way they went about the process. I grained tremendous respect for that agency.
Is this your first time working with the federal government on a development?
You didn’t feel overwhelmed by the bureaucracy?
No. They were unbelievably professional, as impressive as I’ve ever met in the private sector or government. These people are sharp, intelligent, and professional. Frankly, it was really very nice.
You’ve written an op-ed about the Post Office project, which is Washington’s first strike of choice, but how else will you woo this town?
I’ve had such a response to that. I’ve heard from so many people. But I have a lot of great relationships in Washington, a lot of people I like a lot. It’s a great city, a great place. I want to focus on that.
Do you have a best friend in Washington?
[pause] I don’t want to name names. Don’t want to leave anybody out.
You have another property in the Washington area, the Trump International Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia.
I took over an existing club and had a lot of fun with that. [The golf club] will make the hotel even more successful, because guests will have access to a great club that’s not very far away.
Do you have other plans for the Washington area? There’s still Maryland, where some gambling proposals are on the table. Do you watch the proposal for slots at the Gaylord National?
Yes, I watch it. It wouldn’t be something for me, though. It’s not anything I’ve thought about. But, who knows? Crazier things have happened.
We know Washington is important, but is it big enough for you?
It is big enough for anybody. Washington handles anybody very easily, including Donald Trump.
Have you been a tourist here?
My parents used to take me sightseeing to all the different historic sites. I particularly like the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
Would you do a Washington edition of The Apprentice to coincide with the opening of the hotel?
Wow! I’ll have to think about that. That’s a good question. I’ll give you credit.
Thank you, but I’d prefer a commission.
You’re right. A commission is better than credit.
When you come to DC, do you travel by the Trump jet or the Trump helicopter?
Usually I get the shuttle or the helicopter. The helicopter can land on the golf course.
Speaking of politics for a moment, do you see an independent candidate making an end run on Romney?
I don’t see anybody else making a run. I think if he gets the nomination it will be a successful campaign. He’ll be a successful candidate and a great president.
Will you return for another White House Correspondents’ Association dinner?
I had a great time last year. The press was inaccurate. I said to my wife, “This is so much fun,” and then the next morning I read how I didn’t enjoy myself. I thought the President was respectful. The comedian, Seth Meyers, was fumbling and his delivery was very bad. But the President was great. After all, I had the President talk about me for half of his speech.
So will you be there this year as a Washington developer?
I have been invited by all the majors, but I haven’t decided.