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A First Look at the New Marriott Marquis Hotel (Photos)

The DC hotel has a modern design but pays homage to the past.

When the new Marriott Marquis Hotel officially opens on Thursday morning at 901 Massachusetts Avenue, Northwest, it will be the largest Washington hotel for the brand that got its start here as a hot dog and root beer stand in 1927. That root beer stand led to creation of the Hot Shoppes restaurant chain, which paved the way for the first Marriott hotel, the Twin Bridges in Arlington; the rest is global hospitality industry history. That history gets an homage at one of the Marquis’s three restaurants: Anthem will serve the Hot Shoppes’ beloved Mighty Mo hamburger, a triple-decker masterpiece of its era with special sauce, shredded lettuce, and a sesame seed bun.

Another throwback is the restoration of the brick building that anchors the hotel’s corner, the former headquarters of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada, and Australia. It’s now the gym and a bar.

The opening of this supersize hotel across from the Washington Convention Center will certainly up the ante on room competition, but it could also lead to ballroom wars. The Marquis already has landed the annual Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association dinner on June 12, which last year was at the National Building Museum—and don’t be surprised if Marriott tries to woo another media “prom,” the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, away from its longtime home at the Washington Hilton, where it is happening this very weekend. Both hotels have massive ballrooms that seat upward of 2,200 people.

After tourism, the bread and butter of Washington hotels is business travelers and conventions, and the Marquis seems put together with the business traveler first in mind. Overall, there’s 105,000 square feet of convention and meeting space. An interesting detail is the elimination of the minibars in the rooms. Apparently it’s not an essential element anymore, because business travelers have shown they would rather pick up a snack in the lobby, Marriott marketing and public relations executives William Wallace and Mark Indre told us during a private tour Tuesday morning. Also, there’s no pool, because business travelers would rather have a gym workout.

As we went up and down elevators, in and out of rooms, down to the basement, and up to the roof, workers were still unpacking boxes, drilling, laying carpet, sorting mattresses, testing the alarm system and lights, and serving food at a soft opening in one of the restaurants. Wallace expected Wednesday night would be an all-nighter as they prepared for the first guests on Thursday morning.

Here are some facts about the new Marriott Marquis Hotel:

  • It was developed by the DC-based Quadrangle Development Corporation and Capstone Development
  • The glass and masonry hotel is designed by Cooper Carry Architects of New York and TVS Architects of Atlanta, with interior design by HOK Design, which has offices in Washington
  • It has 16 floors (no 13th floor is listed) and goes eight stories underground, including a parking garage
  • There are 1,175 rooms, including 49 suites and two presidential suites
  • It has 83 meeting rooms
  • The Marquis Ballroom is 30,000 square feet
  • Inside the old Plumbing and Pipe Fitting building is the Dignitary, which the hotel calls its “upscale lounge.” It has leather chairs, exposed-brick walls, a fireplace, and big windows looking out on Massachusetts Avenue. Above the restaurant is a duplex fitness center for hotel guests only.
  • The Marquis shares a loading dock with the convention center and has special underground access to the convention facility
  • The large lobby has free wi-fi
  • Throughout the decor there are themes of cherry blossoms, dogwoods, and other elements of Washington’s flora and fauna. The carpets in the hallways are a deep blue; some of the furniture is rose, plum, and orange.
  • Many of the meeting rooms front the cavernous lobby with a ceiling that is all skylights.
  • The room TVs have cable and Pay-Per-View; there are additional TVs in the lobby bar, various sitting areas, and the sports bar, High Velocity, which features a floor-to-ceiling monitor wall as well as other televisions.
  • The rooftop club for hotel guests, the M Club, has an outdoor terrace with spectacular views of the city, including the Washington Monument in the distance—great for watching Fourth of July fireworks. Food and other services will be available for guests with club access.
  • Anthem, home to the revived Mighty Mo burger, continues its homage to the old days with a soda fountain and other Hot Shoppes items such as the orange freeze milkshake. The 215-seat room is open for breakfast and lunch and serves a breakfast buffet.
  • Room rates vary. According to a representative, weekend rates range from $199 to $399 (prices are higher for the presidential suites).
  • Valet parking is available at a rate of $55 daily

The Marriott Marquis. 901 Massachusetts Ave., NW; 202-824-9200.