News & Politics

Donald Trump Officially Breaks Ground on Old Post Office Hotel

The project will cost an estimated $200 million over the next two years.

DC officials joined Donald Trump and his family in breaking ground at the Old Post Office. Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

In case DC needed reminding that Donald Trump and his family are remodeling one of the city’s most iconic buildings into a posh hotel, the real-estate clan had bells ring over Pennsylvania Avenue when they performed a ceremonial groundbreaking at the Old Post Office. A group of bells stationed in the building’s soaring tower clanged away as the Trumps and city officials stuck gold-colored novelty shovels into a dirt-filled box to mark the start of the Old Post Office’s conversion from dilapidated landmark into luxe destination.

“We will produce one of the great hotels anywhere in the world in the most exciting location—between Congress and the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue,” said Trump, in his typical understated style. “I promise you this will be a truly great—not only hotel, but economic development project.”

The General Services Administration, which manages federal property, awarded the Old Post Office to the Trump Organization last fall. The Trumps plan to spend $200 million over the next two years to convert the 1899 Romanesque Revival pavilion and tower—at 315 feet, DC’s third-tallest structure—into one of their glitzy hotels.

Before picking up their shovels, though, the superlative-happy Trumps and other speakers at the ceremony enjoyed some mutual appreciation. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said the hotel project will turn “some ugly duckling” into DC’s “first truly luxury hotel.” (Presumably, her remarks were not within earshot of the District’s two Ritz-Carltons, Four Seasons, or the Willard, which is just up the street from the Old Post Office.)

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, did most of the speaking for her family, returning the praise back on city officials, especially Mayor Vince Gray. “Mayor Gray, you are amazing,” she said.

Pomp aside, Gray said one of the biggest potential benefits of the Trump project is its role in a broader revival of Pennsylvania Avenue as a retail and entertainment destination. The National Capital Planning Commission, the federal agency that oversees the District’s layout, recently launched a program to study the future of the famous corridor, which, while heavy on government buildings and other landmarks, is light on stores and restaurants.

In an interview with Washingtonian, Ivanka Trump said construction will begin within the next week, with a big acceleration by Labor Day.

“You’ll really start to see it in the next month and half,” she said. District officials expect the hotel conversion to create about 700 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs, with $100 million in additional tax revenue for city coffers over the first ten years. Trump also said her family’s company has already started tinkering with a few parts of the building as its last tenants have left.

“Some of the restoration work we’ve done is amazing,” she said.

The hotel, when finished, will contain 270 rooms that the Trumps say will be bigger than any other hotel in town, averaging more than 600 square feet. The hotel will also include ballrooms, restaurants, meeting spaces, and a spa, all of which the Trumps describe as “extraordinary,” “opulent,” and “super-luxury.”

And there will be more bells. “The next time we’ll hear these bells ringing is when we’re all inside the cortile celebrating the opening,” Ivanka Trump said.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.