- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 14, 2006

Loews is making a comeback in the Washington hotel market. The chain is now managing the Madison hotel, at 15th and M streets in Northwest. Loews had a 30-year history managing hotels in the city until last May, when the two hotels it managed were sold.

“In a matter of weeks, we were out of D.C.,” said James LoBosco, general manager at the Madison. “It was important for Loews to be back in D.C. So many of our clients are right here in D.C. or travel to D.C.”

Loews’ contract with the Madison allows for extensions up to 25 years, Mr. LoBosco said. PM Hospitality Strategies Inc. managed the hotel, which is owned by a group of private investors, until April 1.

Loews plans to continue a remodeling job PM began three years ago. It plans to renovate the dining facilities and premier suites in a project totaling about $3 million “and going up,” Mr. LoBosco said.

One hotel in the area is enough for the chain, which manages hotels on the East Coast, in the South and Southwest.

“Right now, our primary focus is the Madison,” Mr. LoBosco said. “I think this will be Loews’ main hotel in D.C. I don’t think there’s any intention of looking for other hotels in the D.C. market.”

Loews previously managed the Jefferson and L’Enfant Plaza hotels. Each were sold last May to owners who wanted to take the hotels in different directions, said Mr. LoBosco, who managed the Jefferson Hotel.

“When the hotels were sold, the owners had their own ideas on what they wanted to do … as it related to capital improvements and management,” he said. “Loews had certain ideas, and they weren’t necessary aligned.”

Many people who worked at Loews’ other area hotels returned to the company at the Madison, Mr. LoBosco he said.

The hotel’s first promotion is an attempt to get local residents to stay in town instead of filling up the gas tank to drive away for vacation. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the hotel is selling single- or double-occupancy rooms for $179 per night.

In other news …

• Some Penn Quarter residents are grumbling that Balducci’s has pulled out of its deal to open there, leaving the area without a nearby grocer until early 2008, when a Safeway is scheduled to open at 5th and K streets Northwest in the City Vista complex.

The Penn Quarter Neighborhood Association has started an e-mail campaign to get Balducci’s to reconsider its decision. But a number of other grocers have shown interest in the 21,000 square feet.

“I think there’s more interest now than even a year ago,” said Jo-Ann Neuhaus, executive director of the Penn Quarter Neighborhood Association. “They see how vibrant the neighborhood is now, which maybe wasn’t as obvious then.”

Ellwood Thompson’s Natural Market, Magruder’s, Trader Joe’s and Fresh Market are said to have shown interest. The space is much smaller than a typical Giant Food, Safeway or Harris Teeter.

• Fabio Trabocchi, head chef at Maestro at the Ritz-Carlton in McLean, was named the Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic by the James Beard Foundation, a New York culinary trade group. Last year, the award went to Marc Vetri in Philadelphia.

• Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Contact Jen Haberkorn at 202/636-4836 or [email protected]

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