Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Marriott International Inc. is expected to break ground on a new Courtyard hotel in the District today, the first in the city’s growing area north of Union Station.

Construction of the hotel, just east of the new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives building at New York and Florida avenues Northeast, is the latest in a series of new development headed for the area just north of Massachusetts Avenue, dubbed “NoMa.”

The Courtyard by Marriott hotel, with 218 rooms, is expected to open in early 2009.

“NoMa to me, as I believe it appears to everybody else, is the next bastion for growth in the Capitol Hill submarket,” said Robert Finvarb, principal for the hotel’s majority owner, Finvarb Group, a Bay Harbor Islands, Fla., developer. “It made a lot of sense to locate a hotel there.”

Finvarb bought the land from the District in December.

Marriott, which no longer owns many of its hotels, will operate the hotel. Courtyard is Marriott’s business-class chain, suited for clients going to nearby office buildings.

“Given what’s in NoMa today, it’s certainly going to be a big draw for people working or visiting with ATF and some of the other federal buildings,” said Liz Price, president of the NoMa Business Improvement District. “We have a large, diverse group of office tenants today without convenient access to a hotel.”

Like many of the buildings slated for construction in NoMa, the Courtyard hotel will have 10,000 square feet of ground-floor coffee shops and casual restaurants. The ground-floor retail is designed to create an image that NoMa isn’t just a 9-to-5 workplace, but a neighborhood where people can eat dinner after work or hang out on weekends, Mr. Finvarb said.

“It’s the beginning of the real mixed-use NoMa,” Ms. Price said, referring to the development term for complexes with more than one component of office, residential, retail or hotel space.

Marriott will have plenty of neighbors when it opens. ATF employees are expected to move into their new headquarters next door this month and XM has its headquarters across New York Avenue. The new Ibiza nightclub is nearby on First Street, and plenty more is on the way.

Construction is scheduled to begin later this month on a 200,000-square foot apartment building at Second and K streets Northeast, quickly followed by office complexes at First and L and First and K streets before the end of the summer, according to the NoMa Business Improvement District.

By early 2008, construction is scheduled to start on another 4 million square feet of office, retail, residential and hotel development — worth about $1 billion. Several million additional square feet of projects are planned through 2011, according to the BID.

The hotel is also the first Hispanic-owned hotel in the District for Marriott, which is based in Bethesda. It’s part of a push to have at least 500 minority-owned hotels in the chain by 2010.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Norman Jenkins, senior vice president of North American lodging development for Marriott. “But what we’ve found with our diversity-related initiatives … is that we’re a better, smarter company and we tend to find our way into more opportunities if we continue to have this focus on diversity.”

Finvarb, whose partners include three blacks and one Hispanic, also developed a Marriott hotel in Chantilly, which it has since sold. The company owns four hotels, has four under development and is looking at three new projects in the Washington area — all are Marriotts.

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