Greater Washington, D.C

Greater Washington, D.C

Byline: Kay Carstens

WHAT’S NEW

The new World War II Memorial will be dedicated on Memorial Day weekend on the National Mall, setting off a string of summer-long events billed as “America Celebrates the Greatest Generation.” What follows will be citywide: musical performances, theatrical presentations, walking tours; even Union Station will join with the Associated Press for a display of more than 100 WWII photographs. The Spy Museum will explain intelligence failures surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor, demonstrate enigmatic WWII cipher machines, and discuss the role of the Navajo codetalkers.

The 2.3-million-square-foot Washington Convention Center opened last year. Meanwhile, the old Washington Convention Center site is mired in an overly ambitious RFP, a lawsuit, and Hurricane Isabel delays, but it looks to be the highest profile public project on the East Coast with development cost estimated at $700 to $900 million. The plan calls for 600 to 900 housing units, 1,100 parking spaces, 300,000 square feet of retail and public space, and possibly a 250,000-square-foot performance hall, a boutique hotel, and a public library. D.C. planning and economic development officials pushed back to September their June timeline for picking a team to redevelop the site. Pushing back the decision is also holding up the demolition of the old center.

The Pentagon Memorial will be a tree-shaded, two-acre space built near the building’s west face that will feature 184 illuminated benches, one for each 9/11 Pentagon victim. Each bench will be set above its own reflecting pool, and the benches will be positioned to follow the disastrous flight path of the aircraft that hit the Pentagon. The memorial is scheduled to be completed by September 11, 2004.

In Baltimore, city officials are drawing ever closer, but at a snail’s pace, to achieving the goal of a workable plan to get a convention headquarters hotel in place. The mayor has spoken, but he is now being lobbied to undo his choice of developer. Stay tuned.

FACILITY UPDATE

BALTIMORE, MD.

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The Baltimore Convention Center has 300,000 square feet of exhibit halls and 116,000 square feet of meeting rooms.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

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At press time, the $149 million, 400-room Mandarin Oriental Washington, D.C., was scheduled to open on March 22 on the city’s southwest waterfront. It will have 34,000 square feet of meeting space, including an 8,300-square-foot pillarless ballroom, a second ballroom divisible in thirds, nine breakout rooms and a 10,000-square-foot pre-function area.

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A $95 million Embassy Suites Hotel, only blocks from D.C.’s new convention center, will have 383 rooms and 6,500 square feet of meeting space when it opens in late 2005.

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The Madison reopened in September after a $40 million, 10-month renovation and restoration of its 353 rooms and 11,000 square feet of function space.

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The Renaissance May-flower will begin a $9 million renovation of its 660 guest rooms, adding a Club Lounge to the VIP floor, and renovating its Town & Country Lounge. Renovation is slated to begin first quarter 2004.

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The Four Seasons Hotel Washington has just completed a $2 million renovation that resulted in a new banquet room.

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The Ronald Reagan Building/The International Trade Center has 21 meeting rooms (the largest can accommodate 1,100 people theater-style) and 11,473 square feet of space in its main exhibit hall.

ASK THE CVB

Washington, DC Convention and Tourism Corporation (202) 789-7000 www.washington.org

Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Association (410) 659-7300, (800) 343-3468 www.baltimore.org

Alexandria (Va.) Convention & Visitors Association (800) 388-9119 www.funside.com

Annapolis and Anne Arundel County (MD) CVB (410) 280-0445 www.visit-annapolis.org

Arlington (Va.) Convention & Visitors Service (800) 296-7996 www.stayarlington.com

Phantom Planner

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Washington’s well-laid-out street plan makes it easy to get around town. Centered on Capitol Hill, the District is divided into four quadrants – northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest. Be sure to note the relevant two-letter code in any address (NW, NE, SW, SE). 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW is a long way from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave SE! Dozens of broad avenues, all named after states, run diagonally across a standard grid of streets, meeting up at huge rotaries – traffic circles like Dupont Circle. The North – South streets are numbered, the East – West ones are lettered. There’s no J Street, an intentional slight to early Supreme Court Justice John Jay, nor is there an X, Y, or Z Street. I Street is usually written Eye Street.

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In its well-ordered layout, Washington is unlike other East Coast cities that seem to have been planned by wandering cows from a common pasture on the village green. The contrast is deliberate. Rather than using land carved from any state, D.C. was created from coastal marsh and may represent the nation’s first planned community. It does seem to foster a great many biting bugs in warm months, so take along the bug spray.

Special Venues

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The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum opened the Udvar-Hazy Center in December to display aviation and space aircraft in two hangars at Washington Dulles International. Together the museums house more than 135 spacecraft and 200 aircraft, including the Enola Gay and the Space Shuttle Orbiter. The new center includes an observation tower where guests can keep an eye on air traffic at Dulles, meeting rooms and classrooms, archives, a large-format theater, restaurants, and gift shops. www.nasm.si.edu/museum/udvarhazy

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The new City Museum in D.C. is scheduled to open May 15 at the former Carnegie Library after a huge renovation. The 60,000-square-foot museum will include changing exhibit galleries, a multimedia show, an education center with meeting space, an archaeology lab, and a public research library and reading room. Meanwhile, the Christian Heurich House, its former location, has been sold to grandchildren of the Heurich family who will work with the United German-American Committee to use the Heurich House for educational programs, a museum, and special group events. (202) 383-1800; www.citymuseumdc.org

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In an 1865 oyster cannery on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the Museum of Industry recreates the workplaces that made the city one of the nation’s busiest ports. To make the experience more authentic, have attendees ferried to the harbor pier in water taxis and then meet for a raw bar on the dock. Inside the museum, provide metal lunchboxes and thermos jugs for a midday meal – or at night set up a variety of buffets to encourage networking with nibbling and strolling through the workplaces. Guests can examine storefronts reminiscent of the 1880s and the workshops of a belt-driven machine shop, garment loft, print shop, a 1906 steam tugboat, and the SS Baltimore. (410) 727-4808; www.thebmi.org

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The new City Museum in D.C. is scheduled to open May 15 at the former Carnegie Library after a huge renovation. The 60,000-square-foot museum will include changing exhibit galleries, a multimedia show, an education center with meeting space, an archaeology lab, and a public research library and reading room. Meanwhile, the Christian Heurich House, its former location, has been sold to grandchildren of the Heurich family who will work with the United German-American Committee to use the Heurich House for educational programs, a museum, and special group events. (202) 383-1800; www.citymuseumdc.org

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