Wardman Hotel to Affordable Housing

Marriott Wardman Hotel

From Hotel-to-Affordable Housing

In January 2021, Ward 3 activists from the DC Grassroots Planning Coalition, EmpowerDC and Show Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) came together to form Ward 3 Housing Justice (W3HJ), an unincorporated advocacy organization for affordable housing – www.ward3housingjustice.org

During that same period, the Marriott Wardman Hotel located at the Woodley Park Metro, declared bankruptcy.  Along with other activists from around the city, Ward 3 Housing Justice formed the Wardman Hotel Strategy Team (WHST) to urge the city to acquire this valuable site to convert hotel rooms to 500 units of affordable housing, both rental and home ownership, for those earning 0-80% Median Family Income.  Based on our research of the hotel bankruptcy case, we believed that the city could have made a good deal with the primary creditors to acquire the site and then work with an affordable housing developer to achieve a spectacular addition to meet Mayor Bowser’s affordable housing goals for Ward 3 of 1990 new units by 2025. Through presentation of an architectural concept, on-site grassroots demonstrations, door-to-door canvassing, and email contact with a growing number of supporters, we determined that there was substantial neighborhood support for more affordable housing in Woodley Park.


To demonstrate the feasibility of this hotel-to-housing conversion that included generous space for community facilities, architect Phil Esocoff, FAIA, Jacob Esocoff, AIA and Henry Ng, AIA developed an architectural concept showing how this might be done.   (See Wardman Park PowerPt presentation and script.)  

While the proposal gained favorable press attention, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) dismissed the idea as “concentration of poverty,” ironic in light of the hotel’s location within a “concentration of wealth!”  The opportunity for the city to acquire the property through negotiation or slipped away through DC Council and agency inaction.

As our W3HJ activities grew, we were encouraged to start a non-profit community development corporation to serve as the business arm for our work.  In July 2021, we incorporated the NW Opportunity Partners Community Development Corporation (NWOPCDC) to focus on opportunities for developing affordable housing and economic development at specific locations.

In July 2021, Carmel Partners, headquartered in Carmel, California, won the bid for the Wardman property at auction for $152.25 million, and closed on the deal in November 2021.  Immediately after the auction, NWOPCDC, W3HJ and the Wardman Strategy Team called repeatedly on Carmel to arrange a meeting to discuss affordable housing before they finalized their plans for the site.  They did not agree to meet until late January 2022, one day after the company announced its plans which included demolition of all buildings and replacement with 900 units of housing, only 8% or 72 of which would be affordable.  https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/900-apartments-proposed-for-former-wardman-marriott-site/19189#


In December 2021, believing that city purchase of the entire property was now off the table, NWOPCDC decided to develop an alternative sustainability proposal for one building only the Wardman Annex facing Calvert St. at the western edge of the Wardman site. 

This seemed like a perfect “ask” – sustainable reuse of an existing asset, well-suited for conversion to family-sized units, and taking advantage of a stellar location.   We were very pleased that Douglass Community Land Trust advised us on the proposal, attended the presentation to Carmel and has contributed to further conversations about creating permanent affordability at this and other locations.  See attached ppt. and 2-page summary. 

The day before our January 2022 meeting, Carmel announced their matter-of-right plans for the site.  https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/900-apartments-proposed-for-former-wardman-marriott-site/19189  Nonetheless, we forged ahead with the Wardman Annex proposal, touting its many possibilities for a substantial addition of 100 affordable housing units in the face of their entire 900-unit development producing only 72 units.  

All three groups – NW Opportunity Partners CDC, War 3 Housing Justice, and the Wardman Hotel Strategy Team — will continue to press Carmel to contribute to the city’s greatest need for affordable housing by going beyond the minimal requirements of 8% IZ @ 72 units to provide 30% @ 300 units of affordable housing in their development.

We believe in the power of shared vision and sustained commitment to create dynamic communities for all people, regardless of income.

NW Opportunity Partners Community Development Corporation