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A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity: Converting the Wardman to Affordable Housing


The recent bankruptcy of the former Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on Connecticut Avenue, NW, in upper northwest, DC, has stimulated much discussion about converting the 1,100-room facility into affordable housing. One of the responses has been the formation of the Wardman Hotel Strategy Team (WHST), an advocacy group of neighbors from Woodley Park, Ward 3, and across DC working with interested parties to convert the Wardman Hotel into a campus with affordable housing, workforce development, and other community amenities.

To stimulate interest in the hotel-to-housing potential, WHST has sponsored a series of walkarounds of the property. Led by a noted local architect, they have demonstrated the promise of the site—16 landscaped acres right next to the Woodley Park Metro Station. In addition to guest rooms, the hotel offers a banquet-sized catering kitchen, ballrooms, and dining and retail spaces, all relatively easy to convert into a new residential community integrated with the surrounding neighborhood, including the adjacent Oyster Bi-Lingual Elementary School. WHST has met with developers, both non- and for-profit, financiers, architects, city officials and Woodley Park residents. Mayor Bowser and Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh have spoken about the Wardman conversion. The Mayor told the Woodley Park Community Association: “We could make an investment to buy-down affordable line with our vision for having more affordable units in more neighborhoods in the city. [However], it’s usually a very costly option in neighborhoods like yours...but it is possible.”

Councilmember Cheh said she has sent a note to the Mayor asking her people “to take a look” at the Wardman conversion possibility, adding that “the amount of money is probably going to be too high.”

"We just can’t let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity slip through our fingers,” said Margaret Dwyer. “When will we ever have a large building with the infrastructure ready for an imaginative and humane repurposing as housing for those most in need? We are ready to work with Councilmember Cheh, the Bowser Administration and all other interested parties to create a Wardman campus that’s part of the Woodley Park neighborhood and that weaves lower income households into an existing community to uplift both.”

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