The fate of the historic, shuttered Marriott Wardman Hotel in Northwest remains in the process of being auctioned in a bankruptcy proceeding as of July 20.
The proceedings took place in the hotel. However, the general public and media couldn’t observe the auction. Meg Maguire, a housing activist and a board member of the NW Opportunity Partners CDC, spoke to a crowd of demonstrators near the hotel about what she saw of the auction’s proceedings earlier in the day.
“I arrived early enough to get into the room where the auction was scheduled to take place,” Maguire said. “When the people running the auction found out I was not there to bid, I was asked to leave. The people in the room sat in clumps and they were mainly men dressed in suits. Before I left, I did learn that the results of the auction won’t be made public until Thursday [July 22]. That’s because the winner of the auction has to be certified by a bankruptcy court before an official announcement is made.”
On Jan. 11, the Marriott Wardman’s owners, the Wardman Hotel Owner LLC, a subsidiary of the Pacific Life company, filed for bankruptcy and announced the permanent closure of the hotel and the severing of the management contract with the Marriott Corporation.
The hotel formally ceased operations in March 2020, due to the public health emergency declared by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Two housing-oriented organizations—the Ward 3 Housing Justice and the Wardman Hotel Strategy Team—have advocated for the District government to purchase the property and convert it to an affordable housing hub.
However, D.C. Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio told the Informer that the city wouldn’t get into a bidding war over the property and will work with the new owner on creating new affordable housing units.
Additionally, the hotel has a rich history in the District with leading African American figures such as Thurgood Marshall staying there in 1954 preparing to argue the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case before the U.S. Supreme Court and waiting for his confirmation to the high court in 1967.
Poet Langston Hughes worked at the hotel in the 1920s as a busboy and in the 1930s the grandfather of Black real estate developer R. Donahue Peebles also was employed there. For the past few decades, the hotel has been the site of numerous Black conventions and conferences.
Parisa Norouzi, the executive director of Empower DC, criticized Bowser for not purchasing the hotel.
“We need to take bold action as a city to get more affordable housing in the city,” Norouzi said. “The mayor should have stepped in and made this her legacy. Instead, she chose not to do so. Ward 3 is a welcoming community. This is about the right of all people to live where they want to live.”
Margaret Dwyer of Ward 3 Housing Justice said, “We fully support Mayor Bowser’s goal of creating 1,990 new units of affordable housing in Rock Creek West, which is largely Ward 3, by 2025.
“By converting the Wardman Hotel to housing, Ward 3 can be the home to significant affordable housing opportunities in a new mixed income community,” Dwyer said.
Norouzi said if the District government doesn’t bid on the property, her organizations and its allies will seek to meet the new owner and engage them on building affordable housing units.
“We will take our plan to them,” she said.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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