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People are hustling along Mount Vernon Place. They're working cranes and shoveling cement. They're lifting steel beams to form the skeleton of a building still unrecognizable to passers-by.
Construction crews are swiftly building the District's new convention center -- perhaps the most highly touted new development in the city -- along Mount Vernon Place and N, Street between Seventh and Ninth streets NW.
But some say there's a glaring omission in this neighborhood north of Massachusetts Avenue.
The $756 million convention center, due to be finished in March 2003, is missing a headquarters hotel.
By its own assertion, the District is in desperate need of a moderately priced headquarters hotel within a half mile of the new convention center. In fact, a 18-page request for proposals went out to developers April 26, detailing the city's vision for a hotel. The city responded to a wave of questions and disputes from the private sector and issued a revised REP on June 7.
But just a handful of developers are expected to pitch sites.
The eight criteria in the REP are aggressive and demanding, considering the highly-residential, mostly blighted area within a half mile of the new convention center.
Then there are the typical barriers to entry in D.C. -- steep land prices, spotty city cooperation and general skepticism from residents.
Still, the new convention center spurred office development on New York Avenue and renewed interest in neglected public spaces like Mount Vernon Square. But because there are so few possible sites for a massive headquarters hotel -- one that has upward of 1,000 rooms -- the private sector likely will lean on the city to provide financing, permitting and zoning assistance.
So District officials are keeping their fingers crossed that someone steps forward with a workable site before the 4 p.m. Aug. 8 REP deadline. Otherwise, …