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(UPDATED) DC's hotel scene goes micro

The Moxy New York

Rendering of The Moxy at 11th and K

Rendering of The Moxy at 11th and K

Rendering of The Moxy at 11th and K

Rendering of the Pod Hotel at 627 H St NW

The Pod Hotel New York

Hotel Hive

A 2014 rendering of the addition to rise above 1337 Connecticut Ave, now to become an extended stay micro-hotel

Note: This article has been updated with information from Aaron Katz, CEO of Modus Hotels.

Of the baker's dozen or so of the hotels that are currently under construction in the District, a handful are part of a micro-revolution. Literally. 

At least four hotels under construction right now are considered "micro hotels"--with large communal spaces, high-tech offerings, and yes, tiny sleeping spaces.

Rendering of the Pod Hotel at 627 H St NW
In Chinatown, Modus Hotels and Monument Realty have formed a joint venture to develop a 11-story, 245-room "pod hotel" at 627 H St NW. Operator "The Pod Hotel"  runs two similar hotels in New York, where rooms are a tiny 100 square feet.

According to Modus CEO Aaron Katz, the DC Pod Hotel's rooms will be slightly larger, at about 150 square feet.

"I think we've seen a shrinking of spaces in just about every real estate category," he adds. "If you look at apartments, office, retail, everything's sort of moving toward a smaller footprint for economic reasons. But...what's special about these spaces is not just, 'let me shrink a space and hope that nobody notices.' It's more about how people use the space..what you end up with is all the things people need in the room. ... If you lay out the room efficiently, you have all the things you're looking for." At a price about 25 percent lower than a traditional hotel.

Katz emphasizes that it's not just about small rooms, but "a sense of community, and that happens outside the guest room." This hotel will "de-emphasize the room and emphasize the ground-floor public space." Pod Hotel's New York locations have trendy bars, taco restaurants, and steakhouses on their ground floors.

This pod hotel broke ground in June of this year and will deliver in October 2016.

In Foggy Bottom, Modus has teamed up with Abdo Development to renovate the "practical, if dingy" Allen Lee Hotel at 2224 F St NW into the 83-room Hotel Hive, with the largest room topping out at 250 square feet. Abdo's website describes Hotel Hive this way:

"The Hotel Hive features innovative design and intelligent accommodations for those on a budget. Crisp, clean rooms of approximately 200 square feet merge today's technology with refined minimalism...At "The Hive" guests design their own rustic pizza in our restaurant, enjoy craft cocktails at the bar or just chill on one of our outdoor patios or roof deck."

In a 2014 interview, developer Jim Abdo told the Washington Business Journal that he envisioned charging $125 per night, up from the $70 the Allen Lee charged, but significantly lower than the citywide average.

The average cost of a hotel room in D.C. was $252 in July 2015, according to data from DC's chief financial officer. (That's even higher than what the average was last year when the Bizjournal article was written.)

Modus's Katz says that &Pizza is confirmed for The Hive, which will deliver in April 2016.
The Moxy New York
Meanwhile, Douglas Development is building a 220-room Marriott Moxy hotel at 11th and K NW, which D.C.'s Board of Zoning Adjustment approved last month. The hotel chain, which has numerous locations overseas, says it "had some of the best design teams find out what people love most, or could live without, at a hotel" and on that research decided to create 150-square-foot rooms with smaller closets and big TVs. 

"Just like home, but with a bartender," the website explains. No word on when this project may break ground.

Finally, a project near Dupont Circle that last year was slated to become condos is now going to become a micro-hotel, of sorts. Valor Development associate Felipe Serpa tells Elevation DC that an extended-stay micro-hotel with 50 rooms "makes more sense bottom-line wise" than luxury condominiums. (Either way, the bottom three floors of the building--which currently house The Gryphon and Kabin--will remain commercial.) An unnamed operator will run the top three floors as the micro-hotel, but "it's not marketed to individuals," Serpa says. "You can't go online and book a room at the hotel." The micro-hotel here will run more like apartments that can be leased on a short-term basis, say if a company wanted to base a few employees in the District for a few months. The average room size is between 250 and 300 square feet and include not just a bedroom and bathroom but also a kitchenette. "We have very creative architects," Serpa says.

Developers like micro-hotels because more rooms per square foot means more paying customers. Customers...seem to like them as well (reviews for New York's pod hotels are right in the 4/5 star range). But more than the prices--which are indeed low for their locations--there's another trend at work here, says Nick Minerd, public relations coordinator for hotel industry research company STR. "What is driving the trend of smaller rooms is the increased emphasis on public space. The millennial mindset embraces social spaces to do their work, so the popularity of the 'living room' concept with communal tables as well as 'private' spaces in public places has significantly increased in the hotel industry." And many of these hotels place serious emphasis on that "living room." Pod Hotel DC will have a coffee bar, restaurant, and bar on the ground floor; Hive was in talks with &pizza to run the food service aspect.

But for those who still desire a little more space (and have the means to pay for it), never fear. The District's hotels aren't all going 100 percent micro just yet. There are almost 30,000 hotel rooms in D.C., and another 3,000 under construction; the majority of those are either "regular" hotel brands with normal-size rooms or luxurious ones, like the planned Conrad Hotel at CityCenterDC. Rooms at Conrad hotels across the country start around 400 square feet, or four times larger than the rooms at NYC's Pod Hotel.

Read more articles by Rachel Kaufman.

Rachel is the managing editor of Elevation D.C. She also covers tech, business and science for publications nationwide. She lives in Brookland.
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