The transformative effects of the City on the Westin City Center

In this essay I plan to provide a perspective some have not considered before. The city has experienced some great changes over the last few decades. With them have come new business, buildings and groups of people. All of which have resulted for a multitude of reasons. D.C. is a constantly changing atmosphere, yet most things stay the same. I have taken a journey, physically and intellectually, through the history of the city, but more specifically, The Westin City Center.

Exterior shot; taken across the street from hotel

As I began my journey to learn more about this hotel’s past, I took a trip to the site itself. Coming from AU, I took the Red Line on the metro from the Tenleytown station to the Farragut North station and walked the rest of the way to the Westin City Center hotel. On the walk to the hotel, there were several fast casual restaurants along with coffee shops and other hotels. Just from being in the neighborhood one would notice that this area’s purpose to satisfy the people that work there. There are not many family-orientated or children-friendly establishments. It is clear that people come to this area for professional reasons.

Although the hotel is now named the Westin City Center, there was a time it was the Vista International Hotel. In 1996 the hotel was converted to the Westin and then renamed in 1998 the Wyndham Washington D.C. It wasn’t until 2005 that the hotel went back to being the Westin.

Located on M St. NW, the building was constructed in 1982 by Holle and Lin Architects PC Smith-Williams Group. Since its establishment, it has experienced many renovations; most recently in 2011.  Ruben Castaneda’s novel, S Street Rising: Crack, Murder, and Redemption in D.C. mentions the Vista Hotel when writing about Mayor Marion Barry’s arrest. Before any of the news broke Castaneda recalls being nearby and seeing the cops head in that direction. He writes, “It was unlikely that a shooting had occurred in a upscale downtown hotel,” (63). Castaneda was at this location for a drug buy but while there he learned mayor Marion Barry had been arrested there after being caught by the FBI for narcotics charges. Both men thought that this hotel was a suitable location to conduct illegal activity as it is unsuspecting. The Westin is located in an area where drug dealers and crack smokers and not often found.

The hotel does not get its high end reputation for nothing; this hotel is an expensive place to lodge. At $302 being the average cost for a nights stay, typically affluent individuals or those on business are spending time in this hotel. The atmosphere of the location also plays into the lavish ambiance. From the exterior I notice the fourteen floors that comprise the building. It is easy to see into the lobby from the street at the doors are all glass. This style is carried through in the rest of the structure. Glass windows go all the way up the front of the building.

Since its establishment in 1982, the Westin City Center, has experienced many renovations and updates. Travel Weekly classifies the hotel as “Superior First Class,” which suits the buildings interior quite well. The most recent renovation was completed in Spring 2016. The upgrading of guest rooms, restaurant, lobby and meeting facilities totalled $17 million. The Westin is much more modern and no longer features its previous aesthetic. Due to its location and high prices, the hotel needs to keep its appearance up to date in order to maintain its notable status.  The most notable feature is the lobby. Upon entering the space you immediately notice the atrium style structure with vertical gardens. The high ceilings and glass windows provide and open space. This also allows you to see all the up to the twelfth floor which is rather unique.

The renovation also included remodeled bathrooms, 50-inch televisions, a refrigerator, and a safe for each of the guest rooms (Martin).

A stay at the hotel can range from $179 to $340 which can be rather expensive for multiple nights. This price range, however is most often feasible for the business men and women that lodge in the hotel. Not only is each room costly, some customers have complained that the Wi-fi is not complementary (Martin). Most people don’t mind as the location provides convenience and many options for hosting meetings and events. There are 16 rooms in the hotel that can hold up to 500 people. This is a rather high number but accounts for the demographic of customers.

But why does all of this matter? Who does all of this effect? In order to stay in a lavish hotel such as the Westin City Center you clearly need to have some pretty deep pockets. Not only that, the neighborhood surrounding the hotel adds to the 4-star rating. The status of the highlighted area below on the right considered is gentrified. Young professionals have moved into the area and aided in the transformation of the landscape. There has been a drastic increase in median home value and median income. In 2000 $147,700 was the average cost of a home in the neighborhood it is now $491,900, a 63% increase. There was a similar adjustment in income as it jumped from $35,561 to $92,255 (Gentrification Maps and Data). This severe increase is mainly what prompted the need for such drastic renovations to the hotel. In order to keep up with the evolving surroundings, the Westin needed to continue improving.

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There was a report published by D.C.’s Chief Financial Officer stating that low-income residents are more likely to move out of the city (Gentrification Maps and Data). The trend was noticed through the filing of taxes. It is important to note that the cost of living in the District has increased drastically and has made it difficult for many to afford living here. It is important for the city to recognize this trend and take note of the causes. Some may be the ever expanding hotel industry. With so many luxury hotels located in such close proximity to the downtown area it makes it difficult to afford  staying in the Capital. Seeing the nation’s monuments and government institutions is turning into a vacation only obtainable for those traveling on business or that have the money to stay in such high end lodging.

The need for change is very evident in the Westin City Center’s past and present. They have changed there name a three time and have constantly updated the interior of the building. This has also influenced the need to keep their online presence modernized. When first reaching The Westin Washington, D.C. City Center website page you are greeted with a slideshow of professionally taken photographs of the hotel. The restaurant, lobby, and a scene of the city are some of the featured photographs.

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This is important to note because they are advertising everything they have to offer without using any words at all; it gives them the opportunity to show off their hotel without saying they are doing so. Accompanying each photo is a review about the hotel, each one positive and related to the given photo. For instance, when the Washington Monument is pictured through the cherry blossoms, the quote reads: “This is a beautiful hotel in a great location. The staff was very friendly and helpful. Everything was very clean and updated,” (Washington D.C. Hotel). They are clearly trying to highlight the good experiences of their guests when in fact there were negative ones as well.

U.S. News published a critic review from the Oyster which stated, “None of the Westin’s rooms have impressive vistas, but the interior-atrium rooms overlooking the lobby at least offer a departure from the typical view of city streets. You don’t get as much light as you would in an exterior room, but they’re great for quasi-voyeuristic people-watching.” Even though this was not the commentary of a an unbiased guest it was still somebody who stayed at the hotel. They were not impressed with what the Westin had to offer the way the guests on their site seemed to be.

Additionally, any key information is written in green which forces the viewer to look at it compared to the other black text. They want the readers to know that they have certain amenities and other offers so they choose to highlight them.

In order to make their website appear to be personable, they feature photos taken by guests. However they are pictures that were clearly calculated to exhibit the atrium or the views from the hotel windows. The Westin was incredibly selective when deciding which pictures to include and which to leave out.

As a hotel they have a unique rhetorical situation. They are trying to sell a temporary home to their guests; a place to lodge for a short period of time. This is incredibly clear by the “Reserver Your Stay” window that follows you around as you navigate through the sight. Each time you scroll of click through it pops up on the screen. It is obvious that they want you to stay at the Westin. So much so that they give you the option to regardless of whether you plan to or not.

The District has experienced much change over the last several decades. It can be seen when looking through the lens of the Westin City Center. This hotel has had its fair share of experiences and they can all be attributed to the climate of the city.

 

Works Cited

Archive: Marion Barry Arrested . C-Span, 23 Nov. 2014,

Castaneda, Ruben. S Street Rising: Crack, Murder, and Redemption in D.C. New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2014. Print.

Goldchain, Michelle. “New D.C. Bill Plans to ‘Put the Brakes’ on Annual Rent Increases for 80K Units.” Curbed DC, 23 Sept. 2016,

Iweala, Uzodinma. “The Gentrification of Washington DC: How My City Changed Its Colours” Resilient Cities, Guardian News and Media, 12 Sept. 2016,

LaFraniere, Sharon. “Barry Arrested on Cocaine Chargers in Undercover FBI, Police Operation.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 19 Jan. 1990,

“Low-Income Residents More Likely to Leave D.C.” Governing Magazine: State and Local Government News for America’s Leaders, E.Republic,

Martin, Caitlin. “Highlights from The Westin Washington, D.C. City Center’s Multi-Million Dollar Renovation.” Johnny Jet, 25 Feb. 2015,

NeibauerWashi, Michael. “Japanese REIT on Buying Spree, Closes on Fifth D.C. Sale in Eight Months.” Pardon Our Interruption, Washington Business Journal, 13 Oct. 2016,

“The Westin Washington, D.C. City Center.” U.S. News.

“Washington, D.C., Gentrification Maps and Data.” Governing Magazine: State and Local Government News for America’s Leaders, E.Republic,

“Washington, D.C. Hotel | The Westin Washington, D.C. City Center.” The Westin Washington, D.C. City Center | Official Website | Best Rates, Guaranteed.,

 

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