BETHESDA, Md. — Of more than 130 Washington-area hotels with “Marriott” in their name, the location of the new Marriott Bethesda Downtown at Marriott’s headquarters sets it apart from the rest: it’s just a few Steps from the new Marriott International World Headquarters, separated only by a small plaza.
As the closest hotel to CEO Anthony Capuano’s office, I first assumed that this property might encompass the latest thinking on how Marriott hotels should be designed, built, and operated.
And after a two-night stay at the 244-room property in late May, I think my guess was correct.
“The Marriott Hotels brand has really gone through quite a journey, a transformation and a repositioning,” said general manager Kat Burns when I spoke to her about a month after my stay. It’s about catering to modern business travelers who might also be bringing family, extending their trip for a few days, and looking for something that works for both business and visiting a local area, Burns said. “I think this hotel really represents the brand very well.”
Burns said the Marriott Bethesda Downtown was the company’s 8,000th hotel to open. “So from that point of view, it’s very special.”
And after 7,999 hotels, what would the contemporary traveler find in the latest?
Among its features: A hall with living plants and floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the space with light; rooms with minimal clutter and power outlets galore; a casual, high-quality restaurant and bar that blend seamlessly into the lobby; indoor-outdoor options; and LEED Gold certified design processes.
But more broadly, the theme that seems to run through the Marriott Bethesda Downtown is the concept of localism, a hotel that feels integrated into a city neighborhood.
In a FAQs about moving downtown From its longtime headquarters in a suburban office park, Marriott International said “locating in a new urban environment was key” to achieving goals such as providing cutting-edge, attractive and functional space that would help attract the best talent.
The Marriott Bethesda Downtown lobby and bar at Marriott HQ. Photo credit: Photo TW by Rebecca Tobin
Marriott’s prized attributes include convenient transportation options and access to a “vibrant, mixed-use urban community” with dining, shopping, and entertainment.
Examples of residential, Marriott-style amenities include plaza fire pits for outdoor gatherings and a relatively small check-in area with a low-key desk that emphasizes the traditional “hotel” look.
Burns said the popularity of mobile options, such as check-in and chat, influenced the design, as many guests won’t even stop at the check-in station.
“As we look to the future, the reception we have here is what you will see,” she said. “It’s just very residential, not a massive office.”
A preponderance of local art and influences helps create a sense of place. The lobby’s focal point, the Seventh State Restaurant, takes its name from Maryland’s place among the colonies when the Constitution was ratified; its draft beer menu even lists the miles from the hotel to the breweries.
And what is a modern hotel without equipment on the roof? At the Marriott Bethesda Downtown, it’s the Hip Flask bar, an indoor-outdoor space that’s popular with locals and guests alike.
A third floor area was still closed when I visited. This space, Burns said, will be devoted to concept rooms, which are part of the Marriott Design Lab, the hotel giant’s research facility. In the lab he will build and test new technologies and products, and the space is unique to the Marriott Bethesda Downtown.