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DC: Four Seasons getting a makeover

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Four Seasons' $20M redo to close, eliminate rooms

Sean Madigan

Staff Reporter

Washington's Four Seasons Hotel will shut down more than three quarters of its guest rooms Aug. 1 as it takes on a $20 million renovation.

The hotel (www.fourseasons.com) will keep open 60 suites and rooms -- as well as its restaurants, spa and meetings space -- during the six-month renovation.

When the project is finished next spring, the hotel will have 212 rooms and suites, down from 257. The Four Seasons, considered one of the premier luxury properties in D.C., will increase the size of its room by 50 percent. The suites will not increase in size.

The renovation will be a temporary boon for the hotel's competitors, experts say, but the Four Seasons' guests likely will return once it reopens.

"Most people, at that level, don't leave a hotel until they make a mistake," says Ted Seale, president of Theo Consultants.

Nonetheless, the market is becoming increasingly competitive.

The 400-room, $144 million Mandarin Oriental Washington opened this year, intent on becoming the city's first five-star hotel.

Last year, The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown opened within blocks of the Four Seasons. And the Hay-Adams, Willard and Madison hotels have recently undergone renovations.

The Four Seasons, owned by the Louis Dreyfus Property Group, opened in 1979. It renovated an adjacent office building into 60 suites in 1998. The larger rooms are part of the hotel's ongoing plan to stay competitive.

Christopher Hunsberger, the hotel's general manager, isn't worried about the competition. Indeed, he has made arrangements with neighboring hotels such as the Park Hyatt and Ritz Carlton so his regulars can stay there while still making reservations through the Four Seasons and using the spa and other services for free.

"We have a tremendous amount of loyalty," Hunsberger says.

Nearly all the employees whose jobs will be affected by the renovation will be reassigned, put in temporary jobs or placed on extended leave, Hunsberger says, although the hotel will lay off a "small handful" of employees who declined to be reassigned to different jobs.

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