With just 13 days to go before Americans choose a new president, Republican contender Donald Trump took a brief break from campaigning on Wednesday to promote his new hotel in Washington, not far from the White House. The Trump International Hotel — located at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue in the Old Post Office — had a soft opening on September 12, an occasion marked with great fanfare by the Manhattan billionaire businessman himself.
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Only part of the hotel has been operational since, with several floors still being renovated. Before a crowd of several hundred “VIPs” including former House speaker Newt Gingrich and journalists, Trump boasted that the hotel was finished “ahead of schedule” and “under budget” — without offering specific figures.
“Today is a metaphor for what we can accomplish for this country,” Trump said, with his children Don Jr, Eric and Ivanka — all executives in the Trump Organisation — at his side. “Just about everything our government touches is broken, or they break it,” he said. “Simply nothing works.”
In 2012, the federal government handed Trump the right to renovate the Old Post Office, built in 1899, after a bidding process. The contract stipulated the hotel needed to open in 2016. Trump was given a 60-year lease in exchange for his commitment to invest $200 million in the granite and steel building, just a 10-minute walk from the White House.
The hotel has 263 rooms and has apparently cut prices to boost occupancy. This weekend, rooms are available for just over $400 a night, according to the hotel’s website — one of the highest rates in the US capital. “Look how beautiful this is — it’s not like he gets there by cutting corners,” Gingrich said in the entryway to the hotel’s “presidential ballroom”.
Trump, his children and his wife Melania participated in a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony in the hotel’s atrium, and the 70-year-old real estate mogul hinted his presidential ambitions were not far from his mind. “With the notable exception of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, this is the most coveted piece of real estate in Washington, DC — the best location,” he quipped.