Controversies Abound at a Luxury DC Hotel

Washington, DC’s The LINE under fire for possible misuse of tax abatements

Line Hotel
The Line Hotel in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC
Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

In January of 2018, The LINE, a new luxury hotel, opened in Washington, DC’s Adams-Morgan neighborhood. It was the latest outpost of a chain with locations in Los Angeles and Austin. Visit their website and you’ll see a line that promises specificity and charm: “Each LINE hotel is shaped and inspired by the unique neighborhoods we are a part of.”

In the case of the Washington location, the hotel’s relationship to the neighborhood around it is a bit more contentious than that.

A new report in The Daily Beast details the ongoing controversies surrounding the hotel: namely, that certain provisions enacted for the hotel to receive a $46,000,000 tax abatement have not been met. 

The building that would become The LINE DC was completed in 1912, and was for a time host to the First Church of Christ, Scientist. In 2010, local government paved the way for the building to be turned into a hotel — including the tax abatement that would prove so contentious. As The Daily Beast reports:

The legislation stipulated seven key provisions, each focused on reviving the local community. The hotel had to offer a jobs training program, an apprenticeship program, an independent audit, and a section dedicated to non-profit incubator space. Most importantly: they had to hire D.C. residents, ensuring that 51 percent of construction jobs, 51 percent of construction hours, and 51 percent of the permanent hotel jobs were filled by local citizens.

Since the hotel opened last year, there has been heated debate over whether The LINE has met the terms of this agreement. One audit has said that they have; more recently, a second audit by the city’s Department of Employment Services found that the hotel had come up short, and recommended that they pay a fine rather than lose their tax break. For some area residents, this was not enough.

While the saga of this particular hotel includes a host of eye-catching details, it also speaks in broader terms to questions of gentrification and corporate tax breaks being potentially misused. It doesn’t take much to see broader repercussions of this specific debate — and to wonder where else something like this might be taking place.

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