Viceroy opens women-centric D.C. hotel

Hotel Zena
The lobby of the newly opened Hotel Zena is dominated by a portrait of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Photo credit: Viceroy Hotel Group

In October, a unique concept property opened in Washington, D.C., as part of Viceroy Hotels & Resorts’ growing Unofficial Z Collection. Developed by Andrea Dawson Sheehan, founding principal and art director of Dawson Design Associates, along with Viceroy and Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, the Hotel Zena celebrates the accomplishments of (primarily) American women through artwork.

The property, which dates back to 1974, formerly had been the Capital City Hotel and was the Holiday Inn Washington Downtown for a while. When Kimpton took over management, it became the Kimpton Donovan Hotel, and was temporarily renamed the Donovan when Pebblebrook Hotel Trust acquired the property in 2018. Viceroy started managing the hotel in July 2019, and the property underwent a $25 million renovation prior to its grand reopening. 

Related: Pebblebrook to add to Unofficial Z Collection

“On the heels of the August opening of Viceroy Hotels & Resorts’ first hotel in Washington, D.C., Viceroy Washington D.C., we’re working to better position our nation’s capital as a hub for culture, unity and empowerment,” said Natalie Vachon, Viceroy area director of marketing. “We thought there was no better way to do that ... than through provocative art that ignites emotions and sparks meaningful conversations.”

Sheehan developed the concept for the hotel over 20 years of working alongside Pebblebrook Hotel Trust CEO Jon Bortz. The property is the first hotel in the Unofficial Z Collection on the East Coast, and Sheehan calls it the “female Z” of the collection. 

Conceptual Artwork

Sheehan spent more than two and a half years conceiving and developing the hotel and its collection of approximately 60 distinct pieces of art, and the property’s location gave the development team a chance to work with local artists to create the ambiance. (Local curator Jason Bowers helped supplement some of the artwork from beyond the D.C. area.) On the exterior wall, D.C.-based art director, muralist, designer and illustrator Cita Sadeli (popularly known as Miss Chelove) created a mural of women warriors standing as sentinels. The lobby is dominated by a portrait created by Sheehan and produced by Julie Coyle Studios of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, created in a pointillist style using 20,000 hand-painted tampons. 

Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress, is celebrated with both a portrait and a hanging installation constructed of painted folding chairs. This recognizes her comment on inclusivity: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

The hotel opened in the centenary year of women’s suffrage, and the milestone is celebrated with several pieces, including a 20-foot-long sequined “gown” in the hotel’s restaurant that was created using 12,000 buttons from protest marches, and a photobooth wall highlighting a compilation of images from the first ever Women’s March. 

Beyond the Artwork

Now that the hotel is open and all the art is in place, Vachon said the team will continue celebrating the accomplishments of women. Of the property’s 11 management positions, eight are held by women, and spirits served in the bar are sourced from women-led companies. “It is our goal to consistently shine a light on women,” Vachon said. The company has ongoing partnerships with like-minded nonprofit organizations at local and national levels to develop a platform of women’s advocacy, and in the coming weeks will debut formal donation initiatives, she added.  


HOTEL ZENA

LOCATION

The hotel sits at the base of Washington, D.C.’s, 14th Street, across the street from the Thomas Circle Park. The Capitol, the National Mall, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument are all within walking distance.

OPENING

October 2020

NUMBER OF ROOMS

191

GENERAL MANAGER

Not appointed as of opening

WEBSITE

www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/zena

OWNER

Pebblebrook Hotel Trust

MANAGEMENT COMPANY

Viceroy Hotels & Resorts

OPENING OBSTACLE

“The team knew opening Zena now, at a pivotal time in our nation’s history, was critical for raising awareness and sparking meaningful conversation,” Vachon said. “Additionally, in order to open, the team was going to need to get creative with our operations. At this time staffing is extremely reduced, with many team members taking on dual roles to support both Hotel Zena and the newly opened Viceroy Washington DC. As occupancies at both hotels increase, so will Hotel Zena’s staff.”