Two big things happening tomorrow

Within DC, the Watergate Hotel, just now slipping from the hands of Monument Realty, goes up for auction tomorrow. I am placing my bets on the Jumeirah group, who are richer than Croesus and even crazier. One has to be at least bold enough to assume the debt and cost of renovations necessary to bring the building into operations. Although the building is structurally fine, the constant need for interior renovations and building system upgrades led Monument into a period of severe financial hardship when their backers went bankrupt.

Outside of DC, Joe Biden is in Ukraine. After the niceties of Obama’s visit to the Kremlin two weeks ago, Biden may be going over to reassure the shaken administration that the US is still an ally. On the other hand, the alleged “reset” of Russo-American relations and the tanking of the pro-wetern Ukrainian coalition would mean that his meeting with Yulia Timoshenko and Viktor Yuschenko could be both tense and unsatisfying. On Wednesday, the Vice President will be in Sakartvelo Georgia to speak to the parliament. Again, this meeting is a cautious attempt to maintain relations between the US and Russia’s prime enemies. Unlike the Baltic States and the Balkans, these countries are unstable and still sucsceptible to major influence. It will be interesting to watch the developments.

N.B. – Please do not refer to Ukraine as “The Ukraine,” as that implies that Kyiv is just some Russian border town. Украина literally means “hinterland” or “borderland,” but generally had its connotation set with a capital letter by the 18th Century. Only under the later Tsars and Soviets did the government take advantage of the lack of articles in Ukrainian to insist to western observers that the “Little Russians” did not deserve independence; it’s right there in the name, “our borderland.” If you’re under 30, you probably don’t make this mistake, but it still creeps into the news every once and a while to irritate sticklers like me.

National symbol faces foreclosure

Still wearing prison stripes.

Sort of. Although the buildings of the Watergate are owned separately, the buildings other than the office building will always be associated with the 1972 scandal, proving that journalists don’t understand mixed-use complexes and can’t see the masterpiece for the scandal.

Anyway, the hotel portion of the Watergate may be forced into forclosure. The mid-mod landmark, owned by Monument Realty, is crawling with plumbers again as it nears the end of its first major overhaul after 40 years. But Monument has been throwing cash at the building for two years now, hoping to upgrade the facilities, and it has now defaulted on a $70 million loan. The majority shareholder in the loan, PB Capital, wants the money back (understandably), but Monument can’t repay it. PB Capital previously foreclosed on the Esocoff & Associates-designed Dumont building late last year. Speculation persists about the reasons for PB’s pressure, but generally their ties to Lehman Brothers are to blame, since that company doesn’t exist anymore and creditors are demanding assets from wherever it can get them.

It’s unfortunate; PB Capital and Monument have both fueled large chunks of DC’s growth over the past few years and actually financed some good-quality buildings. It may not play out well, but if it does, then it’s time to start associating the Watergate with the countless affairs that have gone on here, or Condoleeza Rice’s separate condo for her piano.