BTW, rumor has it that Marriott is considering Friendship Heights, Bethesda, and the Pike District. In a week or so, we’ll be a launching a new #PickthePike social media campaign to showcase all the Pike District has to offer Marriott and its employees.
Bethesda Magazine: Tell me about the possibility of Marriott leaving Bethesda? How much of this is about attracting millennials, who might not want to come out to a suburban office building and prefer to use public transportation to get around?
Arne Sorenson: There are a few things going on here. First, this building is leased, not owned. The lease expires in 2022. The second factor is that to renovate this building, which was opened in the ’70s, would cost almost as much as to build a building from scratch. And a brand-new building is almost always going to be better than a renovated building, no matter how much money you want to put into it. It’s not going to be state of the art.
The third driver, we talk about millennials and millennial mindset, but I actually have many of the same views. I’d like to be someplace that is accessible by public transportation. I’d like to be someplace where I can walk to restaurants or be part of a community that seems more vibrant, that doesn’t require me to have a car. Obviously, that is a more pronounced bias from our younger workers.
The overwhelming likelihood is we will not be in this building after the lease expires. And so that means we need someplace else. And we have 900,000 square feet in this building.
Even if we are more efficient about our use of space in the future, we’re not talking about a small office space. It takes a number of years to go through the process, to find locations. I think there are places in Montgomery County that can be accessed by public transportation, have an urban feel, and where we could build a new building that would meet our needs. But there are obviously places in Virginia or D.C. that could be considered, as well.
We’ve made no decision to move from Maryland. And I’ve assured the governor of Maryland, for example, we’re not starting any negotiating process. You’re not going to wake up one morning and read in the paper that we’ve decided to move. We’re going to spend the next year or so figuring out: How much space do we need? Are we going to put everyone in the same building, or are we going to put some disciplines in different buildings? Only when we’ve really completed that process will we start to focus on possible locations.
I have talked to Gov. Hogan, Gov. McAuliffe and Mayor Bowser. I’ve had calls from other states. The likelihood of our moving out of the Washington area, where we’ve been for our entire 88 years, is very slim. The overwhelming likelihood is that we will be in the Washington area for many, many decades to come. I suspect sometime in 2016, or more likely in 2017, we’ll start to zero in on a location or two.