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Why Maryland was never going to lose Marriott

Friday, June 22, 2018  
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Katie Arcieri | Baltimore Business Journal

When Marriott International Inc. CEO Arne Sorenson weighed where to locate the Bethesda company's new headquarters, he didn't seriously consider anywhere but home.

Sorenson said he spoke with then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, along with Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, but told both: "We are not going to engage in negotiations unless we've clearly decided that we might leave Maryland," he said Thursday during the groundbreaking event for the 1 million-square-foot headquarters and hotel project in downtown Bethesda.

"And what we said to the state is 'We're not seeking the last penny from you. Let's just see whether we can get a quick agreement that allows us to stay in Maryland,'" Sorenson said.

That agreement included a $60 million incentive package from Maryland and Montgomery County, a deal that led Marriott to choose 7750 Wisconsin Ave. in downtown Bethesda for its $600 million complex and keep roughly 3,500 employees in the state — about the same number at its current campus five miles away in the Rock Spring office park.

It's one of the state's largest economic development deals ever.

Gov. Larry Hogan was among many state and local officials who gathered under a white tent in Bethesda to celebrate what the governor called "a shining example" of the progress Maryland has made growing business and jobs. The project is expected to generate $2.3 billion in business activity during its first year of operation and up to $1.8 billion for local taxing districts over the next 20 years.


An artist's rendering of Marriott International Inc's new Bethesda  headquarters.

The sleek, 22-story headquarters building and neighboring 244-key Marriott hotel will soon rise from the ground. Heavy construction will begin this summer, with the entire project to be complete and ready for occupancy in 2022. Marriott tapped the Bernstein Cos., the site owner, and Boston Properties(NYSE: BXP) to develop the project. Hensel Phelps Construction Co. is the general contractor. The architect is D.C.-based Gensler.

"I think I speak for so many people today that with the start of this construction, Marriott is marking Bethesda as a world-class destination," said Adam Bernstein, CEO of the Bernstein Cos.

Once complete, thousands of employees will move into what Marriott said will be a cutting-edge campus in an urban environment with easy access to multiple modes of transportation, including the Bethesda Metro station — a far cry from the auto-centric, amenity-starved Rock Spring. The headquarters will include a child care center, a fitness center, and a cafeteria.

Marriott has deep roots in the region. It started in 1927 as a nine-stool A&W Root Beer stand and has grown to become a public company with a portfolio of more than 6,500 properties in 30 hotel brands across 127 countries and territories. The company has more than 10,000 employees in Maryland, 6,000-plus of whom are in Montgomery County.

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