Historic Allen Lee Hotel to be remade as pod-style Hotel Hive

Published in Washington Business Journal. Article and photos by Rebecca Cooper. Rendering by ADG.

For those in the know, the Allen Lee Hotel in Foggy Bottom has long been a practical, if dingy, D.C. hotel option: Small, affordable rooms catering to low-maintenance travelers. Developer Jim Abdo hopes to keep some of those values as he begins to redevelop the property into the city's first "pod hotel.”

Abdo Development has joined forces with D.C.-based Modus Hotels to create the 83-room Hotel Hive at F Street and Virginia Avenue NW near George Washington University. The renovation is designed by Akseizer Design Group of Alexandria. Abdo declined to disclose development costs.

The rooms will top out at around 250 square feet, about half the size of a traditional hotel room. Some will have a queen bed, while others will be outfitted with bunk beds. They’ll all have their own bathrooms, something the Allen Lee couldn’t boast before.

A bar and lounge and fast-casual restaurant will occupy the main level. Abdo is talking to the team behind local pizza chain &pizza about the food program, although nothing is finalized. Wi-Fi and other technological amenities — including charging stations everywhere — will abound. It will also have a rooftop lounge and a bi-level outdoor patio.

Abdo Development bought the Allen Lee Hotel building in 2004, not sure if he would pursue residential or other development. He leased it back to the Allen Lee operator and the hotel continued its operations until December, when work began on the new project in earnest.

“The more I look at the hotel space, with the lifestyle changes of millennials, the ripple effect of everyone going through the recession, people are rethinking their approach to everything,” said Abdo, who is known for his upscale condominium developments. “There are smaller homes, there are smaller hotel rooms.”

 A  proposal for a microhotel with rooms measuring less than 200 square feet has been pitched for the Dupont Underground, but that concept is in the very early stages.

Abdo envisions charging about $125 per night, up from the $70 or so charged at the Allen Lee. Both are significantly lower than the citywide average. In May 2013, that was $225, according to the D.C. Chief Financial Officer. In January 2014 — the most recent month for which data was available — it was $171.

Abdo visited the Pod Hotels and Yotel in New York City and took inspiration from Mama Shelter, a French hotel company that specializes in a boutique experience with small, functional rooms.

He is developing the concept with Modus Hotels, which specializes in operating independent hotels that cater to stylish travelers. The Avenue Suites, One Washington Circle Hotel and The Quincy are among its D.C. properties.

“The real interesting and unique part of the experience here is the room size,” said Aaron Katz, president and CEO of Modus Hotels. “With the relatively small rooms, it’s going to attract shorter stays and typically younger a constituency. So we’ll be offering something that matches up to the demographics.”

The cool factor will be a top priority for the Hotel Hive. 

“The rooms will be much smaller, but we’re making the hotel experience very hip, very cool,” Abdo said during a walk-through of the building, which has been gutted for its makeover.

The name comes from a beehive, with its efficient use of space, and allows for plenty of buzz-related puns, as Abdo rattled off: “See what the buzz is about at the Hotel Hive. Stay like a queen at the Hotel Hive. It’s unlimited!”

Abdo has formed a separate company, Abdo Hospitality, and hopes to replicate the Hotel Hive concept.

“I never mind being the first,” he said. “After we build this, I expect there will be three or four more of this kind of hotel popping up in D.C., and at least one of them might be ours.”