Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain, on Thursday broke ground on the $600 million project to build a headquarters in downtown Bethesda.

More than 3,500 Marriott employees will be based in the corporate campus near the intersection of Norfolk and Wisconsin avenues when the 785,000-square-foot office building, expected to open in 2022. Plans call for a 244-room hotel with meeting space and a neighborhood restaurant to stand next to the office high-rise, with a plaza running between the two buildings to connect Woodmont and Wisconsin avenues.

Executive Chairman Bill Marriott said the corporate giant grew from the seeds planted when his parents opened a nine-stool root beer stand in 1927, on the same day that Charles Lindbergh began his flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

“My parents would’ve never believed that the root beer stand could turn into something like this—a beautiful, beautiful skyscraper with their name on it,” Marriott said to a crowd of dozens gathered under a white tent in a Woodmont Avenue parking lot that’s part of the development site. The company planned to pass out free root beer after the ceremony.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and County Executive Ike Leggett joined Marriott executives and developers with Bernstein Cos. and Boston Properties to toss the first shovelfuls of dirt, the symbolic beginning for the multiyear project. The business executives thanked the state and county officials for their help in making the headquarters vision a reality. State incentives for the project total $28 million and the county has offered up $34 million for the effort.

“We could not be more proud that Marriott, this iconic Maryland company, this worldwide brand and the largest hotel company in the world, is headquartered right here in the state of Maryland,” Hogan said.

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson explained that the company began its search for a new corporate home after finding its current base on Fernwood Road in North Bethesda was “nearing the end of its useful life to use.” The company’s employees wanted a headquarters that was surrounded by restaurants and stores and was walkable, leading executives to choose downtown Bethesda for its future location.

“Just imagine [Marriott employees] coming out of this building, walking here, seeing all the restaurants, patronizing all these restaurants, the schools, the daycares, the nonprofits, the retail shops … . This is going to be a place that will be energized by the kind of work that we’ve done together,” Sorenson said.