Why Marriott Stayed
An inside account of the hotel giant’s decision to relocate its headquarters to downtown Bethesda, rather than move away
For Marriott, Less is More
Marriott’s new downtown Bethesda headquarters will reflect a workplace trend toward “densification”—simply put, putting more people in less space.
The company plans to squeeze more than 4,000 employees—3,500 from the current headquarters, about 500 in Gaithersburg and 40 in Chevy Chase—into 3,750 workstations at its new 21-story office tower, which will offer 785,000 square feet of space compared with about 930,000 square feet at its present home.
No problem, says Jim Young, Marriott vice president for corporate real estate, facilities and services. “We’re evolving. On any given day, people with offices in this building are not here because they are traveling or on paid time off or working remotely. Hundreds of desks won’t be ‘owned,’ they’ll be available on a first-come, first-served basis.”
There will be work spaces with treadmill desks and exercise balls, small glassed-in conference rooms, and open nooks with restaurant-style booths.
To experience this new work environment firsthand, Young moved out of his traditional executive office, with its bookshelf, credenza, file drawers and desk, into a 6-by-6-foot open space. “It’s working out just fine, except all the stuff I had in those drawers are sitting in boxes in a closet waiting for me,” he says.
Projected to be ready for occupancy in July 2022, the building promises “natural sunlight” just a few feet from everyone’s desk—and a sharp vertical contrast with the six-story building the company is leaving.
There will be fewer amenities for employees, though. The current space on Fernwood Road in the Rock Spring office park in Bethesda is a virtual mini-city, with a gift shop, post office, self-service dry cleaner, ATM, credit union, gym and day care center, Starbucks coffee bar and employee cafeteria known as The Hub.
With many of these amenities within walking distance in downtown Bethesda, Marriott planners have eliminated or downsized most of the features. But that’s not necessarily a downer. “I’m looking for it to have amenities within several feet of the building,” says Kemi Abayomi, a senior creative and content marketing account manager in her 30s. “I’m excited to engage with people and other businesses in the community.”
Across a pedestrian walkway from the new headquarters, Marriott’s new 244-room, 12-story hotel is expected to open in the first quarter of 2022. It will feature more than 8,000 square feet of flexible meeting and ballroom space, a ground-floor restaurant with outdoor dining, a specialty coffee shop and a seasonal rooftop dining terrace.