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Rebirth of the Capitol Skyline Hotel

It couldn't be less hip. And that's the point. "Hip is dumb," Jennifer says. "Sure, there are customers who will object to this hotel, but ninety-five percent of the world will love it."

Best Western certainly does. The Rubells prove, says Carolyn Marion, spokesperson for the brand, that "Best Western is not one-size-fits-all. They're responding to consumer demand for standardization of service, but not standardizing the hotel itself."

When I was at the Skyline in late September, the renovation of the property was nearly complete—finishing touches were being put on the two ballrooms, the elevators, and some staircases and basement areas. The scalloped-roof outdoor barbecue area was shut for the winter, and the restaurant, the 19th Green, seemed forlorn—no diners, only a fellow in a trucker hat watching football on the new flat-screen TV over the bar. Since room service isn't availablehere, I had the buffet breakfast in the coffee shop—now called the Skyline Diner and decorated with caramel vinyl booths and venetian blinds. It was perfectly adequate and, at $9.95, quite inexpensive. But the dinner menu—pasta dishes and sandwiches, "Hawaiian tuna," "chicken ameretto [sic]," and steak served three ways—could benefit from some freshening up. Fortunately, the garrulous Mr. Panich, the Capitol Skyline's unofficial cabdriver for 20 years, was waiting in the circular drive and took me to the Palm, only 10 minutes away in central Washington. Interestingly, even cabdrivers are talking about the new arrivals from South Beach. "I hear this nice lady just bought the hotel," Panich says. "New offices are going up and it's getting better. She has good timing."

Indeed, the Capitol Skyline is being heralded as the harbinger of its neighborhood's rebirth. That homeless shelter, which occupies a wing of the Millennium Arts Center, is about to be relocated. High-rise apartments renting for $1,200 a month—a few blocks from the Hill—have opened. And rumors are flying that the federal government is about to build a massive office complex across the street.

"Can I tell you?" Mera says. "This is better than South Beach. We had homeless squatters living in the Albion and the Greenview when we took them over."
BEST WESTERN CAPITOL SKYLINE, 10 I St. SW, Washington, D.C.; 800/458-7500 or 202/488-7500; www.bestwestern.com; doubles from $119.

MICHAEL GROSS is a T+L contributing editor.

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