By Maya Rhodan
October 26, 2016
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

From a stage constructed on the far end of the ornate presidential ballroom of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., Donald Trump and his family officially opened the luxury hotel on Wednesday, nearly a month after it began welcoming guests.

The businessman and Republican presidential nominee called the building the “most coveted piece of real estate in Washington” after, of course, the White House, which sits just a couple of blocks away on Pennsylvania Avenue. The Trump family remodeled the Old Post Office building, turning offices into luxe suites replete with black marble and gold accents and adding their signature opulence to the grand foyer. Ornate chandeliers dangled from crisscrossing metal beams above yet another makeshift stage in the hotel’s lobby from which Trump participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony before returning to the campaign trail

The amount of press that had gathered for the morning event would have been a very good sign if this were any other hotel owned by any other company. But the draw, of course, was Trump, not the building that has been open in the District since early September. Since the opening, reporters have popped in and around, tried the food and the drinks, and even stayed the night in one of the luxurious suites. Just two weeks from the end of the race, many wondered why the candidate would take time away from the campaign trail for a business-related event.

On Wednesday, the businessman made it clear he was there to thank employees and his daughter Ivanka for their collective work to bring the building to life. The building was touted as being constructed both under budget and ahead of schedule, though speakers skirted around the recent news that new Trump hotels would be opting to use an alternate name, Scion, and falling occupancy at the brand’s properties. A new survey from Travel Weekly also found that both travel agents and clientele are avoiding Trump properties.

Ivanka Trump, who spearheaded much of the project, addressed critics of her father’s business acumen during a brief speech on Wednesday saying the disparaging comments contradicts the praise they receive from Trump employees.

“As a daughter, this political season has been one of the most interesting journeys of my life. Each day I’ve heard critics attempt to discredit my father’s business, but honestly I’ll tell you on of the most telling signs of his success over the decades is the thousands of people who have worked with him, worked for him…they continue to stand by his side in their quest to achieve great things,” she said.

She called the building’s redevelopment the most challenging, but also the most gratifying project the team has undertaken. She lauded the craftsmanship that went into restoring some key features of the building including its windows and woodwork. The transformation of the space, Trump said, is a metaphor for his goal to “make America great again” if elected president.

“We have such tremendous potential. We have to chose our most optimistic path,” Trump said. “I’m asking America to join me in dreaming big and bold.”