Kyirisan chef Tim Ma and Columbia Room co-founder Derek Brown are tag teaming the food and drinks inside a new hotel/co-working space scheduled to debut next spring in downtown D.C.
Currently under construction at 12th and K streets NW, the 209-room Eaton property will house a restaurant, rooftop bar, and drinking den that may be accessed James Bond-style (through a library just off the lobby), as well as a music venue, radio station, juice bar, coffee shop, and wellness center with yoga, meditation, and alternative treatment rooms. There’s also a 20,000-square-foot co-working club with room for about 300 members, dubbed Eaton House. Oh, and there will also be a movie theater.
“We are building a dream gathering place all under one roof,” Katherine Lo, the CEO of Eaton, told Eater in an exclusive interview. “It’s not just a hotel — it’s a platform for social change and talent in the neighborhood.”
Her father, who runs luxury hotel operation the Langham Hospitality Group, asked Lo to customize each of the forthcoming Eaton locations by tapping into her background in fine arts, anthropology, and humanities. Now three years in the works, Lo has assembled a team that includes former members of Sydell Group (which is currently working on the languishing Line Hotel in Adams Morgan) as well as personnel from NeueHouse (an artsy entrepreneurial playground in LA and NYC) to help craft the Eaton outposts being formally announced Monday, November 13.
Instead of picking cities like New York and Miami that promote party cultures, Lo says she’s putting down roots in places where there’s “a sincere desire to make the world a better place.” Choosing D.C. as its flagship and first location was a no-brainer she says. A bigger property in Hong Kong is expected to debut soon after; She estimates that two other domestic Eatons — one destined for Seattle and another for San Francisco — are about two years away.
The menus, themes, and official names for Ma’s new restaurant and Brown’s bar remain works in progress. Brown has plenty on his plate, including his award-winning Blagden Alley bar and the wildly popular pop-up enterprise he’s cultivated in Shaw. Ma opened his first D.C. restaurant in 2016. A final seat count for his second District-based restaurant — Ma began empire building in Northern Virginia — is currently unavailable, though Lo says the ground floor eatery will be “bigger” than Kyirisan. It will also have a separate entrance to help maintain its “own identity,” Lo says; the Spanish-themed Arroz restaurateur Mike Isabella installed within the new Marriott Marquis earlier this year features a similar arrangement.
Lo, who’s based in Venice, Calif., tells Eater her team met Ma at the annual South by Southwest conference in Austin. And after a “mind blowing” meal at Kyirisan, she knew she’d found her future chef for Eaton. She was also attracted to Ma’s push for sustainability and former life as an engineer, which fits into the hotel’s intellectual model. D.C. area natives Ma and Brown were officially brought on board by Plan Do See, a global hospitality company.
The hotel, which most recently was a Four Points Sheraton, is getting completely renovated. Its former mid-century life as a bus terminal and printing press will be celebrated in its new Bohemian-meets-classical design. Parts and Labor Design (who have collaborated on celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s spaces) and Gachot Studios, which did the Shinola Hotel in Detroit, are involved in the overhaul. Lo has also brought in Sheldon Scott, director of the management group behind local bars Marvin and the Gibson, to help handle events and programming at the hotel.
Lo wants the co-working side, which will open a few months after the restaurant, bars, and hotel, to be filled with journalists, artists, and startups that care about social change. She hopes to fill hotel rooms with an artistic set, as well; the plan is to reach out to booking agencies for acts coming to venues like the iconic 9:30 Club to convince visiting musicians to stay there and take advantage of its tricked-out DJ and speaker equipment.
“Maybe it could be a ritual for them to play intimate sets there,” Lo says.