21 stories tall on Woodmont Avenue in downtown Bethesda, Marriott International’s new headquarters is an innovative building featuring stunning views of downtown Bethesda, a fitness center, lactation rooms, a cafeteria and a nursery, among other amenities.
Marriott employees who worked at the old headquarters on Fernwood Road are moving into the new building, and a grand opening is scheduled for September 19. On Monday, Marriott officials offered a tour for members of the media before the grand opening.
Marriott opened its $600 million campus in June 2018. The project included building the new headquarters and the Marriott Bethesda Downtown hotel, which opened this spring. The head office covers an area of 785,000 square feet and can accommodate more than 2,800 employees.
David Marriott, chairman of the company’s board, said during Monday’s tour that the company chose to move out of the Fernwood Road building because its lease was expiring and staying in that building would have required significant upgrades to heating, air conditioning and other systems. The new location, he said, is ideal because of its proximity to restaurants, businesses and public transportation in downtown Bethesda.
Upon entering the corporate headquarters, visitors enter a large open lobby with a high ceiling and glass windows. The lobby features a 20-foot-tall digital wall featuring photographs of scenic locations around the world, such as Machu Picchu in Peru.
David Marriott has described another wall in the lobby as the “cabinet of curiosities”. The wall is located near the cafe and features trinkets hanging from it, such as saucers, coffee mugs, and root beer mugs, which hark back to the company’s 1920s origins as an A&W root beer stand. The wall also includes 18 postcards, which were chosen from 900 designs that were submitted by Marriott associates as part of a competition, explained David Marriott.
The lobby, including the cafe, is open to the public. But only Marriott employees can access other parts of the building, by swiping their Marriott employee pass over a set of electronic doors. Beyond the electronic doors is a grand staircase that leads to the upper floor.
The employee cafeteria is nicknamed The Hot Shoppe, which is a tribute to Marriott’s former name when it was strictly a chain of restaurants from 1929 (the company became a hotel company from of 1957).
Marriott employees can order using their smartphones and then pick up their food, company employees explained. The cafeteria can accommodate 350 people inside and 100 outside. David Marriott said Monday that food from local restaurants will be served, although he did not yet have details.
The new head office includes an 11,000 square foot daycare that can accommodate approximately 90 children ages 5 and under. The center has nine classrooms and a covered outdoor play area equipped with fans for the hot weather.
Marriott’s new space also includes a number of wellness amenities such as meditation rooms, a 7,500 square foot fitness center, massage chairs, and lactation rooms with pumps.
David Marriott said when work began on the new building, Marriott was already preparing to accommodate employees working remotely in one way or another. That effort increased in 2020 with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, he said.
“The pandemic has really allowed us to start experimenting with strategies in our old headquarters. We made some tweaks and tweaks, but there was no real large-scale change,” he said.
Marriott does not require employees to work in the office five days a week, executive vice president and chief human resources officer Ty Breland said.
“At the moment we don’t have a rule that you have to be here Monday to Friday, or for a set period of time. But you should take advantage of this building to keep in touch with your peers and other associates,” he said.
Breland said employees can design their own schedule, which means they can choose to work from home if it makes sense.
“Really what we’re trying to do as an organization is build in flexibility and choice,” he said.
Throughout the building are conference rooms and flexible workspaces for employees. There is also a space on the 15th floor with a lounge, offering snacks and beverages for employees.
On the 21st floor is the Design Lab, where workers create prototypes for future products and spaces that will be used in the company’s hotels. It also includes a “Test Kitchen and Bar” where demonstrations of culinary food and drink trends will occur. The floor will also serve as a training site for new employees, leadership development programs and networking events.
The upper floors of the building offer majestic views of downtown Bethesda and the surrounding area. A view to the east includes the Mormon Temple and downtown Silver Spring. And to the south, the United States Capitol in Washington, DC can be seen in the distance. The closest landmarks include Walter Reed National Military Medical Center immediately to the north and Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School a few blocks to the east.
Dan Schere can be reached at [email protected]