Trump opens gilded Washington hotel ahead of November vote

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Washington (AFP) - Donald Trump will have an address on Pennsylvania Avenue whether or not he wins November's election, after his new super-luxury hotel opened on Monday, steps from the White House.

Not everyone was applauding his name in large gold-colored letters adorning the 263-room, $212 million Trump International Hotel glinting in the bright morning sun.

A crowd of protesters gathered to direct invectives toward the Republican presidential candidate's redevelopment of the capital's century-old landmark Old Post Office building into one of the city's most expensive hotels.

The formal opening is set to take place next month days before the election.

But the brash billionaire was there Monday morning, showing up for an unannounced visit ahead of the "soft" opening later in the afternoon.

Avoiding the demonstrators, he smiled with thumbs up for a group photograph with employees underneath a massive crystal chandelier hanging in the hotel's nine-story atrium.

"Stopped by @TrumpDC to thank all of the tremendous men & women for their hard work!" Trump tweeted.

The mood was very different on the sidewalk in front of the 1899 building with its clock tower.

The hotel, six blocks from the White House on the same street that leads to the Capitol building, measures 315 feet (96 meters), making it one of the tallest buildings in Washington, a city famous for its lowrise skyline.

"This luxury hotel is not welcome in this city where we have 40,000 people on the wait list to get affordable housing," said Martha Neuman of the women's peace group CODEPINK. "This hotel represents the oppression of the working class."

- Shocking luxury? -

Protesters said they were outraged by the extravagance and ostentatiousness of Trump's hotel palace, with rooms containing four-poster beds, a bar that serves wine by the spoonful and champagne from bottles slashed open by sword.

The cheapest room costs $700 a night, the New York Times reported, while the 6,500 square-foot (600 square-meter) "Trump Townhouse" suite -- featuring a dining room that can host 24 people -- goes for $18,750.

That's virtually nothing compared to the $100,000 a night it will cost to book rooms -- which come with a private entrance -- during inauguration weekend, when a reservation will require a five-night minimum stay.

Washington almost demolished the building in the 1920s and again in the 1970s, after which it endured several failed redevelopment projects. But many residents in his Democratic Party stronghold are unhappy Trump won the contract to re-purpose the Old Post Office building and lease it for 60 years.

That was in 2012, well before the New York real estate tycoon launched his successful campaign to win the Republican Party nomination with insults against Hispanic immigrants and Muslims.

His provocative statements prompted celebrity chefs Jose Andres and Geoffrey Zakarian to pull out of a deal to launch a restaurant in the hotel.

The Trump Organization has sued both men, in a sign that -- win or lose in November -- the candidate will continue to court controversy after his campaign is over.

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