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Trump executive finishes D.C. hotel, quits the next day

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David Orowitz (right), who led the development of Donald Trumps D.C. hotel, left the company last week the day after it opened. (Jonathan OConnell)

Redeveloping the Old Post Office Pavilion would have been difficult under any circumstances. Partly empty and rarely visited on Pennsylvania Avenue NW for decades, the 117-year-old building was badly in need of updates, and Congress was pressuring the federal government to put it back to productive use.Further controversy ensued when Donald Trumps company was selected for the projectfour years ago.

Overseeing the work was David Orowitz, a Trump Organization executive tasked by the familywith the myriad difficulties of turning a 19th-century mail-sorting facility into one of the worlds great hotels, as Trump proclaimed it would be.

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Then things got much, much worse.

When Trump announced his candidacy for president in the summer of 2015, the project hadalready been under construction for a year. But as Trump shot to the top of the field of GOP presidential candidates, the project took a beating. Two restaurant deals Orowitz helped to negotiate fell apart and led to lawsuits. Construction workers from the firms Orowitz hiredcomplained in the news mediaaboutworking for Trump.Protests marred events atthe hotel, a vandal tagged the front of it, and free speech lawyerstook issue withagreements Orowitz worked out to provide access for hotel guests and outdoor seating.

After all of that, the project was completed last week, and Orowitz broughthis wife and son down from New York to see it before the opening celebration.

The next day he walked away, leaving the company where he had worked closely with Trump and his children for the past eight years.

As much as one can while running a project with the name of a current presidential candidate on the front of it, Orowitz dodged political questions, declining to address whatever effect the campaign was having on him or the project and focusing instead on real estate minutiaeand the next step for the hotel.

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When Ivanka Trump inquired unsuccessfully about securing a tax break from the D.C. government for the project irritating some key stakeholders Orowitz expressed confidence inall of the parties publicly, saying everyone wasworking well together and justlooking forward to getting it done as soon as possible.

In August, when Orowitzspoke at a real estate conference of the Bisnow media company, whichreportedhis departure last week, Orowitz focused on the painstaking detail the company had put into the project, much of which was lost in the political coverage his boss churned up every week.

Our team literally went through and catalogued every window in the hotel in order to retain and repair every element possible, Orowitz said. Due to their hard work, the glass, woodwork and stone carving, which could never be replicated today, looks as it was originally intended when the building was built in the 19th century.

But no amount of dodging could keep Orowitzclear of the relentless publicity of the campaign, and the legal dispute between Trump and restaurant entrepreneur Jos Andrs prompted emails of his to end up in courtlamenting the loss of the deal and pleading thatthere not be future setbacks like it.

During a phone interviewFriday, Orowitz was repeatedly offered the opportunity to explain what few others could: What was it like inside the Trump business empire while the campaign ballooned? Why did he stick by Trump throughout?

He declined to speak on the record. Instead he emailed a short statement Sunday afternoon.

I had the good fortune to work on complex, substantive projects like the Old Post Office redevelopment while at the Trump Organization. With that projects successful completion, I felt that this was a logical time for me to seek a new career challenge, he said.

Republican nominee Donald Trump spoke at the grand opening of Trump International Hotel. Protesters from the AFL-CIO and the Answer Coalition formed a picket line outside in protest. (The Washington Post)

Follow Jonathan OConnell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/digger/wp/2016/10/31/trump-employee-finishes-d-c-hotel-quits-the-next-day/

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