WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump opened the latest outpost in his real estate empire on Monday, a luxury hotel in a historic building five blocks from the White House that underwent a two-year, US$200 million renovation.
While staff at the 263-room Trump International Hotel planned little hoopla for what they described as a "soft opening", about a dozen protesters opposed to the New York real estate developer's presidential run gathered outside. The opening comes eight weeks before the Nov 8 election.
"It kind of fits his personality that he finds a way to be on Pennsylvania Avenue, one way or another," said protester Judy Byron, 70, a Washington artist.
The hotel with a US$20,000-a-night suite is at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. and the White House is further along the street at number 1600. The hotel is housed in Washington's third-tallest building, the 1899 Old Post Office, built in the Romanesque Revival architectural style.
The protesters criticised some of Trump's positions, including a promise to build a wall along the Mexican border to block illegal immigrants. Protest organiser Andrew Castro of Baltimore said, "We're out here building a wall against racism."
Trump's daughter Ivanka, who helped negotiate the 60-year lease with the US government and oversaw the building's revamp and design, said the project had come in a year ahead of schedule and under budget.
"We have really positioned this hotel to not only be the finest hotel in DC (District of Columbia) but in the country,"she said in a telephone interview.
Her father said on Twitter that he had stopped by the property "to thank all of the tremendous men & women for their hard work!"
The first guests at the hotel, which fronts the presidential inauguration parade route, were set to check in on Monday. A grand-opening ceremony is planned for next month.
Trump attended the 2014 groundbreaking for the renovations alongside local Democratic officials before launching his presidential campaign last year. Rooms start at US$396 a night, with suites starting at US$556, according to the hotel's website.
While Trump's name is hard to escape in his native New York, where it adorns structures including the Trump Tower as well as a Bronx golf course, the hotel marks his most visible presence in Washington.
His comments describing some Mexican immigrants as criminals prompted celebrity chefs Jose Andres and Geoffrey Zakarian to pull out of the project. Trump has sued them.
A spokesman for the National Park Service said discussions were under way with the General Services Administration, which handles government real estate, over resumption of tours to the building's landmark tower.