It may be coming to Prince Georges County, Md., but it will also significantly impact Northern Virginia — particularly the Mount Vernon and Lee districts in Fairfax County, as well as the City of Alexandria.
For that reason the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce invited Roland D. Gunn, vice president for government relations with The Peterson Companies, to give them a first-hand appraisal of what can be expected from the multi-million dollar development by his company on the banks of the Potomac River to be known as “National Harbor.”
“A project like this can not be done in a short period of time. It has to be able to sustain itself and that will take an extended building period,” Gunn told the members assembled for their regular First Tuesday Luncheon at the Mount Vernon Country Club Feb. 7.
To be located just south of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge twin spans, the 500-acre site includes one-and-one-quarter miles of riverfront. It will be served by its own Beltway access, according to Gunn.
“OUR ANCHOR PROPERTY will be the new Gaylord Hotel, the largest hotel in the entire D.C. area, with 2,000 rooms. There will be another 800 rooms in adjoining properties,” Gunn said.
With National Harbor and the hotel scheduled to open in 2008, “Gaylord already has conventions booked for that year. In fact they only have two weeks that are not booked as of now,” he told Chamber members. Complementing the hotel will be a convention center “as large as the former D.C. Convention Center,” Gunn said.
“But, you can’t have all this in the middle of nothing. We will open one quarter million square feet of office space and another quarter million square feet of restaurants and other retail enterprises,” he said.
“We hope to have seven restaurants, plus a 25,000-square-foot grocery store. The grocery chain hopes to expand in the future to 60,000 square feet,” Gunn said.
Located back from the river front, the multi-story office complex will be arranged in an oval pattern. It has been dubbed “The Beltway,” Gunn said. “Although, they will be located near the hotel, retail, entertainment complex, they will not really be within walking distance for the average person,” he said.
THE FIRST PHASE of the project is planned to include 800 residential units which will sell at market rate, according to Gunn.
“We are developing a quality community that will appeal to both potential residents and those visiting the nation’s capital,” he said.
“Employment at National Harbor by December of 2008 is projected to be about 4,500. That includes approximately 2,700 by Gaylord. And we expect that number to increase in the years ahead,” Gunn said.
In addition to allowing access to the site by land, National Harbor will have an 80-slip marina. “This will be divided into three piers, two for the overall development and one dedicated to Gaylord,” according to Gunn.
When asked about the possibility of ferry or water taxi service, Gunn said, “Anyone who thinks they can make money running a small-water taxi needs to think again.” However, he did reveal they were planning a large “ferry or water taxi service between D.C. and National Harbor.”
One of the problems faced in creating an efficient water taxi service is that “the government owns all the good slip spots in D.C.,” he said. “And, a water taxi service will not alleviate commuter congestion,” according to Gunn.
“We also hope to have some form of water taxi service from Alexandria to National Harbor. However, we are looking at bigger boats than what are used at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore,” he said.
On the question of security pertaining to Prince George’s County crime rate, Gunn said, “Security is a concern wherever we [Peterson Companies] operate. We already have a successful project in Prince George’s County and we have changed the situation there. So we don’t see that as a problem.”