National Harbor continues to grow
Lost in the buzz this week of MGM National Harbor’s splashy opening of its $1.4 million casino and resort was the success of the development in which it opened: National Harbor, a mixed-use, waterfront destination that was the brainchild of a Virginia-based developer.
When Milt Peterson, principal and chairman of the Fairfax-based Peterson Cos., first laid eyes on the 350-acre National Harbor site on the banks of the Potomac River in Prince Georges County, Md., he recognized its potential. “It’s such a fabulous piece of property,” Peterson told Virginia Business in an earlier interview. “The topography is perfect. You can see Washington, D.C.”
Eight years after opening in 2008, National Harbor has grown into a micro city with seven hotels and more than 160 retail shops and 40 restaurants. There’s a 340,000-square-foot Tanger Outlet Center and a 180-foot-tall Capital Wheel gondola ride, where people can enjoy sweeping vistas of the Potomac and the D.C. skyline. Two thousand residents live at National Harbor in apartments, condominiums and townhomes.
The community also provides waterfront activities, including a water taxi to Old Town Alexandria, two 700-foot piers and 62 boat slips.
National Harbor draws meetings and conventions with more than 3,300 hotel rooms, including the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, and more than half a million square feet of meeting space. All these amenities, say development officials, draw 12 million visitors a year.
That number is expected to grow with the Dec. 8, debut of MGM Resorts International’s first casino resort on the East Coast. Besides the 125,000-square-foot casino and a 308-room hotel, MGM National Harbor adds signature restaurants, retail, a spa, convention meeting space and a 3,000-seat theater that’s already booking A-list entertainment, such as Bruno Mars and Duran Duran.
During construction, the project added 6,000 jobs to the local economy. MGM National Harbor is Maryland’s sixth casino venue.
“MGM National Harbor will be transformational for the region,” Jon Peterson, a principal with the Peterson Cos. said in a statement. “Not only does National Harbor bring new employment opportunities (almost 4,000 permanent jobs) and tax revenue, including millions of dollars for education, the venue will also have positive impact on other businesses throughout the region.”
To date, the Peterson’s overall National Harbor project is only about 50 percent complete. “There is more to come,” said Peterson. “National Harbor is on chapter six of a 12 chapter book.”
Upon completion, National Harbor will have one million square feet of class “A” office space, one million square feet of retail, dining and entertainment space and 2,500 residences.
Recently, National Harbor launched its own convention and visitors association — Visit National Harbor. MGM National Harbor, Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center and Tanger Outlets are the primary partners in the association. The mission of Visit National Harbor is to market National Harbor throughout the U.S. and internationally and to increase visitation to the destination.
“There are few places in the world that have been able to effectively plan and build out a community of this magnitude, in this amount of time and with such unique tenants — all on one of the most valuable pieces of waterfront in the Washington, D.C., region.” said Jon Peterson.
The development is a located a short distance from Old Town Alexandria and downtown Washington, via the Woodrow Wilson Bridge or by water taxi.