Developer Looks To Rezone National Harbor-Area Land For 20-Acre Mixed-Use Project
A developer looking to build a large, mixed-use project across the highway from National Harbor is facing some headwinds.
Petra Development is seeking to rezone a 20-acre site near the interchange of the Beltway and MD-210 in Forest Heights to allow for mixed-use development, but the Prince George's County planning staff recommended disapproval of its application, the Washington Business Journal first reported.
The developer will have its case heard before the county's Zoning Hearing Examiner next month, and Petra Development Director of Development Eli Borek tells Bisnow he is confident the rezoning application will prevail because it is in line with the county's development goals.
"We're attempting to create a project that will be an ideal manifestation of [the county's] goals," Borek said. "We truly see this as a transformative development, but a transformative development based on those stated goals."
The application in question would rezone the site to allow for a mixed-use development, but the developer would submit the specific project plans to the county at a later date. The developer's land use attorney, Scudder Legal principal Traci Scudder, filed a statement of justification for the rezoning in October in which she laid out the potential scale of the development.
The project, branded as National View, could reach up to 1,700 multifamily units, four assisted living buildings, 200K SF of commercial space, a 50K SF medical building, a 3K SF police substation and several outdoor amenities, according to Scudder's written statement to the county.
Scudder told Bisnow Tuesday that these details, and the renderings included in other filings, showed the maximum development potential for the site and not necessarily the exact plans Petra will pursue. She said the developer would submit its specific plans for the project after the application to rezone the site is approved.
In its report that recommended disapproval of the rezoning application, the Prince George's County planning staff outlined a series of concerns it has with the project.
One of the concerns was about a lack of public transit connections to the site, potentially meaning the development would increase the area's sprawl by adding destinations that can only be reached by car.
Borek noted that National Harbor itself doesn't have a Metro station, though the county has touted it as a premier mixed-use destination. Additionally, he said that adding density to the area could lead Metro to build an extension of the system to National Harbor. WMATA in 2019 launched a study of a potential National Harbor Metro extension along the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which connects it to Alexandria.
"There is limited availability of land that can be developed for medium or high-density use around National Harbor at this point, and Metro needs a critical mass in order to expand their service," Borek said. "We see National View as an important piece of moving toward that critical mass that would justify Metro expanding service."
Another of the planning staff's concerns centered around the site's location next to a low-density residential neighborhood and a federal park. Scudder said it isn't uncommon to develop next to a park, and the project would include trail connections. She also said Forest Heights is currently 98% residential, and it needs commercial development to support its tax base.
"This development would be a real game-changer for Forest Heights in terms of bringing additional annual revenue the town can use to provide additional services," Scudder said.
The county staff also had concerns around historic preservation, with some houses on the site dating back to the Civil War era. Cudder said the houses have been neglected for decades and have collapsed into piles of wood. She said the project would include informational signage about the site's history.
"No one can hear about the history the way things are right now," she said. "The history will be told through the development of this site.'