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NATIONAL HARBOR ARRIVES

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NATIONAL HARBOR ARRIVES

Always looking for a field trip, I went to see National Harbor yesterday—the former gravel pit that’s now the biggest commercial development in Washington history, and it was swarming with 25 cranes and 2000 workers. On May 31, the gates will open to the public for the first time. Condo prospects will be able to visit a swank marketing center at the edge of the water and kick the tires (Sub Zeroes?) of model units.

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Jon Peterson, above, one of founder Milt Peterson’s four kids in the business, heads construction and planning for the project. Here he shows the Gaylord Hotel, which at 2000 rooms will be the largest in the region and is set to open in April ’08 when it holds its first convention. Lots more will open in the 6-9 months after that: 150k SF in three office buildings, the same amount in retail and entertainment, 500 more hotel rooms (Westin, W’s Aloft, Marriott Residence Inn, and Hampton Inn), and 500 upscale condos—Milt himself will have a unit. Which is appropriate. The centerpiece pedestrian area is based on Las Ramblas in Barcelona that he visited three years ago.

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Jon points out that the Wilson Bridge, behind him, is the widest bridge in North America and features dedicated exits to the site from both 95 and 295. He also notes that the location, like Tysons, is closely fed by both Virginia and Maryland; that there are no traffic lights en route to downtown; and says they hope for water taxi service to the airport, mall, and even baseball stadium.

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Jon is hands on. He worked two summers on the opposite bank of the river on a concrete crew for Miller & Long, as a laborer who formed columns at the Porto Vecchio luxury condo project. Since then he’s picked up all the lingo, lacing his conversation with references like, "Look at that sheeting and shoring with soldier beams." And pointing out how pile driving rigs pound up to 8 piers a day 130 feet below the soft soil. But he’s no geek and quite a marketer. The former football running back and lacrosse long stick at Middlebury is envisioning a hopping entertainment scene not only with their 700 foot pier and marina, but a giant 30 by 40 foot screen for showing rock concerts or sporting events. They might even have a sandy beach for swimming.