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After MGM Opening, Milt Peterson Is Not Done Developing National Harbor

All eyes were on National Harbor last night as the new, $1.4B MGM resort and casino opened to the public. Fifty minutes after it opened, the massive casino was filled to capacity, and the resort closed its entrances. 

Milt Peterson and Jon Peterson at the MGM National Harbor grand opening in December 2016.

For public officials, who had to shut down three outer loop exits of the Beltway to alleviate opening-night traffic, the night must have been a headache. But to landowner and developer Milt Peterson, seeing his National Harbor brought to life was cause for celebration. 

Eight years ago, in the height of the recession, Peterson opened the waterfront, mixed-use community at National Harbor, and five years later, it opened the 350k SF Tanger Outlets. Milt, who still owns much of the land around National Harbor, sees MGM as an anchor that will lead to even more development. As for what the next step is, he's keeping an open mind.

"It’s almost like fishing: you put your line out to the water, what comes to the bay," Milt, shown above with his son Jon (a principal of the company), told Bisnow after the grand opening ceremony Thursday. "Because we have this quality and we have the rest of the property here, we’re going to be patient in who comes next. We’ve got a lot of people biting that would like to come. We’re now going to have patience and select."

Maryland Senate president Mike Miller, who spoke at the event, remembers Milt having a similar set of options before choosing to bring in MGM.

"We got this visionary from Virginia to come over here and invest his money and turn it into the showplace it is today, National Harbor," Miller told the crowd of VIPs and press. "Just as importantly, he had a vision for this site as well. A lot of people came to him, people from Pennsylvania and West Virginia, saying we want this operation we would like to have our facility here...but when Mr. Peterson said, 'I want the very best for the site,' it was MGM."

Peterson has already submitted plans to the county for an adjacent 1.2M SF mixed-use development with a 500-key hotel and 700 residential units to complement the resort. 

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker at the opening of MGM National Harbor in December 2016

Even before that development breaks ground, the land it sits on is already rising in value because of MGM. Prince George's County executive Rushern Baker, speaking to reporters after the event, said National Harbor-area real estate values were already up 8% before the casino opened, and that will keep growing. 

"Something we said from the beginning is property values are going to go up," Baker said. "Imagine not just in the Oxon Hill area, but the Forest Heights area and throughout Prince George's County, it really will help the property values of National Harbor. This is going to be a great boom for folks."

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan at the MGM National Harbor grand opening

In addition to boosting land values, it's also creating jobs for area residents, as Gov. Larry Hogan touted during the event. Hogan, above, says the project created 6,000 construction jobs and 4,000 permanent jobs at the resort and casino, of which more than half went to county residents.

"MGM National Harbor will have a transformational impact on the region," Hogan said. "It will be a tremendous economic benefit to Prince George’s County and to the State of Maryland."

Also at the event, MGM CEO Jim Murren discussed how the casino would change the face of Maryland's gaming industry. 


The high-rollers who stay in the 23rd floor corner suite, above, will have a bird's-eye view of the area coming to life. The suite overlooks National Harbor and Alexandria (where developers are also anticipating a value boost) and offers a view of the Washington monument. 

After Bisnow got a sneak peek of the casino on Monday, we took the elevator up to the top of the hotel yesterday to check out the most expensive suites. The 958 SF corner suite has one king bed and goes for roughly $600/night, according to the hotel's website


Here's the dining room of the 1,536 SF Capital Suite. Also with just one king bed, this luxury suite will set its guests back roughly $1,150/night. The floor-to-ceiling piece of art you see on the back wall was done by Prince George's County's own Ron Beverly. 


The casino opened to the public at 11pm, but VIPs showed up early for a black-tie-chic grand opening party. All of the restaurants, including Marcus Samuelsson's Marcus, above, showed off some of the offerings they'll bring to guests and gamblers.


Even the cheerleaders for Washington's NFL team were there to celebrate. FedEx Field is just a short drive up the Beltway from MGM, so don't be too surprised if you spot Kirk Cousins or DeSean Jackson sitting at the blackjack tables. We even spotted Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo enjoying the festivities after the MLB Winter Meetings happening at the Gaylord down the road.