- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Work on the $2 billion National Harbor in Oxon Hill is scheduled to move aboveground next month as contractors begin building the hotel that will be the centerpiece of the project.

The project is one of the largest real estate developments on the East Coast and the “shining star” of Prince George’s County’s hopes for economic development, said Kwasi Holman, president of Prince George’s County Economic Development Corp.

“It will define our visitor market for years to come,” Mr. Holman said.

The National Harbor project will include the 1,500-room Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, office and retail space and residential properties on nearly 300 acres along the Potomac River near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

“It’s as big as Old Town Alexandria,” said Milton Peterson, chairman of the Peterson Companies, developer of the National Harbor project. “It will change the perception of Prince George’s County. It will be not just large, but high-end dining and hotels.”

Some developers have in the past been concerned that economic conditions in Prince George’s could not support large-scale commercial projects such as the National Harbor.

The start of vertical construction on the 18-story, $620 million hotel and convention center represents a milestone in a decade of planning.

“This guarantees this thing will happen,” said Tom Maskey, senior vice president of the Peterson Companies.

At least three times, the project nearly failed as other developers gave up on it.

The Peterson Companies took over the project in 1996 when the early developers failed to repay government-secured loans and the federal Resolution Trust Corp. sold the property at auction.

Initially, Peterson Companies hoped to have it completed by 2003.

“The Gaylord deal took awhile to put together,” Mr. Maskey said. “We had some lawsuits to resolve.”

While preparing for the March 2008 opening date, Peterson Companies representatives are looking for retail companies to fill 400,000 square feet of store space set aside for them.

The developers also say they are negotiating with Marriott International, Hilton Hotels and other hoteliers to operate the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, which will take up 2.2 million square feet of space.

Fairfax-based Peterson Companies also has developed retail and office properties at Fair Lakes, Tysons Corner, Fairfax Station and in Silver Spring.

Maryland has contributed more than $200 million to improve roadways near the site. Prince George’s County is spending $160 million on the project.

Foundation work on the buildings began in December.

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