- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cranes and construction equipment are steadily transforming the river banks of Prince George’s County into Washington’s new gateway.

Marriott International Inc. yesterday broke ground on the newest building at National Harbor, a 162-room Marriott Residence Inn.

Located beside the Potomac River on the Maryland side of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, National Harbor is a 300-acre, 7.3 million-square-foot, mixed-use development. It was developed by the Peterson Cos., a Fairfax real estate firm.

The Marriott Residence Inn is the second hotel to start construction at the site, with an opening planned for March 2008.

Spokesmen from Marriott International say they hope the new hotel will draw business from the D.C. region’s 33 million annual visitors.

“We’re bullish on PG County,” said Norm Jenkins, senior vice president of the Bethesda hospitality company. “We believe there is a lot of opportunities here, and that’s why we are more focused on this side of Washington, D.C.”

The 10-year project had been tied down with lawsuits from local residents concerned that increased traffic would hurt their community.

Developers said Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson is responsible for alleviating the residents’ concerns and creating an attractive environment for investors.

“Jack’s leadership has really helped this project come into being,” said Kenneth Fearn, a managing partner at Integrated Capital LLC, an investment firm in Buffalo, N.Y., that owns the Marriott hotel.

“This project brings things to PG County that we’ve never had before,” said Denise Roberts, a spokeswoman for Mr. Johnson.

“Growing up, we had to leave the county to find a nice sit-down restaurant,” said Ms. Roberts, a Prince George’s County native. “Now, we’re getting a piece of the pie as well.”

Gaylord Entertainment, a hospitality company in Nashville, Tenn., in 2005 began building the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, a 2,000-room hotel with a 470,000-square-foot convention center, scheduled to open in 2008.

Hospitality companies that have committed to building on the National Harbor site include Gaylord Entertainment, Marriott International Inc., Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and the Hilton Hotels Corp.

The National Harbor plans to offer 4,000 hotel rooms, 1 million square feet of retail space, 500,000 square feet of office space, 2,500 residential units, a convention center, four piers and two marinas.

Further commercial developments on the National Harbor site have not been announced, but a spokeswoman for National Harbor said it has received letters of intent from several developers.

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