- The Washington Times - Monday, June 13, 2005

Some high-tech New York City glitz. A stretch of sandy beach. And a street design borrowed from Barcelona.

What is now a nondescript patch of land along the Potomac River in Oxon Hill is heading for a massive change, according to plans made public yesterday by officials and developers in Prince George’s County.

The National Harbor project model shows a downtown area with two new piers, a dozen restaurants, scores of shops and hundreds of apartments.

“This will change the face of [Prince George’s County],” said Al Cornish, a deputy administrative officer for the county.

The billion-dollar project started by developer Milton Peterson will add the equivalent of a small town — but with more glamour — to the Maryland side of the Potomac River near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

The model includes a large tower with lighted ads and a giant television screen like the one in New York’s Times Square. A few steps away, sun lovers can lay out their towels and go swimming from a small stretch of sand along the river.

A floating barge, attached to one of two piers, will serve as a concert stage. And back on land, the downtown revolves around a 1.5-acre plaza and a wide main street lined with trees.

The concept was based on Las Ramblas, a street in Barcelona. For people who never want to leave, there will be 900 housing units.

In all, Mr. Peterson estimates the piers, restaurant and downtown area will cost about $360 million.

Prince George’s County has approved an additional $170 million in bonds to build sewers, streets and other infrastructure. The bond money is to be repaid by Gaylord Entertainment, which is opening a $600 million convention center and hotel next to the downtown harbor area.

Both developers and the county estimate the project will bring a windfall of jobs and revenue.

There has been some concern over the environmental impact of the project, with critics initially filing a lawsuit in opposition. County officials say those environmental groups have since dropped their lawsuit and now are working directly with government staff.

“Together, we’ve come a long way,” said County Executive Jack B. Johnson, who reassured environmental groups, saying, “Your dreams are our dreams.”

Those dreams could become more expensive. Mr. Peterson said the next obstacle for the project will be rising labor costs over the next few years.

Officials plan to open the downtown portion of National Harbor, along with the Gaylord Hotel, in the first quarter of 2008.


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