- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The fort from which Fort Washington gets its name was first built in 1809.

Until the Civil War, it served as the prime defense for the nation’s capital.

What cannon remain are long silent. These days, Fort Washington — the unincorporated community, that is, with a population of about 24,000 — is attracting not enemy fire, but new residents intrigued, perhaps, by the prospect of a view of the Potomac, proximity to the District, or the real-estate investment opportunities represented by the National Harbor project.

“There is no typical buyer in Fort Washington,” says Valerie Green, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Colonial Homes, who for 22 years has worked in Prince George’s County as well as Maryland’s Charles, Calvert and Montgomery Counties, the District and Virginia.

“The atmosphere that attracts buyers to this area is one that promotes a comfortable lifestyle for all ages,” Ms. Green says. “Because of the [Tantallon] golf course, the country-club setting and the prevalent waterfront and marina access, retirees find it very appealing to live here. However, young executives and newlyweds are also seeking the same amenities.”

Ms. Green also says that the larger homes found throughout the area make it feasible for in-laws to live in the same residence as their daughters and sons. “That makes these homes more desirable and affordable,” she says.

A recent Web search yielded a wide range of high-bracket Fort Washington homes.

A 6,436-square-foot, six-bedroom single-family home in Tantallon on the Potomac was priced at $1,250,000, while a piece of land in Fort Washington was not appreciably less: $1,100,000 for a lot of 174,240 square feet.

Custom homes built on these high-ticket lots — many with water views, which helps explain the premium price — are one of the driving forces in the local real estate market, Ms. Green says. “There are one-of-a-kind older custom homes on the water and on the golf course [as well as] infill lots that have attracted numerous custom home builders to the area.”

Yet middle-income buyers still have real-estate prospects in Fort Washington, she says.

For example, for less than $500,000, buyers can still secure a home in Fort Washington’s Tantallon South area.

Homes in this bracket still tend to sell in a matter of days, often with multiple offers. In general, though, here as in other parts of the greater Washington area, the pool of available properties is larger now than it has been in recent months, she says.

“I think that the current market is a good one for both sellers and buyers because of the absence of multiple offers,” Ms. Green says. “It allows sellers the time that they need to locate their contingent home of choice without the fear of having their home ‘sold out from under them’ in a market where most homes stay on the market for at least a 30- to 60-day period.

“It’s a great time to buy and sell in Fort Washington,” she says.

The National Harbor development is poised to change the Fort Washington area significantly.

Although it has met with resistance from some residents and environmentalists since it was first conceived in the 1980s and struggled through legal snafus and other conflicts along the way, the project is now under way.

Gaylord Hotels — whose planned 2,000-room resort and convention center will serve as the anchor of the site, reported last month that conventions and other groups have already booked many grand events at the property, slated to open in 2008.

Expected to be completed over a 10-year period, National Harbor is the largest mixed-use project ever undertaken in Prince George’s County. County development executives have widely touted the residential, shopping and dining, and employment opportunities that it is expected to bring to the region.

In September, the Prince George’s County Council voted unanimously to approve the addition of 2,500 housing units to the National Harbor plan. Sales and marketing of planned row houses, town homes and condominiums is expected to begin this summer.

Local officials persuaded Gaylord Hotels’ parent company, Gaylord Entertainment, to pony up $1,000,000 over three years to fund a hotel and hospitality studies program at Largo’s Prince George’s Community College. Gaylord projects that more than 2,000 people will be hired to work at the resort when it opens.

The promise of those and other jobs may help Kwasi Holman, president and CEO of the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corp., come one step closer to a goal he’s set for the county. While the current ratio of people who drive to work outside Prince George’s County is 60-40, “I would prefer it to be 50-50,” he says.

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