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Down by the Riverside

Rosalind Helderman

Politicians from Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) on down made their way to Prince George's Thursday night for a swanky celebration at the $2 billion National Harbor project, celebrating the completion of the vast development's first building.

The three story glass and brick structure sits directly on the banks of the Potomac and will hold McCormick & Schmick's restaurant when it opens next spring. The building's tall glass windows offer sweeping views of the river, the Virginia shoreline just across it and cars whizzing across the Wilson Bridge connecting the two. It is not far from the 2,000-room Gaylord National Hotel, where construction is well underway. National Harbor will feature several other hotels, including a Westin and a Hampton Inn, as well as condos, retail and office space.

Hundreds of business, community and political types munched on tray after tray of sushi, mini-quiche and key-lime mousse at last night's affair, which concluded with a massive fireworks display shot from a barge in the river.

Politicians were in an expansive mood. O'Malley predicted National Harbor would be an "economic engine" for the state. County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) said he felt like a kid who opened up a CrackerJack box looking for a baseball card and found Mickey Mantle and Jackie Robinson inside. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) gave a history lesson about the Potomac River, before declaring National Harbor will one day be seen as a gateway to American democracy.

In his remarks, National Harbor developer Milton Peterson praised all the politicians, but had particularly kind words for Miller. "Senator Miller, you're not going anywhere. If I can do what I do at my age, then you can stick around in office a little longer," Peterson told Miller, who had announced he would retire from the senate but has recently been more coy about his plans.

And with friends like Peterson....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 1, 2007; 10:48 AM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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Comments

this will be great. Another McCormick and Schmick's to choose from. Perhaps an Applebees too. And a Gap. And a Restoration Hardware. It will certainly be a unique presence both in the DC Metro area and in the country as a whole.

Nice work gentlemen. Nice work.

We need the Capitol area to look more like Manassas.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 1, 2007 12:50 PM | Report abuse

how much did the city, county and state give this guy to build a new Hampton Inn? And how much were the firework and tray after tray of sushi to celebrate this new magnifigance?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 1, 2007 12:52 PM | Report abuse

If O'Malley's greatest accomplishment is the Harbor on a lake in PG county, he's not doing so well.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 1, 2007 1:06 PM | Report abuse

The National Harbor link above takes you to some artist's fairy tale rendition of the development with aqua blue waters and not a car or parking lot in sight. The picture fails to include hydrilla, the eyesore of the 16 lane Wilson Bridge and the smell from the Blue Plains sewage treatment facility accross the highway.

Posted by: BG from PG | June 1, 2007 1:14 PM | Report abuse

It would have been nice if the people living across the river from National Harbor, in Alexandria, had been given advance notice of the fireworks -- partly so we could have gone down to the waterfront to enjoy them too, but mostly so we wouldn't have thought that Alexandria had come under attack when we suddenly started hearing explosions last night.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 1, 2007 4:10 PM | Report abuse

National Harbor is the best thing to happen to P. G., County since Jericho City. Anybody who conceived of it or contributed to it deserves heaps of credit, so long as gambling is kept out. Why not serve it with a water taxi?

Posted by: Robin Ficker | June 1, 2007 4:42 PM | Report abuse

What a bounch of sad commentary by a bunch of sad envious losers we have here. This project is a gem, you don't like it, take a hike to the outskirts of Alaska somewhere...JEEEZ.

Posted by: CARLOS | June 1, 2007 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Leave it to Mickey Miller to bust the limits of hyperbole. National Harbor, - a gateway to American democracy? That's the sort of vacuous claptrap we're better off without.

Miller would serve us better by introducing legislation to reverse the disastrous Enron inspired energy deregulation he championed in 1999. Doubt he has much to say about that.

Posted by: Count Bobulescu | June 1, 2007 10:11 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Robin Ficker that NH is the best thing to happen to PG. 1,000,000 advance booked bednights is not chickenfeed.

That said, from a restaurant perspective it could be better. It's designed to be like Bethesda, a Mecca for mediocrity. Chains, and more chains.

Last session in Annapolis, the PG delegation passed a bill to form a commission to study ways to attract (tax breaks?) quote luxury restaurants to PG. Luxury being defined as seating capacity above 100, and investment in excess of $800,000 excluding land/lease.

I think a better use of resources as opposed to tax breaks for corporations would be to create a local culinary school to develop local talent, with graduates mentored/partnered to open independent restaurants clustered in designated development areas.

Posted by: Count Bobulescu | June 1, 2007 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Ficker is correct! National Harbor will be the jewel of the county and of the state. God Bless the folks who think it'll be another Bethesda or Manassas, but they must have no vision; folks who think the views are not gorgeous must be excused because they must be blind. Those who think the restaurant line-up is meidcore for the county and region must be dining at the white house every night. Just wait until 08, folks! I am happy for the project and cannot wait for it to open.

Posted by: PH | June 2, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

PH, just read both the editorial and reader reviews for Rosa Mexicano, here on the WaPo site. It's a horror show.

Seems both Sequoia and Muck & Schmuk who are opening at NH don't even merit editorial review. The lone reader review for M & S said, if you're poor and hungry stay away.

Posted by: Count Bobulescu | June 2, 2007 11:06 PM | Report abuse

I was at the VIP event the other night, although I am not a VIP. Anyone who is speaking negatively about this project a) hasn't even been there and seen how spectacular the place will be and b) is living in a fantasy world where any national brand is "evil" and they believe they know what is best for everyone else.

This project is going to be developed over many years. The future success is largely reliant on the success of the first phases. Do you think a developer who is investing probably $100 million hasn't considered what people actually want?

I think this project will be successful and liked by most people. If it's not for you then don't go. If you think there is a better way to develop 350 acres of waterfront property then go find your own piece of land and do it yourself. The waterfronts of Alexandria and Southwest, DC will only appear to be not living up to their potential when National Harbor really gets going. There probably will be a net benefit to Old Town Alexandria, but it won't be anything close to the benefit gained by Prince George's County and Maryland, which I think is the unfortunate part of all this.

Posted by: at the event | June 3, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

At the Event,

I don't know what you mean by the national brand of evil thing but I can think of a better way to manage 350 acres of waterfront land. Don't develop it. We don't need more sprawling shopping areas filled with chain restaurants and rip-off retail stores. Yet here we have Johnny come lately, O'Malley, attaching his name to it. Amazing how he got the project into its first phase after only 6 months of being in office.

Miller misspoke when he named the project the "Gateway to Democracy". He should have named it the Gateway to Mediocrity.

Posted by: BG from PG | June 4, 2007 8:56 AM | Report abuse

To those who will brook no dissent on NH. First, I said I think it is the best thing to happen to PG. Second, I said I wish it could be better. What's wrong with that?

Posted by: Count Bobulescu | June 4, 2007 11:21 AM | Report abuse

"County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) said he felt like a kid who opened up a CrackerJack box looking for a baseball card and found Mickey Mantle and Jackie Robinson inside."

No, he didn't REALLY say that, did he? Is he for real or just pandering to the audience.

FYI: Crackerjack boxes contained toys (really cheap toys too), not baseball cards. You used to get the baseball cards by buying packs of gum, but now you just get the cards.

Posted by: What???? | June 6, 2007 3:14 PM | Report abuse

The new National Harbor is wonderful; an amazing accomplishment by any standard. But....what will the politicians do to reduce crime, failing infrastructures, lack of upscale shopping, poor service from county officials? I guess these will be addressed when the first major crime occurs in the National Harbor, and believe you me, it's coming.

Posted by: Skeptical in PG | June 7, 2007 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Wow- there are some really myopic views posted here. I guess most people long for the days when the county was a rural outpost. It is soooo about time that DC and PG developed its waterfront areas like other US cities. I understand that the to- be-built convention center is already booked for the next 2 years. There are planned water taxis that will ferry persons between the new stadium area in DC and the harbor in PG. I for one welcome the development, the retailers and the tax revenue that this will bring to our county.

Posted by: plamar1031 | June 7, 2007 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Wow- there are some really myopic views posted here. I guess most people long for the days when the county was a rural outpost. It is soooo about time that DC and PG developed their waterfront areas like other US cities. I understand that the to- be-built convention center is already booked for the next 2 years. There are planned water taxis that will ferry persons between the new stadium area in DC and the harbor in PG. I for one welcome the development, the retailers and the tax revenue that this will bring to our county.

Posted by: plamar1031 | June 7, 2007 6:05 PM | Report abuse

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