July hearing set on MGM National Harbor casino; construction likely to begin in summer


A rendering of the planned MGM casino at National Harbor. (MGM Resorts International)
June 12, 2014

The Prince George’s County Council will hold a hearing July 14, where it is expected to approve the application that clears the way for construction of the $925 million MGM casino complex at National Harbor.

The county planning board approved the project May 8 after hearing from residents and community leaders who voiced objections to the lighting features and giant outdoor LED video screens incorporated in the project.

The large electronic screens are likely to be the subject of debate at the council hearing next month. Some residents say the screens, which would be lighted on three sides, will shine on nearby historic sites and residences and have the potential to distract drivers.

Officials with MGM Resorts International say the boards are as important to the aesthetics of the building as they are to its operations and are uniquely incorporated into the design of the facility, which will have more than 1 million square feet of usable space.

The Nevada-based gaming giant plans to build a 300-room glass-tower hotel, 3,600 slot machines, 140 gaming tables, a concert theater, several celebrity chef-driven restaurants, a spa and high-end retail stores.

Public opposition to the project itself has not been an issue during the approval process. Residents say they are resigned to the idea that a casino will be built in their backyards, but they want to make ensure the impact on their community is minimized.

The casino is planned for a 23-acre site overlooking the Potomac River, within easy access to Interstates 495 and 295. It is viewed as an important economic development project for Prince George’s County and has the support of county and state leaders.

MGM has begun work at the site in preparation for construction and some traffic lanes around the site are now closed for construction. Once the council approves the application, MGM can get building permits. Construction could begin as soon as late July.

The oral argument hearing begins at 10 a.m., and although it is open to the public, only parties of record will be able to speak.

This story has been updated.

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Luz Lazo writes about transportation and development. She has recently written about the challenges of bus commuting, Metro’s dark stations, and the impact of sequestration on air travel.
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