Correction to This Article
· A March 30 Metro article about the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center incorrectly said that Babe Ruth hit 715 home runs. He hit 714. The article also said that the hotel employs a fromagier. It employs a fromagiere, or female cheese specialist.

Putting On the Glitz

The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Prince George's County, a new addition to the Gaylord Hotels chain in D.C., boasts an 18-story glass atrium, multi-level indoor gardens, and a rooftop lounge.
By Avis Thomas-Lester
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 30, 2008

Michael Hudson and Brian Birrer faltered slightly as they lifted the life-size wooden statue of Babe Ruth. A nearby construction supervisor saw the potential for trouble and sent in reinforcements.

"Here, let us help you with that!" said the supervisor, directing six workers to help the hotel official and the artist as they struggled to right the statue inside the spanking-new Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill.

In the kitchen, executive chef Holger Frohlich supervised the preparation of a buffet menu that will be served at banquets booked months ago. Inside Pose Ultra Lounge, the nightclub, electricians wired into the glass wall lights that will flash red, yellow, green and blue -- brilliant enough to be seen on the Wilson Bridge three miles away.

With Tuesday's opening day bearing down, workers scrambled to put finishing touches on what is being billed as the largest non-casino hotel and convention center on the East Coast, an $870 million structure with an 18-story atrium wrapped in glass and steel overlooking the Potomac River. The resort is the cornerstone of National Harbor, one of the most anticipated commercial and residential projects in the Washington region.

Adorned with marble from quarries in Italy, Swarovski crystals and a fountain that shoots water 10 stories high, the resort has 2,000 rooms, 110 suites and 300 VIP rooms. It is bigger than the largest hotel in the District, the Marriott Wardman Park. The fountain was designed by the company that created the one at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

When guests check into Gaylord National, they will find dozens of live trees and upscale shops built to reflect regional architecture -- a Virginia farmhouse and a Georgetown rowhouse. One shop features art from the Washington Glass School in Mount Rainier. The seven eateries include one that has floors made with wood from old barns in the region, sleek leather-and-chrome seating and its own fromagier.

In the nightclub, patrons can sip fruit-infused vodka and dance on three glass platforms. The cover charge is $20; VIPs need not pay. A restroom stall in the club offers a panoramic view. In the Rel¿che spa, the Washington Monument can be seen from the couples hot tub.

The opening marks an important time, not just for Gaylord and National Harbor, but for residents of Prince George's County, many of whom have long complained that high-end developers tend to bypass their mostly African American community in favor of less ethnically and economically diverse places in the region.

Public complaints have softened with the arrival of such developments as Bowie Town Center and the Boulevard at Capital Centre, which have stores including Ann Taylor Loft, Pier 1 and the Gap and restaurants including Olive Garden and Kobe Japanese Steakhouse. Next year, Wegmans grocery store will open in the county.

Still, it remains to be seen how Prince George's residents will respond to the $4 billion National Harbor complex and how the development will affect the county. National Harbor's developer, the Peterson Cos., is billing the project as a destination point for Washingtonians, businesspeople and tourists.

"This is going to change Prince George's County," said David Byrd, the county's deputy chief administrative officer for economic development. "It's going to change the perception of the county."

Gaylord is one of six hotels that will eventually sit at National Harbor and the first to open. Other phases of National Harbor will open over the next several months.

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