Development Brings Upscale Options Down To the Harbor

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 30, 2008

As the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center welcomes its first guests this week, officials at the mammoth National Harbor project that the hotel anchors on the banks of the Potomac River are working feverishly to attract the upscale retailers and restaurants that Prince George's County residents have longed to see.

This month, representatives from the Peterson Cos., National Harbor's developer, attended a regional shopping center convention in the District to try to lure retailers to the development in Oxon Hill, which is to open in the coming months with a marina, stores, offices, restaurants, entertainment venues and condominiums along with the resort.

Rocell R. Viniard, vice president and director of marketing for the project, said Peterson has commitments for 60 percent of the 325,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space in the first phase of the project.

"Leases are being signed very quickly," Viniard said.

Officials are forging ahead in an unstable economy, one that has prompted two restaurant operators to back out of plans to go to National Harbor and caused others to thoroughly examine the project before making a commitment.

Dennis Murphy, a commercial real estate agent based in Annapolis, said he has been working to sign clients at National Harbor. But in some instances, he said, the clients "don't get" the project until they see it.

"They don't understand the scale and scope of the project," Murphy said of National Harbor, which bills itself as a destination where people will work, live, shop and play. He said that once he explains the project, retailers clamor to be a part of it.

Restaurants that have signed contracts or letters of intent include Maggiano's Little Italy, which plans to open its first restaurant in Maryland; Ketchup; Dolce Enoteca e Ristorante; and McCormick and Schmick's Seafood Restaurant, making its first appearance in the county.

Timothy Dean, who had his first job at a pizza parlor in Clinton and worked as a sous-chef to Jean Louis Palladin at Jean Louis Restaurant at the Watergate Hotel, will open a jazz lounge called the Timothy Dean Bistro. And Warren Brown of Food Channel network fame will open CakeLove, a bakery that has become a regional favorite.

Arthur Turner, a civic activist who has fought for years to get upscale retailers and restaurants in Prince George's, said he is pleased to know that Peterson is trying to bring high-end dining and shopping to the county.

"I'm still cautiously optimistic that we will have the retailers that we want," Turner said.

He has reason to be cautious. The project has encountered construction delays.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company