The developer of a proposed world trade center on the banks of the Potomac in Prince George's County has asked county officials to approve plans for a 50-story tower of reflective glass that would be the tallest building in the metropolitan area.
Developer James T. Lewis, president of James T. Lewis Enterprises, has proposed the tower as the centerpiece of the ambitious $700 million PortAmerica project, to be built on Indian Head Highway near I-95 in Oxon Hill, Md.
The structure, designed by architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee, would include 1.1 million square feet of space topped by a five-story spire.
"It will shimmer as you come across the [Woodrow Wilson Bridge]," Lewis said. The building would be the only "official world trade center for the Washington area," according to Lewis. It would be known as The World Trade Center Washington and would be a member of the New York City-based World Trade Center Association, a coalition of international operations created in 1968. Three rival developments also billing themselves as "world trade centers" are planned for the metropolitan Washington area.
The final development plan for the facility still must be approved by Prince George's officials, said Lewis, an attorney/developer for major projects completed and under construction in the Tysons Corner area of Northern Virginia. The Potomac River site already is zoned for mixed-use development.
Prince George's County officials have been invited to see a model of the proposed building Thursday night.
Lewis said the building is "within the limits of flight patterns" for aircraft approaching National Airport.
The Lewis project is promoted in a draft brochure "as offering its members and tenants unmatched accessibility to the key decision-makers and policy-makers as well as to a wealth of trade data found only in Washington, D.C."
There are now 33 world trade centers in cities such as Hong Kong, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Tel Aviv and Moscow. Another eight are under construction, and 30 more are in the planning stage. Lewis said he plans an international marketing campaign for the Prince George's County project and will attend a World Trade Center Association meeting in Rio de Janeiro in October to promote it.
The proposed building, which looks more like structures in New York City than buildings in metropolitan Washington, "is being proposed [by the architects] as the most appropriate for the site," Lewis said. "They have come up with a great design. It has surpassed my expectations."
Because of its world trade center status, 70 percent of the space must be used by those involved in some form of international trade, Lewis said. Prospective tenants for the project include trade missions, those involved in exporting and importing, consulting, translation, international banking, computer operations, travel agencies and support facilities. A restaurant is being considered for the top level, but details have not been worked out, Lewis said. World trade center regulations will require Lewis to provide a private club for those who are members of other world trade centers.
The trade center will be built on a site that has had several names in recent years, including Smoot Bay, Bay of Americas and Princetown. Lewis officially decided to call the area PortAmerica a few months ago.
Lewis said the trade center complex and other sections of the PortAmerica project will be built as separate components. However, architects Johnson and Burgee are working on final plans for other sections of the development. Preliminary plans include a hotel, retail and office space and a marina. About 1,200 residential units also are planned.
Prince George's officials rezoned the site for mixed-use development two years ago when the project, then called Bay of the Americas, was headed by several Prince George's developers led by James Burch, who first conceived the idea of a major mixed-used development on the banks of the Potomac in Prince George's County. Lewis bought a controlling interest in the development last fall. Original Bay of Americas investors still involved in the project as limited partners are Burch, Frank Lucente Jr., George Dunn, Michael Garrett and Mark Vogel.
Johnson and Burgee also designed Tycon Towers, an office development near the Tysons Corner shopping center.