The $1 billion Bay of the Americas development project south of Woodrow Wilson Bridge will be built as planned, despite the pending sale of the 485-acre site to a Rosslyn-based investment group, the current developers say.
James Burch, 41, and Mark Vogel, 35, two of the five members of the Bay of the Americas Limited Partnership, said that Hadid Investment Group of Rosslyn does not intend to change the project, which is to include a 1,000-slip marina, three hotels, luxury town houses and commercial space.
It was announced last week that Hadid will become the project's lead developer if the sale agreement is signed next month.
"Promises made to the county and to the citizens will continue on and are valid," said Burch, who has lobbied in Prince George's County on behalf of the Bay of the Americas proposal for at least four years.
The County Council approved the site's rezoning more than a year ago -- over the protests of area residents who complained that it would create traffic problems and change the nature of the quiet Smoot Bay area.
The residents took those complaints to the Prince George's County Circuit Court, but failed to get the council's decision overturned. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has not yet scheduled a hearing date for their appeal.
County officials and developers said after the sale announcement that planning will continue in the meantime.
Vogel, a Washington real estate broker who joined Burch's partnership last fall, said he approached Michael Hadid two or three months ago about joining the project. Hadid, who grew up in Arlington, has run his investment group for 3 1/2 years.
In July, the Hadid Group purchased three Washington area properties from developer Theodore B. Gould for $112 million: a nine-story building at 11 Dupont Cir., the 19-story Xerox building on N. Fort Myer Drive in Rosslyn and a 24-story office building on N. 17th Street in Rosslyn.
Prince George's County zoning attorney V. Paul Zanecki said Hadid is now conducting a study of the Smoot Bay area to determine what additional concerns his company will have to consider before submitting a general concept plan for the project to the County Council and the planning board next spring.
Groundbreaking at the site is not expected to occur before next summer, Zanecki said. Cost projections for the development have risen from $500 million to the current $1 billion.
"In my opinion, there are multiple entities of ownership still to come," Zanecki said. "These types of projects are at the forefront of the creative financing area of real estate today."
Burch said there are already 900 names on a waiting list for the first 300 marina slips, and 160 names on a list for the planned $300,000 waterfront town houses.
Several hotel corporations have expressed interest in the project, Burch and Vogel said, although they declined to name them.
County Council members, who unanimously approved the controverial mixed-use zoning for the project last year, appeared caught off guard by news of the project's sale.
"If the original group stays with it to some degree, I'd be very happy," Council Chairman Floyd Wilson said. "That way, they'll see it through as we envisioned."
Council member Sue V. Mills, whose district includes Smoot Bay, said she began to hear rumors the week before the sale was announced that financing for the project may have become a problem for the original developers.
Mills said that if she had known an outside investor was going to be involved, "it wouldn't have gotten my vote."
But because of the special zoning granted to the project, the council will have the right to review each step in the development process.
"I think the sale bodes well for the project," County Executive Parris Glendening said.
Developer Burch said he is optimistic about Bay of the Americas' progress now that the State Highway Administration has given its permission for the county and the developers to build exit ramps leading to the property from the Capital Beltway and Rte. I-295.
And despite continuing appeals to the courts, he contends that much of the community opposition to the project has subsided.