An aerial view of the National Harbor. (Courtesy of Peter Fellows)

The Walt Disney Co. planned a 500-room resort hotel when it bought the 15-acre grass- and shrub-covered plot at the top of National Harbor’s central road, American Way, in 2009. Disney planned to link the resort with its Adventures by Disney guided tours service.

Late last year, however, Disney pulled out of the project, a setback for National Harbor and for County Executive Rushern L. Baker III’s economic development efforts. The Petersons are now pushing for the state to create a gaming license that would allow them to open an MGM resort casino on a separate plot.

Jon M. Peterson, senior vice president of the Fairfax-based Peterson Cos., said the company is close to buying back the land from Disney for the same price Disney bought it for, $11 million. He praised Disney officials for their willingness to return the parcel to the Petersons without opening the property to competitive bidding.

It would have been strange for any other property owner to own a portion of National Harbor, where the Petersons provide certain services, like security, for all the businesses in the project.

But Peterson is right to thank Disney for selling the land back at the 2009 price, since on many metrics that was the year commercial land values in the area bottomed. For instance, according to Price George’s County office sales data from Jones Lang LaSalle, office buildings sold for an average of $126 per square foot in the county in 2009 and $145 per square foot so far this year.

By that measure, the Petersons are getting a discount.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz