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National Harbor offers water, walkability and a Ferris wheel

The Prince George’s County community is a draw for its amenities and location on the Potomac River.

National Harbor may be the only neighborhood in the D.C. area where residents can walk to the Potomac River waterfront, its marina, restaurants, shopping, entertainment and a giant Ferris wheel. (Craig Hudson for The Washington Post)

With its remarkable variety of things to do and experience, National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Md., is a draw for people seeking an unusual living experience. National Harbor may be the only neighborhood in the D.C. area where residents can walk to the Potomac River waterfront, its marina, restaurants, shopping, entertainment and a giant Ferris wheel.

Developed by the Fairfax-based Peterson Companies, with the first homes sold in 2008, the neighborhood consists of neat rows of townhouses as well as condominiums and apartments. In addition to the residential properties, National Harbor has nine hotels, more than 40 restaurants, retail boutiques, the Capital Wheel (Ferris wheel), a marina, Tanger Outlets and MGM National Harbor.

Peterson Companies manages the property, which now has about 1,400 housing units and is still in the building phase with an additional 1,000 units planned, according to Stuart Prince, executive vice president of residential properties for the firm. Twenty-eight townhouses and 144 condo units are under construction.

More condos coming to National Harbor

Reuben Vassar, a government data analyst, was drawn to the neighborly vibe when he first visited One National Harbor condominium, in the vibrant retail area. While touring the rooftop deck on the 10-story building, he met current residents.

“They were kicked back, enjoying the views of the Capital Wheel and water, listening to music, and gave a warm welcome. I was ready to purchase that day,” he said of his two-bedroom, two-bathroom penthouse unit.

The condominiums lie within the retail and restaurant area along the water, while the townhouses are up the hill from the harbor. There are 14 homeowners associations in National Harbor. HOA and condo fees range from $300 to $800 per month.

Proximity to the water is one benefit of condo living, but it comes at a price. The highest sale price for a condo at National Harbor last year was a unit that went for $1.4 million, according to Chris Ross, an agent with Weichert Realtors. But if you can’t afford a harbor view, a well-maintained and landscaped public walking path and marina are accessible.

“I love being near the water to relax and think,” Vassar said. “The statues dedicated to our service members stand guard out front, while Louis Armstrong’s statue stands as a reminder of progression and musical excellence.”

Juliet Francis, a psychologist, lives in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo adjacent to the harbor.

“I have a beautiful panoramic view of the Potomac, allowing me to see over into Alexandria,” she said. “The unit has three oversize sliding glass doors that open up to the main square with a beautiful view of the Ferris wheel and the Jumbotron, which allows me to keep up with the sports teams.”

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Francis appreciates National Harbor’s walkability.

“I love that once I park my car, I can walk to various restaurants to dine or have happy hour with friends,” she said. “I love looking out at the water; that gives me a sense of peace and calm. In the mornings, the Jumbotron greets me with a wake-up message, ‘Good Morning from the National Harbor.’ I would not want to live anywhere else but the Harbor.”

National Harbor has “a wide variety of events and festivals all year that residents may enjoy, from pumpkin carving for kids to Movies on the Potomac [free weekly family movies], to Santa, holiday tree-lighting, fireworks,” Prince said. It hosts morning yoga classes for residents and “mommy and me” events, the Prince George’s library partners with National Harbor for resident events, and the homeowners associations and condo buildings hold resident-only events and activities.

Eric Franklin has owned his two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo since 2008.

“In the beginning … I primarily used the property for the proximity to quality restaurants and special events,” Franklin said. “But as I began to travel frequently, I find that living a stone’s throw from National Airport is very convenient for me.”

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Although National Harbor has a small market, it doesn’t have a large grocery store. Many residents drive across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to shop for groceries.

“It is easy to just hop on the interstate,” said Will Nuckols, president of one of the 10 Potomac Overlook townhouse homeowners associations. “We do almost all our shopping in Virginia since there are high-quality grocery stores and it’s ridiculously easy to get there.”

The townhouses are on streets with names such as Waterfront Street, Sprintsail Way and Wellfleet Drive. Landscaping and other common areas are maintained by Peterson Companies. The most expensive townhouse sold last year was $929,900, according to Ross.

The newest phase of townhouses is the Monument series. The four-story brick townhouses will have three or four bedrooms, five bathrooms, 2,600 square feet of living space, a rooftop deck and two-car garages. The prices range from $734,990 to $784,990.

Theodore and Denise Polk are on their second townhouse in Potomac Overlook. Their four-level, three-bedroom, six-bathroom home was built in 2015. They first grew fond of the neighborhood when going out to restaurants there.

“We loved the area and wanted to stay in P.G. County,” said Denise.

Pet owners are often seen walking their dogs through the neighborhood. Neighbors meet up at the dog parks, said Nuckols. There’s a play area adjacent to the National Harbor Carousel near the waterfront and a play area in the park on American Way.

A major upside of the community is value. Nuckols said that “we got twice the home” for less money when comparing the four-level townhouse he bought in National Harbor with the homes he looked at on Capitol Hill. “You got a whole lot more house here than you do in the District or Virginia,” he said.

He also appreciates not having to drive around to look for parking like he did on Capitol Hill.

“Off-street parking is lovely,” he said. “Here in National Harbor, living is easy.”

Living there: National Harbor’s boundaries are Interstate 495 to the north, the Potomac River to the west, Oxon Hill Road and Route 210 to the east and National Harbor Boulevard to the south.

The 119 properties sold in National Harbor last year had an average sale price of $554,795, according to Ross. The average price for townhouses was $742,023, and the average price for condominiums was $417,662. In 2020, a single-family house sold for just over $1 million.

Twenty properties are for sale. The average list price for townhouses is $800,825, and the average list price for condos is $405,850.

Schools: Fort Foote Elementary, Oxon Hill Middle and Oxon Hill High

Transit: The closest Metro station, King Street on the blue and yellow lines, is about seven miles away in Alexandria, Va. The Southern Avenue Metro station on the green line is in Hillcrest Heights, Md., about 10 miles away. Metro buses run from National Harbor to both Metro stations. Capital Bikeshare rents bikes throughout National Harbor.

If you’d like your neighborhood featured in Where We Live, email kathy.orton@washpost.com.

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