National Harbor, the uber-development along the shores of the Potomac River in Prince George’s County, took a big hit with the artfully timed day-after-Thanksgiving announcement by Walt Disney Co. that it had scrapped plans to build a 500-room resort hotel there.
Disney was a big “get” for National Harbor, whose developer, Milton V. Peterson, had personally lobbied company executives to build there. Its defection is an equally big loss.
Disney was an important validation for both National Harbor and Prince George’s County in their efforts to attract big-name national retailers and enterprises to locate there.
Much has gone right at National Harbor, where the centerpiece Gaylord National Resort and Convention and Center is one of six hotels. Existing restaurant and retail space has been slowly filling up and Tangier Outlets is scheduled to break ground on a 388,000-square-foot facility next year.
But residential development has lagged and only about one-third of the total development is complete. The loss of Disney threatens the project’s momentum.
This is a high-stakes undertaking for both the developers and the county. If National Harbor and Konterra in Laurel grow according to plan, or even close to it, Prince George’s will have two economic engines generating jobs, taxes and high-end retail and housing.
County Executive Rushern L. Baker III recently established a $50 million fund to provide incentives for companies expanding or relocating in Prince George’s.
The county should proceed carefully, using the fund only when there are clear-cut results that benefit the public. This could well be such a case.