On The Waterfront
With the help of environmental graphics, urban design, and public art, National Harbor makes a lasting mark on a blighted stretch of the Potomac.
Think of Washington, D.C., and iconic landmarks such as the Washington Monument and the White House likely come to mind. So when developer Milton Peterson of The Peterson Companies bought a barren 300-acre parcel on the banks of the Potomac just south of these historic architectural giants, he envisioned a classic rather than trendy mixed-use development that would look like it had always been there.Peterson’s vision was to create a waterfront for Washington, a vibrant district similar to Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s most famous shopping street. When Peterson Companies bought the land in 1995, it was the third firm to try to develop the property, says Jeff T. Parana, vice president and development manager for National Harbor. Ultimately, Parana says, other developers lost the property because they couldn’t afford to develop it. But once Peterson had an anchor—Gaylord Entertainment Company committed to building a conference center adjacent to the property—plans for National Harbor were underway. The $4 billion project, more than a decade in the planning and making, opened in April 2008 and now includes retail, restaurants, residential and office space, and six hotels. Future phases call for participation by Disney and the National Children’s Museum. https://segd.org/national-harbor