National Harborcould be a boon

National Harborcould be a boon

As Alexandria civic leaders see it, the cranes across the river hoisting National Harbor into place represent a multi-million dollar retail gusher.

When water shuttle service begins April 1, 2008, the $2 billion hotel, office, residential and retail complex being built on 300 acres just south of the Wilson Bridge could inject as many as 1,000 new tourists per day onto the streets of Old Town.

Conservatively speaking, if those tourist-shoppers spend less than $100 per day in Old Town shops and restaurants that could translate into a big windfall for city merchants and local tax coffers said Mark Jinks, the deputy city manager. By a thumbnail calculation, that could mean as much as $100,000 per day of new revenue for Old Town businesses, or about $36 million per year in new commerce.

With 4,000 new rooms at five hotels, the project is expected to become the largest convention hotel on the East Coast. With hotel bookings at National Harbor already projected at full occupancy, the spill-over effect of increased bookings at Old Town hotels could translate into tens of millions of dollars more in sold hotel space.

On Tuesday, the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce held a standing-room-only forum on the Cherry Blossom riverboat for some 300 retailers and civic officials to discuss the opportunities presented by the opening of the complex. This is an important step in a long journey were taking together, said Chamber President Rick Dorman.

Dorman joined Mayor William D. Euille, ACVA President Jo Anne Mitchell and Potomac Riverboat Company president Charlotte Hall in opening remarks; then the 300 or so participants broke into groups for an hour of roundtable discussions. Afterwards, they presented slam dunk ideas to better market Alexandria as a place to visit. Ideas ranged from expanding DASH shuttle service, to new satellite parking, to creating a new city slogan, to building a cultural center along the river.

This was an opportunity for all of us just to hold the mirror up, Jinks said afterwards. Were a unique place. History is part of what theyre marketing, so we clearly need to get info on what Alexandria has to offer into their hotels.  
New neighbors
The first condominiums at National Harbor in Prince Georges County will go on sale this summer, the developer announced this week. Developed by the Peterson Companies, One National Harbor, will include 253 luxury units, 40,000 square feet of retail space, underground parking, an exercise room and rooftop pool among its amenities. Residents are expected to begin moving in by summer 2008.

Eventually, Peterson officials expect to build as many as 2,500 residential units on the Maryland side of the Potomac River, including condos and townhouses.  
Construction of hotels and parking garages at the site is nearly completed, but no announcements have been made so far as to what companies or retailers will occupy the nearly one million square feet of retail, dining and entertainment space.

Civic leaders appeared pleased that the city was showing such interest in harnessing cross-river commerce. The meeting was proof of the positive energy and direction of Alexandria, said Jon Aaronsohn, president of the Old Town Civic Association.

David Martin, president of the Old Town Business and Professional Association and owner of Goldworks, said he was pleased that block-by-block attention was paid for such things as banners, street cleanups and beautification. 

These are things weve wanted for years, he said.