Continued apologies for my prolonged absence – it looks like it’s going to be a few more days before my interwebs are up and running again. But this story just came across my transom and I couldn’t resist getting online at work to put this out there. It certainly qualifies as the “WTF” story of the week – Disney has spent $11 million to purchase a 15-acre tract in Prince George’s County, MD., across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. Part of a 300-acre development called National Harbor, the site will be used for a Disney-branded resort hotel.
No, seriously. Behold the mighty press release:
National Harbor Sells Land to Disney
Site Being Considered for New Resort Hotel
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md., May 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Peterson Companies announced today the sale of land at its National Harbor development near Washington, DC to Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Disney is considering using the 15-acre site overlooking the Potomac River in National Harbor, MD as the location for a resort hotel for families and others visiting the National Capital Region.
“We’re thrilled Disney has decided to invest in National Harbor,” said Milton V. Peterson, chairman of the Peterson Companies. “Disney is the top family entertainment company in the world, and its purchase is a great vote of confidence in the future of National Harbor and the Washington area as a top family tourism destination.”
The new resort hotel would be one of Disney’s stand-alone resort hotels separate from the Disney theme parks. This new resort hotel, like the project under construction in Hawaii, will be in a prime geographic location and will provide guests with the same comfort, fun and amenities for which Disney is famous.
“As we began identifying possible locations to grow our business, the Washington, DC area immediately jumped to the top of the list,” said Jay Rasulo, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “National Harbor offers an array of entertaining activities for regional visitors, but it is also a family-friendly base camp, from which visitors from around the world can explore the stirring sights and inspirational stories of our nation’s capital. We believe National Harbor has the unique opportunity to offer a new level of family-friendly hospitality.”
Disney purchased the Maryland property from the Peterson Companies for $11 million.
About National Harbor:
Rising from the banks of the Potomac River in Prince George’s County, MD., National Harbor is a new 300-acre destination waterfront resort. With six hotels and 3,000 rooms, National Harbor features the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Many attributes include the tree-lined avenue American Way, public art including “The Awakening” sculpture by Seward Johnson, shops and offices, numerous high rise residences and the largest marina on the Potomac River. It is also the future home for the new Cesar Pelli-designed National Children’s Museum. The master developer for National Harbor is The Peterson Companies, one of the largest privately owned development companies in the greater Washington area specializing in large mixed use developments.
Of course the immediate thing that most Disney fans will think of upon hearing this news is the aborted Disney’s America project of years ago; this project obviously has no relation to that park design, and will consist only of a hotel development. This National Harbor development, which has run into problems recruiting developers due to the economic downturn, seems to be a rather conventional mixed-use hotel, restaurant, convention and conference project.
The 500-room Disney hotel would provide a prominent anchor for the project, and one assumes will provide a base for “Adventures by Disney” tours of the area.
It’s rare that Disney does something that completely surprises me, but this really takes the cake. Their upcoming resort in Hawaii was much less surprising, as it seemed to fit with many tried-and-true Disney formulae. Dropping a Disney hotel into the middle of an urban area, though, is something new, and it indicates a direction in which the company is obviously headed. Between DVC and Adventures by Disney, it’s clear that they intend to expand the concept of these smaller-scale projects across the nation or possibly the world.
I’m not sure really what to think about that. While I regret their decision not to build Disney’s America in 1994, I don’t really know what Disney can bring to a rather typical city-bound hotel development. Will it be highly themed, or just another high-rise hotel structure? The obvious historical themes – Colonial, Federalist, Georgian, etc – don’t meld well with the high-rise structure that they’ll no doubt want to build. Will they instead build some towering, cookie-cutter structure that looks like every other hotel in the area? Or, heaven forbid, will they try to slap some Jeffersonian pediment on for style?
I guess I just don’t understand what the purpose of this is. Still, $11 million is pretty cheap in Disney terms, and I suppose that they took advantage of the real estate crunch to get a good deal. I can’t say that I’m itching to stay in a Disney hotel near Washington D.C., but it can’t hurt, can it?
Regular posting to resume in a few days…