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Posts about National Harbor

History


National Harbor's colossal never-built skyscraper

National Harbor was originally going to be called PortAmerica, and it almost included a skyscraper that might have been taller than the Washington Monument.


Port America. All images from Johnson/Burgee.

By 2008 when the first part of National Harbor opened, the concept of suburban town centers was tried and true. But developers have been trying to build a town center there since the mid 1980s. When they started, it was the most progressive of ideas.

The original plan for PortAmerica dates from 1987. It would have included a neo-classical, mixed-use town center in the same place as National Harbor's waterfront, plus a large office park on the adjacent property that is now an outlet mall will soon have a casino.

The office park would have included a 52-story trophy office tower. It would very likely have risen above the 555-foot Washington Monument, and definitely would have dwarfed the DC region's current tallest office building, Rosslyn's 384-foot 1812 North Moore (though that won't be the case for long).

We first ran this post back in 2013, but since the facts haven't changed, we thought we'd share it again!

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Transit


A bus between National Harbor, the MGM casino, and Alexandria? It could happen.

With Metro's help, Prince George's County and Alexandria are testing a bus route from National Harbor to a number of key commuting spots in Alexandria. The NH2 would link new Prince George's developments and would make it easier for workers and visitors to get across the Potomac.


Route and service details of the proposed NH2 bus from Virginia to National Harbor. Image from WMATA.

The route would run from National Harbor to the soon-to-open MGM Casino, then to the Oxon Hill Park and Ride and across the river to the Huntington and King Street Metro stations. It'd run every half hour between the above locations, from 6 am to 1 am daily.

If the WMATA board subcommittee that's considering the proposal approves it, the pilot would last from October 2016 to June 2017, after which WMATA staff would evaluate whether the route was worth keeping around. If they think the route is worth keeping, it would become a regular part of the Metrobus network. That could happen as soon as July 2017, at the start of Metro's FY2018 budget year.

The test is expected to cost around $2.175 million, which would be covered by bus fares, a mixture of money from Prince George's County, Maryland's Department of Transportation, the City of Alexandria, Fairfax County, and $500,000 from National Harbor's developer, the Peterson Group.

A full year of service would cost closer to $2.9 million, which would be covered by the same pots of money as the pilot.

The proposal document up for review on Thursday says the jurisdictions expressed interest in creating the cross-Potomac service, which could ultimately bring more people (and their spending money) to both areas.

The NH1 is the only bus currently serving National Harbor, although several others have stops nearby. The route connects National Harbor to Southern Avenue Metro station (and then served Branch Avenue instead for a time before being restored following an outcry). Both would service the Oxon Hill Park and Ride.


Existing NH1 bus route to National Harbor from the Southern Avenue Metro station.

This pilot isn't the first time Metro has experimented with bus service connecting National Harbor to the region's transit network. Back in 2013, Metro proposed rerouting the NH1 line to run across the Woodrow Wilson bridge to Old Town Alexandria and serve the King Street station, as Matt' Johnson wrote back in 2013, somewhat similar to what's now being proposed. However, that proposal didn't move forward at the time.

However, the NH2 route is being proposed now with a large casino expected to draw in thousands to the area, which means the ridership numbers could be significantly different. The MGM development expected to open later in November will have two convention centers, the casino, a hotel, restaurants, and a 3,000-seat theater.

Transit


Metro proposes new Wilson Bridge bus service

As part of its round of service changes for June 2014, Metro has proposed rerouting the NH1 line, which serves National Harbor, to run across the Wilson Bridge to Old Town Alexandria. The new service could help connect communities on both sides of the Potomac that aren't always easy to go between by transit.


Existing bus service to National Harbor. Map by the author.

Two routes serve National Harbor today: the Metrobus express NH1 between the Branch Avenue Metro station and National Harbor, and the Prince George's County Transit route 35 between Southern Avenue Metro and National Harbor.

Metro's proposal would instead send the NH1 to King Street station in Alexandria. The distance between National Harbor and Branch Avenue is about the same as to King Street. But King Street is located in a much more vibrant area than Branch Avenue, meaning guests and residents of National Harbor may find the altered routing of the NH1 more helpful.


Proposed bus service to National Harbor. Map by the author.

Workers at National Harbor who live on the Virginia side of the Potomac will also benefit greatly from this service. Those who live in Maryland or Southeast Washington will still have access to Southern Avenue via route 35. During late evenings and weekends, when the 35 does not run, the NH1 will also serve Southern Avenue.

Repeating history
When bus service first began at National Harbor, the service operated from Southern Avenue. This was an important link for workers at the isolated resort. Southern Avenue station has more bus lines, and is more convenient to neighborhoods in Southeast Washington.

But in 2009, Metro rerouted the bus to Branch Avenue at the request of National Harbor. Some argued that this was so visitors wouldn't have to transfer at Southern Avenue, which is located in a less affluent area. With a more express routing over the Beltway, workers were now forced to travel farther out of the way using multiple bus lines or the more expensive Green Line to reach the NH1.

In response, Prince George's started the 35, which restored the connection to Southern Avenue and stops in the neighborhoods along the way.

Virginia connection

In addition to linking National Harbor and Alexandria, the rerouted NH1 has the ability to restore a service lost in 2004. Prior to June of that year, the N11 and N13 routes linked Branch Avenue and Suitland stations to King Street. This allowed riders from southern Prince George's to easily reach jobs in Alexandria, while residents of Alexandria could reach jobs at the Suitland Federal Center without going downtown.

These routes only ran during rush hour. The N11 connected Branch Avenue to Alexandria in the morning and the N13 connected Alexandria to Suitland. The buses ran the opposite direction in the afternoon.

Without those lines, riders now have to ride all the way to L'Enfant Plaza and change. Many people making the commute probably drive the shorter distance over the Wilson Bridge instead.

The NH1 will not completely restore this convenient connection. However, it will allow riders to use transit between Southern Avenue and King Street by using the Prince George's 35 and the NH1 and transferring at the Oxon Hill Park and Ride. Riders from other routes running along Indian Head Highway, which include the D13, D14, P17, P18, P19, W15, and W19 routes, will also have that option.

Ridership on the N11 and N13 was apparently not high enough to justify the lines back in 2004. However, transit connections across the Potomac outside of downtown would shorten trips for many riders.

If the NH1 is successful in attracting riders, hopefully Metro will consider adding other routes to connect destinations across the Potomac from each other.

History


National Harbor's colossal never-built skyscraper

National Harbor was originally going to be called Port America, and it almost included a skyscraper that might have been taller than the Washington Monument.


Port America. All images from Burgee-Jonhson.

By 2008 when the first part of National Harbor opened, the concept of suburban town centers was tried and true. But developers have been trying to build a town center there since the mid 1980s. When they started, it was the most progressive of ideas.

The original plan for Port America dates from 1987. It would have included a neo-classical mixed-use town center in the same place as National Harbor's waterfront, plus a large office park on the adjacent property that is now under-construction to become an outlet mall.

The office park would have included a 52-story trophy office tower. It would very likely have risen above the 555-foot Washington Monument, and definitely would have dwarfed the DC region's current tallest office building, Rosslyn's 384-foot 1812 North Moore.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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