Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Residents concerned about National Harbor Outlets

by Mimi Liu - Gazette.net

 The developer of a planned retail outlet on Oxon Hill Road across from National Harbor plans to build a 75-room hotel at the site, a decision that doesn’t sit well with some Fort Washington area residents who worry nearby roads can’t handle traffic from the outlets, and a hotel would aggravate the problem.

Andre Gingles, an attorney for the developer, Fairfax, Va.-based Peterson Cos., unveiled a conceptual site plan of the proposed 80-store Tanger Outlets on Monday to Fort Washington-area residents at a public meeting at Indian Queen Elementary School.

Representatives for the Peterson Cos. will present the plan Jan. 12 to the Prince George’s County Planning Board on the first floor of the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro.

The outlet center will occupy about 350,000 square feet on a 40-acre site with an entrance from Oxon Hill Road, which extends from Md. Route 414 west of the Capital Beltway to Indian Head Highway/Md. Route 210.

But residents say a single entrance to the outlet centers will not be enough to cope with added traffic, even with improvements slated for Oxon Hill Road.

Fort Washington resident Valerie Walker, who lives off Fort Foote Road, said she was shocked and upset that Peterson Cos. was not going to include an entrance to the outlet from Route 210 to alleviate traffic into the outlet centers from the two-lane Oxon Hill Road.

“That’s crazy,” she said. “It’s not gonna work. The traffic on Oxon Hill Road is going to be more congested than it is now. There needs to be some type of overpass or something built that will lead from the expressway right into the outlet.”

Walker said she has nothing against a retail outlet being built.

“I love Tanger,” she said. “I’ve been to three or four different Tanger outlets, but this is just not gonna work.”

Some improvements are planned on Oxon Hill Road next year to alleviate traffic and safety issues, including a project expected to begin next spring to add bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of Oxon Hill Road in a 2.5-mile stretch from just south of National Harbor to Fort Foote Elementary School, said Susan Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation.

Fort Washington resident Elizabeth Price, 65, who supports having the outlets, said she would have rather seen a community center or sports complex for children built on the site instead of a hotel.
“We don’t need any more hotels,” she said. “We’ve already got the Clarion Hotel and the Red Roof Inn [on Oxon Hill Road] and the hotels at National Harbor.”

Rafiq Munir, president of the South Potomac Citizens Association, who hosted Monday’s meeting, said he likes the idea of having a retail outlet center to spur economic development in southern Prince George’s County, but not at the expense of the residents’ quality of life.

“The communities in the immediate area are going to bear the brunt,” he said. “[The developers and county officials] need to mitigate the impact as much as possible.”

Gingles said Peterson hopes to have approval for the construction of the entire outlet project finalized by mid-2012, with construction starting in summer 2012 and a projected opening date by Memorial Day or Labor Day 2013.

The outlet center, expected to bring nearly 900 jobs to the area, will have at least one restaurant in addition to several eateries, a loading/unloading area for tour destination buses, and more than 1,000 parking spaces, Gingles said.

He said the stores at the Tanger Outlets, which have not been confirmed, will be similar to those offered at Hagerstown Premium Outlets and Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets in Leesburg, Va., attracting visitors from outside Prince George’s and the state.

“Shopping is a big thing that people tend to want to do during conferences and conventions [at the National Harbor],” he said. “The outlet will be a great way for retailers to make dollars and for customers to pick up merchandise at low prices.”

Gingles said under Tanger’s policies, new construction projects will not begin until at least 50 percent of tenants have committed to the lease.

Peterson, who is the developer of National Harbor, is also building a new Walmart a mile from National Harbor and the outlets. The Walmart will be built at the intersection of Oxon Hill Road and Route 210, next to the Clarion Hotel, and is expected to be completed around the same time as the outlet center.

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