View from the Potomac: Bringing Disney back? - INSIDENOVA.COM: Dumfries

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View from the Potomac: Bringing Disney back?

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Posted: Sunday, April 28, 2013 2:00 pm

In 1994, plans for “Disney’s America,” the proposed American history-based theme park in Haymarket, were withdrawn. This came just a year after it was first put forth publicly. Opposition based upon the park’s proximity to the historic Manassas battlefield and concerns over increased traffic on Interstate 66 and in surrounding areas ultimately killed the project.

It was not as if Disney was going to pave over and build atop the battlefield, but based upon the hysterics of the time one could be forgiven for believing that to be the case.

Disney went so far as to purchase 3,000 acres of land in the county (for perspective, their Magic Kingdom park in Orlando is 107 acres.) It was subsequently sold and today is Dominion Valley with thousands of homes and retail shopping that came without the roads and infrastructure that Disney planned to build. Instead, we still have the traffic, but none of the steady revenue stream or other benefits that Disney would have brought.

Fast forward to 2009. Disney announced plans to build a 500-room hotel at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Md. on 11 acres of land that it purchased - one of only five such Disney resorts in the world. This time, Disney made it clear that they had no intention of building a large-scale theme park, but “a project of significant scale and put a recognizable Disney footprint in the Washington area.”

In late 2011, with little fanfare or publicity, Disney abandoned its plans for National Harbor and sold the property. This marked the second time that Disney purchased land in the D.C. area and then pulled back.

What if, as the old saying goes, the third time is the charm? Disney obviously has a very strong and continued interest in moving into the region and Prince William County was its first choice. Why not make another play for them?

The theme park idea is out the window for a variety of reasons. The land they had initially wanted has been repurposed and developed. Plus, it sounds as if Disney’s vision for what they want in this region has changed. This opens a new door for our county, though.

On the Cherry Hill Peninsula along the Potomac River, a long-stalled development is about to finally open. First as a part of Southbridge and later split off into what was then called Harbor Station, Potomac Shores is set to open its model homes in June and its Jack Nicklaus golf course later this year with a town center and marina down the line.

Just outside the town center will be a five-star resort, spa and conference center that is being developed by the company behind a Four Seasons in Hawaii, Ritz-Carlton in California and Colorado, and a Montage in Beverly Hills. While this company builds hotels, they do not operate them. As of right now, the hotel has yet to land its marquis company.

Imagine a Disney hotel anchoring Potomac Shores. Not only could visitors take the VRE downtown to explore D.C., but a high-speed ferry could bring them up the Potomac right past Mount Vernon to Alexandria, National Harbor, and the city. The Nicklaus golf course would be an attractive aspect for them as well. Furthermore, the plans for Potomac Shores are reminiscent of the town of Celebration, Fla., which Disney originally built.

They already have Disney's Grand Floridian and Disney's Grand Californian resort hotels. Why not a Disney's Grand Virginian or Disney's Grand American resort hotel? It is time that we correct a 20-year-old mistake and bring Disney back to Prince William County?

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  • HR1487 posted at 8:56 pm on Wed, May 22, 2013.

    HR1487 Posts: 19

    Let Disney come! But tell them that BEFORE they put one shovel into the ground at Harbor Station (or whatever its called now) they need to expand the RT 1 corridor from the Occoquan through Triangle and fix the 234 interchange.

    Will it happen? Never. The BoCS sees only dollar signs. Corey Steward lives right around the corner from the Government center and when he goes home he's going AGAINST traffic. Approval of the continual building NEVER stops despite the infrastructure not being built to support it.

    Ray, I usually agree with most of what you're saying. I think you're missing a key element though from your post below. We're talking about DISNEY. If you don't think they would have built the roads to handle capacity crowds I think you're mistaken.

    Well....then again I'm not sure what NISSAN ever did to expand Wellington RD despite the nightmare THAT was.....

    This place is pathetic.

  • Ken Reynolds posted at 2:44 pm on Thu, May 9, 2013.

    Ken Reynolds Posts: 35

    Jim - you say the hotel and town center ARE being that like right now? I understand that 6 model homes will be on display in June ranging in price from $200,000 - $1.0 million!! (i kind of doubt that range, but that is what i have been told by a reliable source). But what i find so hard to believe is why Sun Cal wont build or prevail to have the state build, a temporary train stop to help alleviate the awful traffic problem........???

  • Michael posted at 6:04 pm on Tue, May 7, 2013.

    Michael Posts: 16

    Lego Land? New FBI Headquarters? New "Disney America" resort hotel? A lot of ideas have been swirling since Aker RGI (Legend Properties) reneged on its proffers and sold the rezoned Cherry Hill peninsula. Here is some background on the development

  • Ken Reynolds posted at 12:01 pm on Tue, Apr 30, 2013.

    Ken Reynolds Posts: 35

    I know what an option is Ray...........My point is...why would Disney scurry around buying all the options...i stood in line with hundreds of others to sppeak out against the proposal................and believe that contributed to their demise in PWC. The issue today is how to welcome Sun Cal with solutions to traffic on route addition to commuters, we are also allowing another national security problem..............Quantico will become even more gridlocked unless something is done asap.........and how long will FBI consider the site when they cant even drive there today???

  • raywilliams posted at 10:14 pm on Mon, Apr 29, 2013.

    raywilliams Posts: 50

    An option means they had the right to purchase the property, but could also back out of the deal. An insider in Orlando provide much information of the thought process of Disney's America - with the goal being to entice an investor in EuroDisney. Once that was achieved, Disney backed off the DA project and skipped town 1 day before they would be required by contract to purchase the land they had options on. There is a great headline from the old Journal Messenger that simply says DUMPED. The local Disney guy - Mark Pacala as I recall - flew to Richmond Wednesday night to inform then Governor Allen that Disney was pulling out.

  • Ken Reynolds posted at 4:59 pm on Mon, Apr 29, 2013.

    Ken Reynolds Posts: 35

    Thanks raywilliams et al......Disney left solely because profits would not be there???BUT why then did they bother to pick up all the options in the first pllace???? AND today, how can we get a temtorary train stop at Harbor Station.(til the permanent stop comes in 2017). The stop would enhance home dale opptys for Sun Cal and relieve some of the existing traffic on route 1????

  • bugmenot posted at 4:42 pm on Mon, Apr 29, 2013.

    bugmenot Posts: 448

    Disney would be great for the Eastern End of the County! Let the people in the Western side of county sit in traffic all day and night.

  • raywilliams posted at 1:34 pm on Mon, Apr 29, 2013.

    raywilliams Posts: 50

    And ... if the Disney project was so wonderful, why was there no bidding war from other Virginia communities?

    In Orlando, the Disney's America project ended around early July. Yet Disney continued to play with local officials right up until September .... when their land options came due and they had to purchase or leave. They left.

  • raywilliams posted at 1:29 pm on Mon, Apr 29, 2013.

    raywilliams Posts: 50

    see my above comments for the facts Jim. The new housing was part of the Friendswood project by Exxon that had already been approved - now known as Dominion Valley. Disney planed to keep those housing unit in place - 2,800 home on 2,000 of the 3 thousand acres they had options on.

  • raywilliams posted at 1:26 pm on Mon, Apr 29, 2013.

    raywilliams Posts: 50

    Some actual facts may actually be of a benefit to this story: First, regarding Disney's America (our America actually but I digress) Disney never purchased 3,000 - they took an OPTION on a number of properties and only purchased outright one 200 acre piece. Second, the Disney plan INCLUDED 2,800 homes where what is now Dominion Valley. Add to that the hotels and shopping that was planned and you have the current look AND a theme park. Third: The tax revenues never worked out. In our climate, the theme park was only to be open about 7 months per year - much like King's Dominion is now and would not, could not repay the county nor state for the road investment required.

    Finally - Disney NEVER had any intention of building a theme park here. If minds can recall, they were losing millions per day at EuroDisney, and were in negotiations to sell a large interest in that venture. One stumbling block was no one though the concept of EuroDisney would ever make money - and to temper that fear, Disney went through the whole Disney's America dog & pony show to "reconfirm" their belief in theme parks. Once the deal was made with Saudi investors, Disney's America was dead in the water.

    Disney didn't quit because of the outcry of local residents, they quit because there was no way such an operation would make money. Note that all but one BOCS was on-board with Disney so approval was a done deal.

  • Ken Reynolds posted at 11:20 am on Mon, Apr 29, 2013.

    Ken Reynolds Posts: 35

    Apart from Disney (you guys with pervs on your mind.......pleaseeeeeeeeeee scour your little minds before you leave your caves next time!!!!!), we also ran LEGO out of town when they tried to develop Cherry Hill. And NOW, I want to move there, but no one seems to know how traffic will be handled. All they need is a simple train stop pending opening of the formal stop in 2017. BUT, how inn the hell are people going to buy homes in the Sun Cal development (3800 homes planned).....i now live near chinnn and it is longer ride from horner to chinnn than from pentagon to horner.......i hesitate to buy in Sun Cal's Cherry Hill with the existing traffic mess.......and NO ONE seems to care!!! HELP ANYONE????????

  • Jim Riley posted at 9:27 am on Mon, Apr 29, 2013.

    Jim Riley Posts: 25

    The hotel and town center are being built. It is just a matter of who operates the hotel.

  • TuefelHunden posted at 9:12 am on Mon, Apr 29, 2013.

    TuefelHunden Posts: 281

    Traffic is a mess here to begin with. We don't need Disney to go and further muck things up. Besides, Walt Disney himself was a pervert and an anti-semite. With the diverse environment in PWC let alone NoVA, we shouldn't be promoting a theme park after such a vile man.

  • TuefelHunden posted at 9:10 am on Mon, Apr 29, 2013.

    TuefelHunden Posts: 281

    Very true, he was also an anti-semite to boot...

  • Jim posted at 10:09 pm on Sun, Apr 28, 2013.

    Jim Posts: 1

    I generally agree with this. The NIMBYs got Disney to leave and in its place is thousands of new citizens requiring dozens of schools. C'est la vie.

    By the way, I think you mean "marquee" rather than "marquis."

  • topdawg posted at 5:34 pm on Sun, Apr 28, 2013.

    topdawg Posts: 5

    Walt Disney was pervert.[thumbdown] Don't believe me? See for yourself:

  • freezemom posted at 2:46 pm on Sun, Apr 28, 2013.

    freezemom Posts: 4

    This is the last thing we need along the overcrowded, backed up Rte 1 corridor! It takes my husband longer to get home the mere 3 miles from Potomac Mills than the commute by bus from the Pentagon to Potomac Mills due to the traffic! We need another North South corridor to handle the traffic we have before we can even begin to think about something that would bring more!