In 1994, plans for “Disney’s America,” the proposed American history-based theme park in Haymarket, were withdrawn.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?