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  1. #1

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    May 22, 2009: Disney at National Harbor

    In a surprise announcement this week, we learned that Disney bought a hotel site at a place called National Harbor.


    Please discuss it here.
    Werner Weiss
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    Re: May 22, 2009: Disney at National Harbor

    Very nice article, thanks. Besides driving what are the other options for getting to D.C.? Can you take a boat all the way to DC from this location? Train?

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    Re: May 22, 2009: Disney at National Harbor

    Excellent article as always - forgive me for one nit-picking addendum:

    Fifteen acres isn’t nearly enough land for a theme park—so don’t expect the long-cancelled Disney’s America theme park to resurface.
    Although Disney's American Adventure (aka Disney's America) was never built, many of the attractions were repackaged as Disney's California Adventure. Although I found the Disney's American Adventure section of the "Behind the Magic: 50 years of Disneyland" touring exhibit fascinating, given the lukewarm response to DCA it's doubtful Disney would attempt to resurrect DAA even if sufficient land was available.

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    Re: May 22, 2009: Disney at National Harbor

    Quote Originally Posted by socalkdg View Post
    Besides driving what are the other options for getting to D.C.? Can you take a boat all the way to DC from this location? Train?
    It remains to be seen what transportation options will be available to Disney guests.

    Considering how close the site is to Washington Reagan National Airport, I could see that guests arriving by air would like the option of not having to rent a car.

    One definate shortcoming of National Harbor is that's it's not on Washington's Metro rail transporation system. However, there's already bus service to a Metro station.

    The problem of driving to the museums and monuments at the National Mall is the scarcity and cost of all-day parking.
    Werner Weiss
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    Re: May 22, 2009: Disney at National Harbor

    Of course there's gonna be some DVCs. Milking the DVC market is the only reason why Disney is building hotels outside of its resorts to begin with!

    This could be quite interesting actually. If they theme the resort right and focus on high luxury service...this could be a great hotel for families in D.C.

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    Re: May 22, 2009: Disney at National Harbor

    I don't know how many of you are Washingtonians but I am one and it's a heck of an ordeal to get out to National Harbor without a car. I live in Dupont Circle and it took an hour+ to get out there for a Cirque Du Soleil performance as the National Harbor bus does not run as frequently as y'all are used to with your Disney shuttles...

    I think it may be a draw people to a DVC but it certainly won't be for the convinience. National Harbor isn't the biggest tourist draw as most who come are for conferences at Gaylord and will stay around the National Harbor area. I think the average person will be one who drives in (as it's four hours from NYC, three from Philly).

    Too bad this development isn't in the District itself. It would be wonderful if Disney/NatHarbor was along the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers near Nationals Park where there's a ton of redevelopment going on... And right on the Green Line one stop from downtown DC.

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    Re: May 22, 2009: Disney at National Harbor

    Great article Werner. I'm surprised at how developed National Harbor already is; for some reason, the press release gave me the impression the entire complex was only now being developed.

    One question about the "The Awakening" sculpture...you noted that it was now at National Harbor. I saw this sculpture in the mid-80s - was it relocated to National Harbor from another site, or was the location I saw it at what has since become National Harbor?

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    Re: May 22, 2009: Disney at National Harbor

    Quote Originally Posted by surffnutt3000 View Post
    One question about the "The Awakening" sculpture...you noted that it was now at National Harbor. I saw this sculpture in the mid-80s - was it relocated to National Harbor from another site, or was the location I saw it at what has since become National Harbor?
    For 27 years, The Awakening was five miles up the Potomac River from National Harbor. The giant was at Washington D.C.'s Hains Point, across the river from Reagan Washington National Airport.

    In 2007, developer Milton Peterson in bought the sculpture from the artist for $750,000 and moved it to National Harbor.
    Last edited by Werner Weiss; 05-23-2009 at 02:43 PM.
    Werner Weiss
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    Re: May 22, 2009: Disney at National Harbor

    Quote Originally Posted by downtownBLUE View Post
    Too bad this development isn't in the District itself. It would be wonderful if Disney/NatHarbor was along the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers near Nationals Park where there's a ton of redevelopment going on... And right on the Green Line one stop from downtown DC.
    I assume Disney studied the Washington, D.C. area carefully, comparing site availability, infrastructure, land costs, surroundings, transportation, and how guests would perceive the location.

    Disney paid $11 million dollars for 15 acres. I'm certainly not a real estate expert, but its seems Disney got a good deal. At Ko Olina in Hawaii, Disney paid $144 million for 21 acres, which is almost $7 million per acre. (Of course, a prime site on the ocean in Hawaii is worth more than a site a half mile from the Potomac.) At National Harbor, Disney's guests will benefit from the boat service at the piers, the National Children's Museum, and a growing number of restaurants, shops, and entertainment options in walking distance.

    With Disney as part of the project, developer Milton Peterson should now have an easier time attracting more business to National Harbor and selling the remaining undeveloped building sites. This should make National Harbor even more of an urban resort.

    Undoubtedly, Disney will run a shuttle up and down American Way to the riverfront. But, beyond that, it's hard to predict what transportation Disney will provide to guests. It would be better if National Harbor had Metro service, but that's not the case, and it's not going to be the case in the foreseeable future.
    Last edited by Werner Weiss; 05-24-2009 at 10:52 AM.
    Werner Weiss
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    Re: May 22, 2009: Disney at National Harbor

    I really like the sound of this. I enjoy visiting the DC area, and I've enjoyed staying at DVC off-property offerings like Vero Beach.

    Now I can do both

    I'm also very pleased with the recent trend of building DVC resorts in places NOT at WDW, like on Oahu and at Disneyland. Maybe there's hope for WDW's natural land after all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Werner Weiss View Post
    Undoubtedly, Disney will run a shuttle up and down American Way to the riverfront. But, beyond that, it's hard to predict what transportation Disney will provide to guests. It would be better if National Harbor had Metro service, but that's not the case, and it's not going to be the case in the foreseeable future.
    Perhaps Disney could run a boat up the river to the part of the riverfront near the National Mall?

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    Re: May 22, 2009: Disney at National Harbor

    Not to hijack the threat... but Werner's comments about mis-steps for DVC at Hilton Head and Vero Beach. I'm not sure what that means.
    (But in the grand scheme of things, I guess it doesn't matter to me anymore since I am a Marriott owner and use Interval.)

    We did enjoy our exchange into Vero Beach a couple of years ago.

    I'm sure as the National Harbor development builds out there will be enough people to justify more frequent bus service to the metro stop.

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    Re: May 22, 2009: Disney at National Harbor

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkTwain View Post
    Perhaps Disney could run a boat up the river to the part of the riverfront near the National Mall?
    I don't expect "free" Disney boat service, as at WDW.

    My guess is that Disney will rely on other companies to operate water taxis, sightseeing boats, and dinner cruises from National Harbor's piers, with passengers who use the services paying for tickets. The Potomac Riverboat Company (Washington DC Boat Tours) currently operates seasonal water taxis. Companies already provide charters, speedboat rides, dinner cruises, and fishing tours (National Harbor Marina). Service should increase as additional hotels and timehshares open for business, bringing more potential customers to the boat companies.
    Last edited by Werner Weiss; 05-25-2009 at 12:09 PM.
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    Re: May 22, 2009: Disney at National Harbor

    Quote Originally Posted by Swice View Post
    Not to hijack the threat... but Werner's comments about mis-steps for DVC at Hilton Head and Vero Beach. I'm not sure what that means.
    Vero Beach and Hilton Head were the second and third DVC resorts. (Old Key West, which was originally just called Disney Vacation Club, was the first.) Vero Beach and Hilton Head sold slowly. Eventually, they sold out, but Disney was burdened with marketing expenses and carrying costs for many years. And while Disney could easily rent out most of the unsold inventory at DVC resorts at WDW at fairly high nightly rates, Disney had to give hefty discounts to get people to rent nightly rooms at the off-site properties.

    Originally, Vero Beach was supposed to be a larger resort than it is today; Disney never expanded beyond the first phase. Disney sold the remaining land.

    Hilton Head did a little better than Vero Beach. But the location wasn't as good as the beachfront Marriott timeshares, and the Disney brand didn't have the value that it does in Central Florida.

    This is not a criticism of Disney's Vero Beach and Hilton Head resorts, or of the people who bought DVC points for them. The resorts themselves have great reputations. That's why I was careful to write "business missteps," not just "missteps." While Disney does not provide financial details at this level, it's likely that Disney ultimately lost money on the Vero Beach and Hilton Head resorts.

    For a while, it looked as if Disney would limit future DVC resorts to WDW only. Of course, that changed with Anaheim, Ko Olina, and probably National Harbor (if we assume it will be a hotel-DVC combination). The big differences are that these three are proven family destinations; Disney now enjoys a very favorable brand reputation in the timeshare business; there's a huge base of existing DVC members who are potential launch customers; and Disney will have adjacent hotels, allowing them to market to those hotel guests.

    Quote Originally Posted by Swice View Post
    I'm sure as the National Harbor development builds out there will be enough people to justify more frequent bus service to the metro stop.
    The NH1 bus service between National Harbor and a Metro station serves an important purpose. It not only allows National Harbor guests to travel to tourist attractions without using a car, it also allows service employees to travel to their jobs at National Harbor hotels, restaurants, and shops. (The NH1 route has been criticized as "private shuttle" for National Harbor.)

    I think that many Disney guests will have either their own cars or rental cars. When we took a family vacation to Washington DC in 2001, we stayed in Bethesda, Maryland, and had a rental car. Some days we took the Metro into the city. Other days, we drove into the city or drove to suburban destinations such as Mount Vernon.
    Werner Weiss
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    Re: May 22, 2009: Disney at National Harbor

    2 things to consider...

    First, remember that Disney offers tours in non-disney owned areas. Didn't they do some in Europe and across the US? They could sell their own tours of historic DC area sites, using Disney buses and Nat'l Harbor as a base.

    Second, someone should look into the legal ramifications of offering timeshares in Maryland. I believe there are very few, if any, in the state. (Maybe in Ocean City?) My understanding is that the state rules for such developments may dissuade most developers. This is not to say it can't happen, if anyone could make it work I guess they could. They also may have the political pull to get it done as well. It seems Peterson himself got the feds to back off on environmental requirements for Nat'l Harbor, so the Mouse could wave cheese in front of state and local officials to get their way.

    Correction: With more research, it appears there are more Maryland timeshares than I thought. Also, the article said Wyndym has some at the location already. Just a few years ago I remember warnings about timeshares from state officials, but I guess they are allowed after all... "nevermind".
    Last edited by duanedude1; 05-27-2009 at 10:08 AM.

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