Milt Peterson remembered far and wide for development, philanthropic work

WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL – David Iannucci still remembers looking up at Milt Peterson, standing on a strip of dirt in front of a large crowd, telling people he was crazy.

“He was so self-effacing, we saw him as a visionary and he just responded with a joke that he was crazy to be building in the recession,” Iannucci, CEO of Prince George’s County Economic Development Corp., said of the day the renowned developer promised that that stretch of dirt would rise to become the $4 billion National Harbor project.

Peterson, founder of Peterson Cos., died Wednesday at 85. Reaction poured in from business and political leaders around the nation, including from many executives Peterson had worked with in the years since he founded his company in 1965 and took on projects like Fair Lakes, Burke Centre, downtown Silver Spring and National Harbor, a 300-acre mixed-use mini-city rising where decades of other ideas had fallen short.

“An influential pioneer in the Washington, D.C. real estate market and dedicated philanthropist, Milt’s legacy will live for years to come,” Hitt Contracting tweeted.

Iannucci and others recalled Peterson as earnest with a self-deprecating sense of humor and a determination not to be “unhumble.” In interviews, which he rarely gave, especially in recent years, the developer spoke in a steady, thoughtful cadence and deflected attention away from himself.

But his influence, especially with the developments in Greater Washington, is unquestionable.

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