The residents of Capitol Heights are generally in favor of the proposed changes and economic development plan for the Metro Station that bears its name. However, they want to make sure that parking and public safety concerns are addressed.

On Oct. 17, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) staff members and Prince George’s County Metro board Malcolm Augustine convened a public hearing on changing the complexion of the Capitol Heights Metro Station and the parking landscape of the Morgan Boulevard Station. The meeting was held at the Capitol Heights Elementary School in Capitol Heights, Md. The main thrust of the hearing dealt with the prospective construction of a multi-residential and retail building on the Capitol Heights Station’s property.

The Capitol Heights Station project will consists of a multi-residential and retail building. (Courtesy Photo-WMATA)

The Capitol Heights Station project will consists of a multi-residential and retail building. (Courtesy Photo-WMATA)

Capitol Heights Town Council member Darrell A. Miller said he is optimistic about the project. “We want to change the image of Capitol Heights,” Miller said. “We want economic development in this area and we have enough commercial space in the community for that.”

Steven A. Teitelbaum, the director of the real estate development division of WMATA, made the presentation to about 50 people. “We are proposing the removal of the surface lot near the Capitol Heights Station and that will involve eliminating 372 parking spaces and we are planning to paid parking on Davey Street that will constitute 43 spaces,” Teitelbaum said. “We are planning the reconfiguration of the Morgan Boulevard Station that will create an additional 150 parking spaces.”

The Capitol Heights Station opened on Nov. 22, 1980, and runs on WMATA’s Blue and Silver Lines. The Capitol Heights Station is located on 133 Central Avenue and is south of the intersection of East Capitol Street, S.E. and Southern Avenue., S.E.

The Morgan Blvd Station is two stops east of the Capitol Heights Station on the Blue and Silver Lines and it opened on Dec. 18, 2004. It is not serviced by Metrobus but instead is utilized by Prince George’s County’s transit system called The Bus.

Teitelbaum said that the Capitol Heights’ development “will not be dissimilar” from the Red Line’s Rhode Island Metro’s Rhode Island Row that has a mixture of residential and retail steps from the station. He envisions a facility that will have 180-200 residential units and 18,000 square feet of retail facing the station. The top of the building will have a landscape facade.

Teitelbaum said the Morgan Blvd. station would be shrunk to four bus stops and its Kiss & Ride will be changed to all-day parking.

Teitelbaum said the next steps include a staff-written report submitted to the WMATA board for approval in January 2017 and if approved, construction could begin in the spring or summer of 2017.

While many attendees embraced bringing new stores and residents to the area, there were issues. Capitol Heights Mayor Marnitta L. King expressed concerns about public safety regarding parking. “We will have to increase public safety especially for parked cars,” King said, citing the possibility of an increase in vehicular crimes. “We only have a 12-member police force now.”

Delores Brown doesn’t live in Capitol Heights but on a street near the town. Brown supports the development but is suspicious of who it will benefit. “The people who will likely live in that building will be Caucasians,” she said. “This area is changing. There is a townhouse development near my street that will cost $300,000 a piece for those townhouses. Who here has the money for that?”

Juanita Harris, a 10-year resident, had other concerns. “Traffic will be a problem,” Harris said. “It is always a problem because people park in front of my house already and I have to pay for a permit to park in front of my house. I think it is a good idea to have the development but maybe a better place would be where the Safeway used to be.”

In July, Safeway shuttered its only location in the Capitol Heights-Seat Pleasant-Fairmount Heights area and there have been many complaints from residents about that. King told the AFRO that a grocery store is needed in the area but it wouldn’t be in the Capitol Heights development.

“The Capitol Heights project has space for 18,000 square feet and major grocery stores ask for 30,000 square feet,” the mayor said. “We have other areas here that could fit that requirement, though.”

Despite the concerns, Capitol Heights’ resident William Drew supports what WMATA is proposing. “I have been here since 1968,” Drew said. “This is a dynamic idea and I can see a brand new Capitol Heights rising at the Metro Station.”