Officials from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) and the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) are about to give Prince George’s County the kind of transit-oriented development (TOD) it desires. The two organizations are spear-heading an effort to develop the land around the New Carrollton Metro station.

“It’s good for smart growth and it reduces pressure for sprawl when you’re concentrating jobs, housing and retail in walking distance to transit,” said Andrew Scott, special assistant for economic development for MDOT. “When you can walk to transit you’re a lot more likely to ride it.”

The New Carrollton Metro Station was chosen not only because of its metro accessibility, but because it’s also home to a MARC line, proposed Purple Line, Amtrak and Greyhound. People in charge of the project say that New Carrollton has advantages that no other place on the East Coast has.

“This is the only place in the country with this kind of rail conversion,” said Steven Goldin, Metro‘s director of real estate. “On top of that, you’ve got the IRS facility there with 1.2 million square feet and 5,000 employees, so it’s a place that already knows and likes.

“When you put all those things together, it’s a site that we think is the jewel of the crown of all of the undeveloped sites around metro stations.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley, along with Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson and the county council, has also been trying to spur transit-oriented development in Prince George’s County. His initial effort in this direction was his decision to move Maryland’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) headquarters from Anne Arundel County to an area surrounding one of Prince George’s County’s metro stations. His next move was to create the state’s TOD Designation Program, of which the New Carrollton Metro Station was made a priority. This effort will generate the kind of development he envisions with the DHCD move.

“This represents a tremendous opportunity to bring quality office, commercial and residential development within walking distance to a transit station in Prince George’s County,” O’Malley said in a statement. “Through this type of TOD, we revitalize our existing communities, increase transit ridership and channel expected growth toward areas where walkable, sustainable communities are planned.”

Meanwhile, local officials are thrilled with the project and think it may be what puts the county on par with its neighbors in Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, Fairfax County and Arlington, Va. “They’ve always known, from GSA to major corporations, that Prince George’s County is open for business,” said Kwasi Holman, president and CEO of the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation. “This is further confirmation of our ongoing efforts to attract business and mixed-use to our undeveloped or underdeveloped metro stations.”

A mandatory pre-response conference for the development, which is expected to attract federal tenants, local companies and major national organizations, is scheduled for Oct. 5, for any developers who want to build the site. Those interested must have bids submitted exactly one month later with selection of the developer scheduled for Dec. 16. Organizers say market conditions will determine when groundbreaking will take place but are hoping that construction begins in early 2013.

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO