As Prince George’s County continues its efforts to bring transit-oriented development (TOD) to the county, the Coalition for Smarter Growth – a regional nonprofit supporting both community revitalization and historic area conservation – has devised a new plan that may attract developers.

TOD refers to residential or commercial areas designed to maximize access to public transportation and ridership. These neighborhoods generally include a transit station surrounded by bustling businesses and a number of homes that decrease to lower-density development on the town’s outskirts.

To make TOD a reality in the county, The Coalition for Smarter Growth created a plan called Invest Prince George’s, which aims to keep the jurisdiction financially and developmentally up to par with its neighbors. “We observed that Prince George’s County had 15 Metro stations that are such an asset and we just didn’t think enough attention were being paid to them,” said Cheryl Cort, policy director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “We wanted to highlight all the opportunities for development and that could be accommodating new jobs, shopping and restaurants.”

The document paints a picture of the advantages TOD would bring and shows how the county’s large population, disposable income and connectivity to the rest of the Washington, D.C., metro area are huge advantages. In addition, the plan provides detailed overviews of each Metro station in the county.

The coalition is introducing the document to a number of local and national developers so they can collect a plethora of diverse ideas and suggestions.

“We are distributing this document to both local and national trade press,” Cort said.

“We think that it’s an opportunity on a national scale. We want to bring more quality developers both working in the region; locally and nationally to look at these great sites in Prince George’s County.”

In a county that desperately needs to grow its commercial tax base, the effort to move TOD forward is good news. Officials in County Executive Jack Johnson’s administration say this has been a priority for Johnson since the beginning of his tenure and they’re glad to see the initiative’s progress.

“One of the first things we did is hold public hearings about the development opportunities at the metro stations,” said James Keary, Johnson’s spokesman. “All of it is planned for mixed-use development where you have people living and working there in the same place. You’ll have a wonderful transit system within walking distance. It actually creates less of a strain on your infrastructure including roads and the like.”

This comes on the heels of an announced partnership by Metro and the Maryland Department of Transportation to develop the area around the New Carrollton Metro Station in Prince George’s County. That coupled with Gov. Martin O’Malley’s commitment to TOD in Prince George’s County has officials believing that the county’s economy may not only recover, but become stronger than ever.

“Demographics are changing and dramatically driving up demand for convenient, walkable and transit-accessible neighborhoods,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director for the coalition, in a statement. “Prince George’s is in a perfect position to ride this long-term trend and offer an outlet for the kinds of transit-oriented places sought by growing numbers of young professionals, empty nesters, and retirees.”

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO