Largo Town Center pegged for new regional hospital

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and a committee of stakeholders have recommended that a new $645 million regional hospital and medical campus be built at Largo Town Center, replacing the financially ailing Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly.

The choice requires approval by the board of Dimensions Healthcare System, which oversees county-owned medical facilities. But it could end months of jockeying between real estate developers to land the complex, with Baker’s influence weighing heavily on the decision.

The Largo site, located off of Central Avenue about a mile from the Capital Beltway, offers 70 acres of county-owned land near a Metro station and the Boulevard at Capital Centre shopping plaza. Private developers 30 acres adjacent to the county land.

The planned 259-bed hospital, along with a full-service medical complex and trauma center, offering high-end specialities and general care, would create a more central destination for health services in a county whose residents suffer disproportionately from diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

“[Largo] is the site that is being recommended to the Dimensions executive committee and the full board,” said Bradford L. Seamon, a Dimensions board member, top aide to Baker and a member of the search committee.

The committee’s members include representatives from the county, Dimensions, the University of Maryland Medical System and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Seamon said that the panel made its recommendation Monday and that Baker agreed with it.

“He was being briefed as we went along, so I think that we presented the same type of information to him that we will be presenting to the Dimensions executive committee and the full board in a few days,” Seamon said.

The executive committee of Dimensions is expected to consider the site Wednesday, and the full board would weigh in Thursday. The board’s chairman, C. Philip Nichols Jr., said Tuesday evening that he had not been informed directly of the selection. He and Seamon declined to comment on the merits of Largo for the hospital.

“There are myriad factors that have gone into this site selection and it’s a sensitive topic,” Nichols said.

The search committee seriously considered four sites for the hospital, narrowing its selection in July to Largo Town Center and the nearly vacant Landover Mall, where Sears is the only remaining store. Price, access and speed of development were among the factors considered, with an eye on opening the hospital in 2017. The project would be funded with $450 million in bond financing, including about $200 million each from the state and the county.

The Lerner family, owners of the Washington Nationals and one of the region’s largest real estate companies, pushed hard to get the hospital to the mall, hiring former Montgomery County executive Douglas M. Duncan to lobby for the project on their behalf.

Duncan said the Lerner team was informed of Baker’s decision Tuesday. He said the choice did not adequately consider the economic impact that could be had in reviving the former mall.

The Lerners offered a larger single property, at 88 acres, but public transit would not be as accessible. Advocates of transit-oriented development — a mantra for the county executive during his campaign — urged Baker not to select it. Morgan Boulevard Metro station and Woodmore Towne Center shopping center were the other final sites considered.

“The thing that we were most disappointed in was there was no economic development analysis done,” Duncan said. “That was a real disappointment. You can’t just look at the costs; you’ve got to look at the returns to the county. So I hope the Dimensions board gives it very careful consideration.”

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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