Group wants farmers market on Pr. George’s Metro parking lot

Nectarines at the Naylor Road Metro station?

If a group of volunteers has its way, the juicy fruit, as well as heads of lettuce, cartons of eggs and other produce, would be available near the platform.

Bringing a farmers market to the Metro station is part of a larger effort to bring vibrancy back to the struggling Capital Beltway community of Temple Hills in Prince George’s County, infuse pride in the area and attract new businesses and shoppers along the St. Barnabas Road commercial corridor. The effort is called “Branch Avenue in Bloom,” after the street that runs by the Metro station and intersects with St. Barnabas Road nearby.

“It will be a great way to revitalize the area — at least to start the revitalization process,” County Council member Karen Toles (D-Suitland) said of the proposed farmers market.

Proponents want to hold the market in the Metro station’s parking lot from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

They made the request to Metro last month but were rebuffed.

Angela Gates, a Metro spokeswoman, said it is against the transit agency’s rules to allow the sale of food and drink on its property.

Toles and others behind the effort say they don’t understand the agency’s reasoning.

“It’s a farmers market. We’re talking eggs and tomatoes. What are people going to do? Make an omelet [on the train]?” said Glenna Cush, director of training and marketing for the Maryland Small Business Development Center Network at the University of Maryland. The network is sponsoring the Branch Avenue project.

Jennifer Funn, the project coordinator, said the market would offer healthful produce to an underserved area.

Toles said there are major plans for the area around the Metro station, including landing a federal government occupant in yet-to-be-built office space. The sector plan for the area calls for high-density development made up primarily of offices and residential units around the Naylor Road Metro station.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has designated Naylor Road and 14 other stations in Prince George’s as transit-oriented development sites, allowing money from Maryland’s Department of Transportation and other agencies to help projects there.

Toles supports the area’s larger development plans, she says, but economic development can also include something as small as a farmers market, which builds on the buy-local concept of sustainability.

“We don’t have [a federal tenant] today,” she said. “This would be a start.”

Officials say the market falls in line with the transit-oriented development envisioned for the area.

Renee Sprow, director of the Maryland Small Business Development Center Network, said that the group has not given up. Informal discussions continue. A formal request for reconsideration will be submitted, Funn said.

The farmers market on a Metro parking lot is a novel idea, and the entire revitalization effort is a first for Prince George’s.

The project is being paid for by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which is spending $340,000 to revamp the area.

Funn said that volunteers and others are organizing and working on enhancing the commercial district’s appearance, marketing the area to customers and potential investors, finding ways to strengthen its economic base and promoting smart growth.

Rhonda Britton of Upper Marlboro decided to volunteer after seeing an advertisement in the newspaper. She is working on the farmers market committee. There also are committees working on bringing a community garden to the area and improving the streets and landscaping.

“I just think it would be good to have the community revamped and to bring something positive like this to the area,” said Britton, whose son lives with his family in Temple Hills. “I just can’t tell you how outstanding it will be for Prince George’s County. We should have had stuff like this before.”

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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