Construction to begin soon on Maryland’s new housing agency headquarters in Pr. George’s

When construction begins next month on the new headquarters for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, it will mark the beginning of a long-awaited redevelopment of Prince George’s County’s busiest transit hub.

The headquarters, scheduled to open in spring 2015, will anchor a development featuring offices, housing and shops near the New Carrollton Metro station in central Prince George’s.

State and county leaders say they hope the project, and the construction of a Purple Line light-rail station in the area, will spur the kind of growth needed to transform New Carrollton from a place mostly known as a transportation hub into a vibrant urban center.

“We have lagged behind in Metro station area development. This is a breakthrough effort in the county to turn that around,” said David S. Iannucci, a top economic development aide to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D). “This will create the energy and the momentum to make that area a true transit-oriented area.”

A New Carrollton with high-rises centered on public transportation, which is considered the area’s biggest asset, is envisioned for the future, Iannucci said.

New Carrollton is the last eastern station on Metro’s Orange Line and also has stops for MARC and Amtrak trains and local and regional bus lines. It also is where Maryland plans to build the easternmost stop for the proposed Purple Line between Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

For decades, officials have talked about development around the Metro station, but very little residential and commercial construction has occurred. County officials say they hope the housing agency project will serve as a model for developers considering transit-oriented development around the county’s 15 Metro stations.

Interest in such development has been growing, and several other major projects are underway, including the construction of a regional medical center at the Largo Town Center Metro station. The county and state also are lobbying for the FBI to relocate its headquarters to a site near the Greenbelt Metro station.

“We have on the table different stages or phases of development bringing major activity that will spur economic development, job creation and economic growth at metro centers in Prince George’s County,” Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) said. “For the county, it is long overdue.”

Groundbreaking for the housing agency project is planned for early April, county officials said. The project, developed by Rockville-based Berman Enterprises, includes construction of about 556 residential units, 113,000 square feet of office space and 87,000 square feet of retail space. Officials are looking to attract a grocer. A second phase will increase housing and retail and add a 300-room hotel, the developer has said.

The 97,000-square-foot state office building will be LEED certified and have energy efficient features and modern technology, said Maryland Secretary of Housing and Community Development Raymond A. Skinner, a Prince George’s resident. The facility will be on a 26-acre site bounded by Ellin Road, Harkins Road and West Lanham Hills Drive and across from the Internal Revenue Service building.

The project will create about 300 jobs during the construction phase and about 125 permanent jobs once it is completed, said Michael A. Gaines Sr., assistant secretary of the state Department of General Services. He said the project will bring much needed revenue to the county and the state.

The groundbreaking will take place about 10 months after a state panel voted to move the agency from Crownsville, in Anne Arundel County, to Prince George’s. Gaines said the state will work with Anne Arundel to develop a master plan for the old 50-acre site.

Skinner said the agency’s more than 300 employees will be ready to move to Prince George’s early next year. A significant number of the workers live in the Anne Arundel and Baltimore areas.

“I think the employees have come to realize that this is really in the best interest of the state,” he said. “It is not much more of a commute straight down from where we are now.”

New Carrollton Mayor Andrew C. Hanko said that the project was a long time coming and that although it is not inside the city boundaries, the city hopes it will draw businesses and development to the New Carrollton area.

“We certainly hope that this is a project that will facilitate the growth around the Metro station,” Hanko said. “This is the start of great things in the New Carrollton area.”

Luz Lazo writes about transportation and development. She has recently written about the challenges of bus commuting, Metro’s dark stations, and the impact of sequestration on air travel.
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