State board approves housing agency move to Prince George’s County

May 29, 2013

Prince George’s County won an important victory Wednesday when a state board approved a lease for a new headquarters of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development near the New Carrollton Metro station.

The unanimous decision by the three-member Board of Public Works to move the agency from Anne Arundel County is viewed as an important boost to Prince George’s economic development efforts.

Officials say the project will serve as a model for developers considering transit-oriented sites in Prince George’s, where development around Metro stations has lagged.

County leaders have long urged the state and federal governments to help jump-start development in Prince George’s by locating agencies around the county’s Metro stations.

The state housing agency is expected to anchor a large new development in New Carrollton, which is a major transit hub, with access to Metro, MARC, Amtrak and local and regional bus lines.

“This has been years in the making,” Del. Jolene Ivey (D- Prince George’s) said after the decision. “This is the start to bringing some fairness to Prince George’s County.”

Maryland will have a 15-year lease at the New Carrollton site, just north of the Metro station. The project’s first phase, which includes $116 million of private investment, calls for the construction of the housing department headquarters, 500 residential units and 65,000 square feet of retail space. A second phase of the project will add up to 2,400 residential units, 100,000 square feet of retail and a 300-room hotel.

The first phase will create 132 permanent jobs and 325 construction jobs and will bring new tax revenue to the county and state, according to Michael A. Gaines Sr., an assistant secretary at the state’s Department of General Services.

“This project concentrates development around our existing transportation infrastructure and will reinvigorate communities around the New Carrollton Metro station, creating new job opportunities and economic opportunity for our business community,” Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), a member of the Board of Public Works, said in a statement after the vote. The other board members are Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D) and Comptroller Peter Franchot (D).

The state owns the agency’s current building, at 100 Community Place in Crownsville. Gaines said Maryland will work with Anne Arundel to develop a master plan for the 50-acre site and the adjacent 450 acres that for decades was Crownsville State Hospital.

“This project represents a new approach to doing economic development in diverse communities,” Gaines said. “In Prince George’s County, they are looking for vibrant, smart-growth development around their transit stops, whereas in Crownsville they are looking for more serene, conservative, low-density development. We think this approach gives us an opportunity to address the needs of both communities.”

The state will pay $4.5 million a year in rent and operating expenses for the new site.

During the board meeting, Franchot questioned whether the move made sense financially and lamented that the issue put Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties at odds.

Anne Arundel County officials said the move would put the department’s 380 employees at a disadvantage. About 40 percent of the workers live in Anne Arundel, 20 percent in Baltimore and 20 percent in Baltimore County, Secretary of Housing and Community Development Raymond A. Skinner said. Ten percent live in Prince George’s, he said.

The developer, Berman Enterprises, plans a groundbreaking at the 30-acre site early next year. The housing department headquarters will be ready for occupancy in 2015, developer Brian Berman said. Commercial and housing construction will follow, he said.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) appeared before the Board of Public Works on Wednesday morning and told the members that the county has been waiting for this opportunity.

“This right here is the most attractive site in the Washington metropolitan area,” said Baker, noting the site’s access to Metro and Amtrak. The project, he said, “will help us turn this into a place where people will actually stop, stay, shop, work and spend money and bring resources to the state of Maryland.”

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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