ON MONDAY AFTERNOON, the Prince George’s County District Council approved in a 7 to 2 vote a controversial development that’s expected to bring, among other things, a Whole Foods to the county.
Officially, the source of controversy was the site of the proposed development, a 36-acre chunk off Route 1. It belongs to the Cafritz Co., the project’s developer, but it’s zoned for residential use. Council members had to decide whether to keep the zoning requirement as is or to change it to allow a mixed-use development, which, in addition to 995 units of townhouses and apartments, would bring about 170,000 square feet of retail, including the grocery store.
For the sake of the county’s economic future, it’s a good thing the District Council — the county council’s designation when it considers land-use matters — chose the latter. As we’ve said before, Prince George’s urgently needs to build a stronger commercial and economic tax base that will relieve rising pressures on homeowners. This development is a step in that direction.
The development’s critics, such as council member Eric Olson (D-College Park), who represents the area, have called it “inappropriate,” arguing that the project will worsen traffic, that it doesn’t stick to the master plan for the area and that it would make more sense near one of the county’s Metro stations.
These objections are understandable, and in an ideal world they could be accommodated. The bottom line, however, is that Prince George’s is in dire need of a development like this, imperfect as it may be. According to developer estimates reported in The Post, the project should create more than 1,900 full-time construction jobs in the short term and more than 450 full-time retail jobs in the long term. Regardless of location, the county can only benefit from additions like these.
There has also been a considerable amount of resistance on the grounds that the project won’t work well in the area the developer has chosen, which is surrounded by quiet residential neighborhoods. This shouldn’t be a concern. The type of development Cafritz plans is exactly the sort that’s likely to do well in a suburban environment.
Furthermore, the choice of Whole Foods as flagship tenant is a nod to a future Prince George’s in which high-end brands no longer ignore the county for richer, whiter enclaves elsewhere in the area. On top of all the economic benefits this development could bring, its symbolic value shouldn’t be overlooked.
The council was right to vote in favor of this development. We suspect it will contribute to life in Prince George’s in more ways than one.