Neighborhood profile: Kettering, a Maryland community standing tall in tough times

January 10

Long considered one of Prince George’s County’s most stable middle-class communities, the Kettering neighborhood still felt the effects of the recent economic downturn. But even during those difficult years, when some residents lost jobs and others struggled to retain or maintain their properties, community leader Phil Lee never lost faith.

Lee, the executive director of the Kettering Civic Federation and a 24-year resident of the community, said he knew that his neighbors’ family-based values would pull them through the difficult times.

“It was the most trying time of my life . . . but that three-or-four-year period made me even more proud to live here,” he said, adding that he “spent a lot of time helping families, telling them it would end one day, that the storm would be over.”

At a time when the community’s residential vacancy rate was 1.9 percent, according to census data, Lee’s federation took a proactive approach. Members made sure lawns were mowed at vacant homes and encouraged financially strapped families to keep up their properties. “We’d say, let’s find out what we can do collectively to make it work,” Lee said. “If you can’t afford to paint the front and the back of the house, paint the front. If you can’t afford to cut the grass in the back or the front, cut the front.”

That neighborhood pride shows through to this day in the community of about 12,000. One of the first outer-Beltway suburbs in Prince George’s, Kettering is now pushing middle age, and its ramblers and split-levels are modestly sized compared with houses in newer subdivisions that share the Upper Marlboro mailing address. But the properties are generally well maintained, and the subdivision’s winding, sidewalk-lined streets feature a mix of townhouses and single-family homes that appeal to a broad market, including young families. Home buyers are attracted by neighborhood schools, recreational facilities, convenient shopping and the surrounding major highways that allow residents to get around.


(Laris Karklis/The Washington Post)

Emphasis on youth: Residents support many initiatives that benefit the neighborhood’s younger people. “I often judge a community by the children when they grow up,” said Lee, 60, who raised three children in Kettering. Lee works with the nonprofit Olde Mill Foundation, which operates C-PAC, an organization that has sponsored programs ranging from anti-truancy to conflict resolution. “Our goal is to keep youth out of trouble and learn how to live in the community,” Lee said.

The Kettering-Largo-Mitchellville Boys and Girls Club provides an outlet for children. Kettering resident Tyrone Patterson, who served as club president for more than 20 years and remains a board member, says that residents throughout the community attend the organization’s fall homecoming celebration. The sports teams offer a way for new families to meet their neighbors. “It’s a way for people to forge relationships,” he said. “A lot of times, the kids go to school together, but the parents don’t know each other.”

Club members lobbied the Maryland- National Capital Park and Planning Commission to construct the Largo/Perrywood/Kettering Community Center adjacent to Perrywood Elementary School and provided considerable input on the design, said Patterson, 62, whose grown daughter now serves as the center’s director. The efforts to lobby for the center “made a lot of parents aware of the needs of the community,” Patterson said. “It got people to band together and do it.”

The club’s latest project with the commission involves refurbishing a 200-year-old home, the Chelsea house, for use as a storage facility and future center for community outreach. Patterson says the club has raised about $450,000 for the project, which he estimated may cost $1.2 million.

Living there: Kettering is roughly bordered by Central Avenue to the north, Watkins Park Drive to the east, Largo Road to the south and Campus Way South to the west. (The neighborhood includes houses on the east side of Watkins Park Drive.)

The community was developed in the late 1960s and early ’70s by Albert Turner, whose company constructed several Prince George’s suburbs and still operates shopping centers adjacent to Kettering. Prince George’s Community College lies just across Route 202, and the sprawling, 850-acre Watkins Regional Park, which borders the east side of Kettering, includes ball fields, picnic areas and a nature center.

The community has about 5,000 homes, and about a quarter of those structures are townhouses. That varied housing stock provides options for homeowners entering the market as well as families looking for larger quarters.

A three-to-four-bedroom home with a basement could range from the $180,000s to the high $200,000s, said Alethia Head, an agent with Long & Foster. Many of the single-family homes are occupied by families with two or more children, while the townhouses attract single buyers, single parents, or couples with one child, Head said. “Renovations play a big part in prices,” she said, noting that the highest-priced home currently on the market, at $335,000, has been extensively renovated.

Sixteen homes are now for sale — eight townhomes and eight single-family homes, ranging from $172,000 to $335,000. Twelve homes were under contract, at $125,000 to $319,900. There were 43 sales in the past 12 months, with prices between $76,000 and $340,000.

Crime: Theft and burglary are the most frequent crimes reported in Kettering, according to online incident reports provided by Prince George’s County police. About 60 thefts were reported in April, May and June (the most recent statistics provided), and 22 burglaries were reported during that period, along with about a dozen auto thefts and seven assaults.

The community remains shaken, however, by the August 2012 home-invasion slaying of high school student Amber Stanley. The crime remains unsolved.

“That was the crime of the century. People still talk about it,” Lee said. “I tell people that we can’t change what happened, but we need to realize we need to be more vigilant. Tragedy can strike anywhere.”

Schools: Kettering and Perrywood elementary schools, Kettering Middle, and Largo High.

Transit: The neighborhood is served by county transit and Metrobus, and the Largo Metrorail station is minutes away, adjacent to the Beltway. A Six Flags amusement park and FedEx Field are short drives from Kettering.

Jim Brocker is a freelance writer.

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