Town Center Closer to Reality For Pr. George's

Konterra Town Center East will include 4,500 residential units and 5.9 million square feet of commercial, retail and office space on nearly 500 acres.
Konterra Town Center East will include 4,500 residential units and 5.9 million square feet of commercial, retail and office space on nearly 500 acres. (Courtesy Of Chase Communications)

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By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 16, 2008

Nearly 30 years after developer Kingdon Gould Jr. purchased a sand and gravel pit with dreams of creating a mini-city in the northern tip of Prince George's County, his family is inching closer to building one of the Washington region's most ambitious projects on the property.

Think National Harbor -- minus the waterfront, but bigger, and more expensive. The Prince George's County Planning Board recently approved preliminary plans for Konterra Town Center East, a nearly 500-acre development that will consist of 4,500 residential units and 5.9 million square feet of commercial, retail and office space near the intercounty connector in Laurel. The board is expected to consider detailed site plans this fall for the project, which requires the approval of Prince George's County Council s before construction can begin.

The developers plan to break ground on the town center next year or in 2010 and expect the project to be completed in 12 to 20 years.

Similar to National Harbor, county officials said Konterra is the type of project that helps put Prince George's on the map and squash perceptions that the county is unable to attract big business, high-end retail and restaurants.

The multibillion-dollar town center, with offices, condos, upscale shops, restaurants and outdoor plazas, will be the anchor of Konterra, a 2,200-acre project that surpasses the size of Tysons Corner, which is on 1,700 acres.

Caleb Gould, Kingdon Gould Jr.'s son who is running the project, said he is glad that the first phase of development is underway.

"It's important to us," Caleb Gould said. "We've lived here for fairly a long time, and we want to embellish the community."

"This continues to take Prince George's County to another level," David Byrd, the county's deputy chief administrative officer for economic development, said of Konterra.

Planning officials said Konterra uses a new urbanism zoning concept, which retools land-use plans so that office and retail space, housing and restaurants can be grouped into single communities.

"The Konterra Town Center offers the kind of density and diversity that is critical to the future of the county," Planning Board Chairman Samuel J. Parker Jr. said.

The town center stands in stark contrast to the type of projects that have been built in the county during the last few decades. In the 1960s, a building boom resulted in clusters of garden apartments, mostly located inside the Capital Beltway. During the next 20 years, as renters began to buy their first homes, developers built low-cost houses in the county. Townhouses followed. By the 1990s, there was a push for estate housing.

"Prince George's is known as a suburban bedroom community, but we need more urban dense living," Parker said. He said he hoped that the town center model would be replicated, in smaller fashion, around some of the county's metro stations.


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