Housing offices will move to Pr. George's

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 19, 2010; B03

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) announced Friday that the state Department of Housing and Community Development will move its headquarters from Anne Arundel County to Prince George's, the first state agency to relocate to the county.

The department, which works on rental housing, neighborhood revitalization and foreclosure- prevention programs, will move more than 330 employees from its Crownsville site to a location that has yet to be determined.

"Prince George's County is the second-biggest county in our state; yet in the 375-year history of our state, it has not been home to the headquarters of a state agency, until now," O'Malley said.

O'Malley, who made the announcement outside the Naylor Road Metro station in Temple Hills, said moving the agency from "a wooded area" in Anne Arundel, to a location near a Metro station in Prince George's "is an excellent opportunity for smarter, cleaner growth."

The decision fulfills a commitment O'Malley made to Prince George's residents four years ago and comes as he campaigns for reelection against former governor Robert L. Erhlich Jr. (R). Prince George's, a heavily Democratic county, is considered a key battleground in the contest.

Officials said the process of moving the agency will begin next month with a request for expressions of interest, which will allow developers and commercial landowners to participate. That will be followed by request for proposals. The state expects to finish the bidding process by the end of the year.

Raymond A. Skinner, Maryland's secretary of Housing and Community Development, said the relocation will be an adjustment for many of his employees because one-third live in Crownsville or Annapolis, 10 percent live in the District or Prince George's or Montgomery counties, and the rest live in Baltimore or on the Eastern Shore.

Some county officials said they hope employees will not only work in the county but choose to live in Prince George's as well.

"This a banner day for the county because the governor's initiative will bring jobs to a Metro station, and that will spur retail and residential development," said Kwasi Holman, president of the Prince George's County Economic Development Corp.

Holman predicted that given the lack of land and development in other areas, "the future of the region depends on the success" of building mixed-used projects that include retail, housing and government hubs around Metro stations in Prince George's, which have been underdeveloped.

For years, Prince George's officials have been trying to attract development around its 15 stations, but a number of hurdles have impeded those efforts. County officials say there has been a lack of coordination among Metro, the state and the county. Some County Council members have said Metro has costly requirements for parking that have left developers unwilling to build near the stations.

"We think building a state or federal agency near a Metro station would be a major catalyst," County Council Chairman Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Laurel) said.

David Byrd, the county's deputy chief administrative officer for economic development, said Prince George's, which has the highest number of foreclosures in the state, will make a perfect home for the agency.

Byrd said the county will be pushing for the Naylor Road Metro station to become the headquarters' location. The county is also lobbying the U.S. General Services Administration to use that site for overflow offices for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, he said.

"It would transform this area to have state and federal agencies here," said Byrd, who represented County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) at the news conference.

The governor also identified 14 transit stations throughout the state, including the Naylor Road and New Carrollton Metro stations and the Laurel MARC in Prince George's, and the Twinbrook, Wheaton and Shady Grove Metro stations in Montgomery, as designated sites for transit-oriented development.

The benefits of the designation include priority consideration for state offices, financing opportunities through the state Economic Development Corp. and feasibility analyses funded by the Maryland Department of Transportation.

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