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Online info is used to try to entice developers to Pr. George's Metro stations

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 28, 2010; 10:54 PM

An advocacy group for walkable communities and urban revitalization has compiled a free online resource for developers who might be interested in building around Metro stations in Prince George's County.

Hoping to highlight the untapped opportunities in the county, the Coalition for Smarter Growth on Tuesday released "Invest Prince George's," a 58-page document that provides a detailed description of each of the county's 15 stations, including information about parking spaces, train use and zoning plans for the area. The document, which is available at www.smartergrowth.net, also provides demographic data.

"Prince George's has a lot of overlooked opportunities," said Cheryl Cort, the policy director for the coalition. "We want to make sure that businesses are recognizing the opportunities."

County officials and developers have accused Metro of creating obstacles and being lax in attracting developers to Prince George's rail stations. The county has 2,200 acres of undeveloped land around its stations, the most of any jurisdiction in the region.

Cort said that her group promotes well-designed transit-oriented development throughout the region but that this is the first time it has exclusively marketed a jurisdiction to investors.

"Invest Prince George's" will be sent to a "long list of developers that are active in the region and that we'd like to see active in the region," Cort said. The group is also reaching out to the national trade press, hoping to attract regional and national builders.

Jim Keary, a spokesman for County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), said transit-oriented development has been a key component of Johnson's administration. He expects the new tool will help to attract developers.

"It will help . . . [the] Economic Development Corporation and Park and Planning have information, but it's always good for a partner to come in and provide a resource like that," Keary said. "It shows Prince George's is a player in the region."

Anika Jackson, a spokeswoman for the planning department, said the county executive's office released a similar report, "Creating Quality Livable Communities Today and Tomorrow," in 2004. The study, which was not available online, also offered information about the advantages of building around Metro stations.

Last week, Metro and Maryland announced that they were looking for a private partner to develop 39 acres at the New Carrollton Station, a transportation hub for Metro, Amtrak and bus lines. The mixed-use community will have more than 5 million square feet of offices, stores, hotels and entertainment space and up to 5,500 residential units.

In June, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) announced that the state Department of Housing and Community Development would move its headquarters to a Metro station in the county.

"I do think we're at a very exciting juncture. . . . I think there is a lot of focus by different levels of government to move this forward," Cort said.

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