Team selected to lead redevelopment at New Carrollton Metro station, sources say

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By Jonathan O'Connell
Capital Business Writer
Monday, February 7, 2011

Metro and the state of Maryland have selected a team led by Forest City Washington to develop 39 acres in New Carrollton into what is expected to be Prince George's County's largest project since National Harbor, said sources familiar with the selection.

The site, an assortment of parking lots, access roads and vacant land at one of the Washington region's busiest transit hubs, would be transformed into more than 5 million square feet of offices, stores, hotels and entertainment space and up to 5,500 new homes.

Forest City partnered with a Bethesda-based firm, Urban Atlantic, one source said, to beat bids headed by four other development firms: Akridge, Lerner Enterprises, Comstock Partners and Peebles.

The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized by Metro or the state to discuss the selection, which was made by an eight-person team evenly divided between Maryland and Metro officials. The choice requires approval from Metro's board of directors, which is expected to consider the pick at its meeting next month, and the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Forest City Washington is the local arm of Forest City Enterprises, a publicly traded development firm based in Cleveland that has nearly $12 billion in assets nationwide. It is one of the developers behind another major Prince George's project, Konterra Town Center in Laurel, and the Yards, a mixed-use redevelopment of the Washington Navy Yard in Southeast Washington.

Urban Atlantic has done more than $1 billion in development work, much of it in Washington and Baltimore, and is building a mix of housing and retail at the Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood Metro station.

Executives from both firms declined to comment.

Prince George's has experienced far less transit-oriented development than other jurisdictions in the region, and many of its Metro stations are surrounded by parking lots rather than housing, retail space or offices. Its development prospects have been hindered in part by a reputation of corruption among government officials.

The new county executive, Rushern L. Baker III (D), has said he wants to promote transit-oriented development while minimizing developers' influence on county officials. He has called New Carrollton one of the county's best opportunities for growth.

The property, which consists of two sites owned by Metro totaling 23 acres and a 16-acre state-owned site, is considered a prime location because of its access to public transit and major roads. In addition to the New Carrollton Metrorail station, the last stop on the eastern end of the Orange Line, the area has Amtrak and MARC stations, proximity to the Capital Beltway and Route 50, intercity and commuter bus service, and a station that would serve as the eastern terminus for the planned Purple Line link with Bethesda.

Metro and MDOT announced in September that they were seeking a development partner for the property and issued a Nov. 5 deadline for bids. The deadline later was extended to Dec. 3. Metro spokeswoman Angela Gates said the agencies were still in the procurement process and would not disclose bidders. She issued a statement, however, saying that "the pool of proposers was among the strongest Metro has seen for its development opportunities in Prince George's County."

National Harbor, a still-expanding, $4 billion entertainment, retail and residential complex on the Potomac River adjacent to the Capital Beltway, is not near a Metrorail stop.

Metro's joint development unit, which manages its real estate, has been accused of being inattentive or obstructive in attracting private interests to its properties. But the unit has drawn praise from the real estate industry since Metro hired Steven Goldin, a former developer, as its head in 2009. Last week, Merrick Malone, president of the D.C. Building Industry Association, called Goldin's arrival a "breath of fresh air" for real estate firms interested in doing business with the agency.

Under Goldin, Metro has focused on selecting private real estate partners with top experience and financial resources rather than soliciting specific development proposals. Documents describing the New Carrollton redevelopment process said proposals would be judged on a combination of the respondents' development experience, vision for New Carrollton, financial capacity and prior experience in public-private transactions.

Staff writer Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.


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