A long-range plan to redesign and rebuild the Prince George's County seat has stated to move off the drawing boards and toward reality.
The multi-million dollar plan, already approved in principle by the county council, would dramatically change the face of Upper Marlboro. A pedestrian mall, bordered by small shops, would stretch from the county courthouse to the new county administration building. A new district courthouse, a new county education building and two new parking garages would be built in a semi-circle behind the old courthouse.
The massive redesign and con struction project would be completed in the late 1980s, according to the plan.
Prince George's officials recently have taken several early steps to get the Upper Marlboro project underway. They include:
Proposed state legislation, to be submitted this week, which would permit Prince George's to sell bonds for construction of [WORD ILLEGIBLE] multi-level parking garages, [WORD ILLEGIBLE] built at an estimated cost of $5 million. The legislation to be sought in Annapolis would parallel legislation already in effect in Montgomery County, according to Councilman Parris Glendening.
Negotiations with the state planning agency concerning the building of a new centralized district courthouse in Upper Marlboro. According to W.C. (Bud) Dutton, chairman of the Upper Marlboro planning committee, discussions have been underway for several months. A spokeman for the state planning agency said the proposed district courthouse, which will cost an estimated $3 million, is now under consideration by the state. The spokesman said state legislation will be required for the necessary funding for the project.
Negotiations with the Suburban Trust Company, whose Upper Marlboro bank building is in the patht of the proposed mail between the courthouse and the county adminstartion building. According to Dutton, the bank has said it would be willing to move its office a few hundred yards to a space occupied by the former Upper Marlboro Lumber Company. Dutton said the lumber company is currently being demolished. William G. Norris, executive vice president of Suburban Trust Company, confirmed that negotiations have been taking place and said the bank had acquired a 40-year-old lease on the lumber property.
The county council is expected to review the overall plan for Upper Marlboro at a meeting Feb.6 and evaluate minor modifications that have been made in the plan. The council adopted the concept of the plan in 1976.Three alternate designs were narrowed to one last September.
Dutton said he expects the plan to be accomplished over a period of years in small stages. "We will probably go before the council with bits and pieces of the revitalization plan with such items as capital improvement amendments, land acquisition requests and progress reports."
Council Chairman Francis White said, "I am delighted with the plan and I feel we can cut at least a year or so off the first stage of its development." The first stage is scheduled for completion by 1983.
Even as county officials move to implement the redesign of Upper Marlboro, the overall plan remains controversial.
Some Upper Marlboro businessmen fear their businesses will be hampered and other local residents have complained that the plan will bring too much traffic to the town.
"The people who plan these changes are living in a dream world . . . Upper Marlboro is certainly not the most booming commercial area in the county," said attorney James Lombardi, who rents office space on Main Street and represents an Upper Marlboro building owner.
"I think it (the plan) is unrealistic for the next 10 years . . .I can't see anything to push Upper Marlboro to anything other than what it is now . . .It is just not going to materialize as they envision it," he added.
Charles Rutter, vice president of the First National Bank of Southern Maryland on Main Street in Upper Marlboro, said, "To me it is like putting the cart before the horse."
Rutter said planners first need to build the two-level parking lot before any revitalization can occur. He said businessmen would be reluctant to relocate in Upper Marlboro if there was not adequate parking for their customers.
The banker said he originally was opposed to the plan because it called for closing Main Street to traffic and making it part of the mall. He said he felt it would jeopardize his bank's drive-in window. However, he said, the plan to close Main Street has been changed to accommodate the drive-in windows of two Main Street banks. And the Main Street section of the mall will be used only for special occasions, according to planners.
"This is not a pipe dream . . . ,"said Dutton. "Nothing will ever be better unless someone dreams of it." Dutton said his committee plans to work with local businessmen and residents and admits that the plan "probably won't please everyone."
Dutton noted that there had been a long debate about the future of Upper Marlboro. But, he said, "When it was finally decided to locate the county administration building in Upper Marlboro, that was the turning point . . .Now we must plan for the town's future."
The first stage of the plan calls for acquisition of land for the Marlboro Center Mall and construction of the small mall shops. It also calls for construction of a two-level parking garage and demolition of a board of education vehicle maintenance facility.
The overall plan involves the creation of a "ring road" that will circle downtown Upper Marlboro and enable planners to limit traffic on historic Main Street.
The second stage of development, according to Dutton, will be to complete most of the Upper Marlboro Mall Center, to build the district courthouse, to eliminate heavy traffic on Main Street and to construct an underground tunnel from the jail to the courthouse buildings.
The second stage also will involve the construction of a restaurant on the east side of the county administration building near the school house pond.
The final stage will involve completion of the "ring road", construction of a new school board building and a three-level parking garage.
Dutton said the plan also calls for the restoration of Buck House, the creation of a tobacco museum and purification of a pond in front of the county administration building. The Buck House once was the home of E.G. Hall, a wealthy Upper Marlboro merchant. The building was constructed in the late 18th or early 19th century.