Prince George's County neighborhoods inside the Capital Beltway got a boost yesterday when officials announced an $11 million federal loan and grant package to renovate three shopping centers and a grocery warehouse.
Prince George's is one of 28 jurisdictions across the county awarded the Economic Development Initiative grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The county is expected to use a $1 million grant and $10 million in loan guarantees to stimulate $43 million in private investment in renovations at the Eastover Shopping Center in Glassmanor, the Shoppers Food Warehouse in Oxon Hill Plaza and Prince George's Plaza in Hyattsville, where a new Sears store is planned. The aid also will help fund renovations at the Safeway Warehouse and Distribution Center in Landover.
HUD officials estimated that as many as 740 jobs will be created or retained as a result.
"For the first time we have substantial resources to improve the viability of neighborhoods in Prince George's County," said Joseph J. James, president of the Prince George's County Economic Development Corporation.
HUD Assistant Secretary Cardell Cooper announced the federal aid package on the steps of the Mount Rainier City Hall. Cooper, the former mayor of East Orange, N.J., said Prince George's has "a vision of what it wants to do to revitalize distressed communities."
County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) said he was grateful for the help.
"These are marvelous communities here in Prince George's County. . . . A lot of supportive people do a lot of hard work to sustain these wonderful communities. . . . We appreciate all of the help that you all have rendered."
The aid announcement came during a previously scheduled tour of Prince George's Route 1 corridor by U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.). Sarbanes walked and rode in a trolley to see the sights with elected officials from 13 Prince George's municipalities. In some cases, the neighborhoods are pocked with boarded-up storefronts; in others, there are new businesses and other hints of economic rebirth.
Sarbanes said he is seeking $1.5 million to pay for improvements along main arteries such as Route 1.
But community leaders are eager for more. Mount Rainier Mayor Fred Sissine said he needs more help as he tries to "eliminate blight and crime on Route 1, reestablish the long-term health of the business corridor and increase homeownership."
Sarbanes was sympathetic. "Bit by bit, we are going to lift the area back up again," he said while touring downtown Mount Rainier, a remnant of a once-proud business corridor. "Look at this. This is really a nice boulevard. We need to uplift the whole area, and we need to do it on a coordinated basis."
CAPTION: Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes and Mount Rainier Mayor Fred Sissine, with backpack.