“Lake Arbor was one of the first enclaves for Black professionals to move to in Prince George’s County that had nice housing,” said Mark Ellington, a Mitchellville resident and real estate agent with Keller Williams.
Ellington said that Lake Arbor, which also includes townhouses and condo buildings, set the tone for later developments in the surrounding area, including wealthy subdivisions such as Woodmore.
“Lake Arbor was really one of the flagship communities,” said Samuel H. Dean, a longtime resident and former Prince George’s County Council member, “we were really considered one of the first golf course communities in these areas.”
Kevin Alexander was just 25 when he purchased a home in Lake Arbor in the late 1980s. He recalled buying his house, which had not yet been built, from a sales trailer on-site. “It was a brand-new community,” he said, “I mean, like, really brand-new.”
Despite its novelty, Alexander said he immediately felt at home. “It was a young community, but it was a lot of thriving, upwardly mobile folks who were just starting out their families,” he said.
Sharrarne Morton spent some of her childhood in nearby Largo and moved to Lake Arbor in the early 1990s, attracted to its tightknit community. Morton found her forever home in a five-bedroom brick Colonial in Lake Arbor’s oldest section, called Newbridge, an ode to the development’s previous name.
“I knew I wanted to be in a home where I could raise my children, and we would feel comfortable and safe, and they’d be happy,” she said. “It’s been that.”
Morton is a past president of the Lake Arbor Civic Association, which encompasses all of Lake Arbor’s 13 homeowners’ associations, and is a past president of the Lake Arbor Elementary School PTA. She said her service to the community is emblematic of the active civic and political engagement there.
“It’s very rare in this country to have a community like this where the majority of the community is African American, educated and politically astute,” she said. “Our civic association has always been very active, very politically connected, and always advocating on behalf of the residents.”
More recently, Lake Arbor has also become a hub for music. The Lake Arbor Jazz Festival, founded over a decade ago by Alexander, now draws jazz fans and musicians from near and far.
“Lake Arbor really was, or still is, the community that birthed me,” said Alexander, who now lives in Upper Marlboro, “so we wanted to keep it as a community festival in Lake Arbor.”
Although the increasing popularity of the festival has led Alexander to reconsider its location and the pandemic forced this year’s event to move elsewhere, Alexander said the Lake Arbor Jazz Festival will always keep its name, a nod to the community that made it possible.
But a mile away from the community center where the festival has traditionally been held is a reminder of the county’s painful past. The Northampton Slave Quarters and Archaeological Park, a vestige of the Northampton plantation, exists quietly against the backdrop of Lake Arbor’s suburban life.
Established by Thomas Sprigg in 1673, Northampton, like much of this part of the county, was devoted to tobacco, a land- and labor-intensive crop. “Tobacco was king,” said John Peter Thompson of the Prince George’s County Historical Society. “This was what Prince George’s was until the coming of development . . . tobacco, tobacco, tobacco.”
The site, which includes the foundations of two former dwellings for enslaved people, is now open to the public.
Contrary to the county’s motto, “Semper Eadem,” which means “Ever the Same,” change is coming to the Mitchellville area. The University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center, slated to open in the nearby Largo Town Center in June, will bring increased access to health care and a new kind of economic hub to the county.
“One of the things that Prince George’s County as a whole has lacked is an employment base,” said Ellington. But now, he said, “the influx of jobs — especially high-end professional medical jobs — are going to be huge.”
Many residents welcome the development, seeing it as a boon for property values. “I’m excited about it,” said Morton. “I don’t know if I’m going to like any of the traffic that it will bring . . . but I’m really excited about having the University of Maryland hospital system there and all that’s coming with it.”
Housing prices have steadily increased here, but Ellington said there’s been a dramatic jump in recent months. “Just over the last 90 days, house prices have gone up probably another 15 percent,” he said. “There’s a lack of inventory, so the house values have just dramatically increased.”
With the increased development, Ellington expects the demographics here to shift. But residents such as Morton think that this tightly knit community of homeowners is here to stay. “We have deep roots and deep connections,” said Morton. “We have a community that we love.”
Living there: Lake Arbor is bounded by Lottsford Road to the north, Route 214 on the south, the Patuxent River’s Western Branch to the east and Maryland Route 202 to the west.
According to Keller Williams, three homes are for sale in the Lake Arbor area, ranging from a three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse listed at $334,900 to a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo for $186,000. Last year the highest-priced home sold was a four-bedroom, four-bathroom single-family house for $530,000. The lowest-priced was a four-bedroom, three-bathroom split level for $290,000. The average sales price in 2020 was $356,897.
Schools: Lake Arbor Elementary, Ernest Everett Just Middle School and Charles Herbert Flowers High.
Transit: Lake Arbor is between Route 202 and Central Avenue, with easy access to the Beltway. The neighborhood is about two miles from Largo Town Center Metro Station and is served by multiple bus lines.
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