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New hospital a prime opportunity for TOD in Prince George's

A recently announced healthcare partnership could bring a much-needed new regional medical center to central Prince George's County. However, at least one commentator is floating suggestions for a massive sprawling complex instead of a compact campus located near one of the county's many barren Metro Stations.


University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore. Photo by UMMC.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker III and other state and local officials announced the partnership agreement during a recent press event in Upper Marlboro.

It is the latest and most promising effort in what has been a multi-year attempt to stabilize the delivery of quality healthcare in Prince George's County and to improve residents' access to primary and emergency care across the region.

Currently, the financially strapped and poorly managed Prince George's Hospital Center (PGHC) in Cheverly is the only trauma center serving southern Maryland, including Prince George's, Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary's Counties.

The partnership, which involves the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) and Dimensions Healthcare, seeks to develop and implement a strategy that will bring a new state-of-the art regional medical center to central Prince George's County.

The new hospital will be supported by a comprehensive ambulatory care network, including the existing PGHC facility in Cheverly. An initial study by UMMS estimates that it will cost $600 million to implement this new strategy.

Barry Rascovar, a communications consultant and state legislative columnist, correctly notes in a recent Gazette op-ed that this partnership agreement is only a first step, albeit an important one, to realizing the goal of a new regional healthcare center. However, one assumption that he makes is rather alarming for those of us who value the ideas of TOD, environmental sustainability, urban revitalization and sprawl avoidance.

Rascovar posits that the success of the new facility "assumes 100 acres of land can be found in the central part of the county, preferably near the Capital Beltway and US Route 50." One hundred acres? Really?

It is unclear upon what authority Rascovar is basing his assumption. The 100-acre requirement does not appear in the partnership agreement, and I could not find any statement from UMMS, the state, or the county imposing such a requirement. Forcing the hospital to be located on such vast acreage would almost guarantee that it could not be placed near an existing Metro station in central Prince George's County.

Fortunately, there are countless examples of urban regional medical centers being built on substantially fewer than 100 acres, and near rapid transit stations. New York City's Columbia University Medical Center, for example, is located on 20 acres in uptown Manhattan, immediately adjacent to the 168th Street subway station. The George Washington University Hospital, located next to the Foggy Bottom Metro Station in northwest DC, is on substantially less than 20 acres. GW's entire downtown campus, including the hospital, occupies less than 45 acres.

Instead of trying to find 100 acres of nonexistent land next to the Beltway and US-50 for this new regional medical center, why not locate it at the Morgan Boulevard Metro station, on the Blue Line? Aside from Redskins games and other FedEx Field events, the station gets very little use. WMATA actually proposed closing the station on weekends in 2010 due to very low daily ridership.


Google Map image showing the undeveloped location around the Morgan Boulevard station.

As you can see from the above map, the Morgan Boulevard station sits virtually undeveloped on 56 acres, at the corner of two existing major arterial roadsCentral Avenue (MD-214) and Garrett A. Morgan Boulevard / Ritchie Road. It is also within one mile of the Capital Beltway, and within central Prince George's County. As such, it meets all the major location criteria that state and local officials have articulated for the new regional hospital facility.

The site is fully accessible to cars and would require no expensive new roadways and interchanges, thus making it a more economical option. There is space enough to build hospital facilities more than twice the size of the Columbia University Medical Center.

Moreover, the hospital would be convenient to patients, visitors, and staff who don't own and/or can't afford automobiles. This is fully consistent with the mission of the partnership agreement to provide high-quality, affordable, and accessible healthcare to the region's residents.

Over time, the influx of skilled professionals coming daily to Morgan Boulevard will create increased demand for quality housing and retail amenities throughout the Central Avenue corridor, and particularly at the nearby Addison Road and Largo Town Center stations.

In short, locating the new Prince George's regional medical center near existing rapid transit at Morgan Boulevard will prove to be both an economic boon to the county and a better service to the region's residents. Who could argue with that?

Bradley Heard is an attorney and citizen activist who resides in the Capitol Heights area of Prince George's County. A native of Virginia Beach, Virginia, Brad spent most of his adult life in Atlanta, Georgia before moving to Prince George's County in 2007. Brad hopes to encourage high-quality, walkable and bikeable development in the inner Beltway region of Prince George's County. 

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looks like a good idea but who often do state and county leaders go for the best idea

by Jerome on Aug 9, 2011 1:10 pm • linkreport

The area around Morgan Boulevard really is an embarrassment.

Does WMATA own the land, or some other party?

by Neil Flanagan on Aug 9, 2011 1:14 pm • linkreport

Indeed. Thanks for writing about this.

Hospitals tend to be motor-vehicle centric because most patients can't just hop on a bike or get around transit so easily, but they are such busy centers of economic activity. With so many staff, ambulatory outpatients, and visitors, it would be a shame not to capitalize on them as TOD opportunities.

The Morgan Boulevard Metro location could serve EOTR DC residents as well as the rest of Southern Maryland. +1.

by Ward 1 Guy on Aug 9, 2011 1:18 pm • linkreport

This is a great idea. A family member was sick earlier this summer and I took the D6 bus nearly every day for a week from Dupont. I was struck by how many patients and employees relied on that service to get to their appointments and jobs at both Sibley and Georgetown University Hospital. I am sure the same can be said for the buses that serve Washington Hospital Center, which is another major hospital that is similarly inconvenient to Metro. Luckily bus service in the city is far more frequent and direct than service provided in some of our nearby suburbs.

These hospitals employ hundreds of people, many of whom are shift workers like nurses, lab techs, janitors, and food service personnel. Besides patient accessibility, planners should remember that these people are also the most likely to need reliable transportation to and from the facility. Placing the hospital at a comparatively under-used Metro station ensures the best use of resources and ensures accessibility to those who need it most.

by Adam L on Aug 9, 2011 1:20 pm • linkreport

I think the Morgan Blvd Station is a good location but I think it should be part of a much larger scale development program county-wide. Prince George's is based almost exclusively on the automobile. It would take a vast change in perspective that the County has never really demonstrated.

by Randall M. on Aug 9, 2011 1:22 pm • linkreport

This makes sense from a crisis management standpoint as well. In the event of a major disaster, FedEx field could become a triage and emergency shelter facility.

(Assuming Dan Snyder would have it in his heart to open the doors)

by Phil Lepanto on Aug 9, 2011 1:48 pm • linkreport

? Have you looked at a hospital campus lately?

Transit connection is one thing, TOD is something else entirely. The opportunities for TOD seem pretty limited if you ask me.

Note that one of the impetuses behind the streetcar planning process back in 2003 in DC was that Washington Hospital Center is the #1 destination in the city of all locations lacking direct transit station access.

by Richard Layman on Aug 9, 2011 1:54 pm • linkreport

TOD maybe isn't the right term, so long as TOD implies market-driven development around transit stations.

This is more about ensuring that a hospital has good transit access, and is designed to facilitate walking and access accordingly.

Hospitals are tremendous assets, but they can also be large, single-use behemoths. They're extraordinary job and activity centers, however. Just because they may not attract ancillary housing development doesn't mean they're not important.

And I'd love to hear where that 100 acre number came from...

by Alex B. on Aug 9, 2011 2:02 pm • linkreport

What I should have said is there is a difference between compact development, which is what I think you are arguing for, sprawling development, and TOD.

by Richard Layman on Aug 9, 2011 2:23 pm • linkreport

Bradley,

I hope you have suggested that location next to the metro station. If you won't, I will. We can't let this good idea go to waste!

by Zac on Aug 9, 2011 2:44 pm • linkreport

@ Neil: The property is owned largely by WMATA, the County, M-NCPPC, and the Ridgley Family (a venerable African-American family with deep Prince George's roots). If I'm remembering correctly, the Ridgley Family may have owned all of that land at one point in time.

@ Richard: Although the hospital would be a single-use facility, it would--or should--still respect many of the principles of TOD (i.e., being located close to transit and accessible to pedestrians, bikers, and cars; being compact in design and meeting and defining the street; boosting transit ridership and minimizing traffic; locating quality jobs close to transit; generating revenue and economic development; providing essential services to neighborhood residents; and creating a sense of place). The Center for Transit Oriented Development describes this type of transit station development as a "Special Use/Employment District" in one of its publications.

by Bradley Heard on Aug 9, 2011 2:54 pm • linkreport

What is TOD?

by TGEOA on Aug 9, 2011 3:22 pm • linkreport

Great piece! Couldn't agree more. Look how successful GWU Hospital is and the vibrant new mixed use development next to it that's attracting phramacutical companies from the I-270 corridor. A hospital that opens to the street like GWU (unlike Washington Hospital Center) creates a catalyst for more mixed use development. Locating a new medical center at a Prince George's Metro station, and designing it right, is the kind of anchor that can spur additional mixed use development and regional access.

by Cheryl Cort on Aug 9, 2011 3:45 pm • linkreport

I was just in St. Louis last week and walked/transited through a hospital center with good urban density and new private development around the facility. The Barnes Jewish Hospital is located in the central west end of the city with a new light rail station (+/- 10 years old). Around the hospital center is new mixed use development with ground floor retail, offices and apartments (possibly condos too). There is also a new hotel. Large hospitals require many additional nearby services such as hotel rooms for patent's family members, housing for staff, restaurants and other retail outlets. Below is a Google map link to St. Louis.

http://bit.ly/roZmlR

by Greg Billing on Aug 9, 2011 3:52 pm • linkreport

Large medical districts, with their high employment density, help to anchor several new transit systems nationally. Besides St. Louis' Central West End -- one of that city's few walkable neighborhoods -- the Texas Medical Center in Houston and the Cleveland Clinic both provided the impetus for new fixed-guideway transit lines in those cities. I wouldn't be surprised if the medical districts in those cities match or exceed their respective downtowns' employment densities.

Outlying medical districts in Boston (Longwood Medical Area) and Chicago (Illinois Medical District) are supposed to anchor future circumferential transit lines in those cities.

by Payton on Aug 9, 2011 5:09 pm • linkreport

WRT Payton's point, in a postindustrial economy, health care is one of the only growing industries. Creating a medical district is different from this proposal though, at least at this stage. E.g., the difference between GWU (Cheryl Cort's example) and this idea is that GWU has a med. school and a pharmacy school _and a whole college campus in the midst of a thriving attractive residential community [west end, foggy bottom, georgetown].

OTOH, propose a bigger, multi-faceted project. Of course for UMD, their med., pharmacy, and public health programs are in Baltimore.

by Richard Layman on Aug 9, 2011 5:23 pm • linkreport

@Richard Layman,

Just to clear things up, are you primarily trying to temper expectations, or do you think that locating the new hospital there is not a good idea?

by Joey on Aug 9, 2011 7:34 pm • linkreport

TGEOFA,
TOD is tranist oriented development. Think of the development along the arlington orange line stations.

by Canaan on Aug 9, 2011 8:47 pm • linkreport

Don't have a problem with a new hospital. Not sure if a location there will adequately leverage transit access. Not sure if it would do what TOD usually does, which is leverage transit to generate a variety of types of development beyond what is normally expected.

I don't think a hospital at a Metro site would be the kind of transformative development and placemaking measure that the writer thinks it would be. It's single use. Only if there is super duper great ec. dev. related planning will other benefits be generated.

Most hospital sites, even medical campuses, are single use type places and I am not sure that they are so much better, fundamentally, if they have transit access (which of course I think they should).

However, it's not like WHC or HUH is a big generator of area-wide economic development in their respective areas. (Although I once at at the HUH cafeteria with Dennis Jaffe.)

by Richard Layman on Aug 9, 2011 11:12 pm • linkreport

@ Richard: I don't disagree that other planning and economic development efforts are necessary for Morgan Boulevard to achieve is full economic potential as a vibrant mixed-use destination. However, even standing alone, a major regional hospital located at Morgan Boulevard Metro Station would certainly generate more transit ridership and local jobs than the open field that is there now. Also, as Cheryl pointed out, it would likely catalyze a variety of other TOD.

At a minimum, it would probably beget other professional office buildings with ground-floor retail (doctor's offices, labs, pharmacies, etc.). And if you have thousands of workers, patients, and staff funneling into the hospital and those office buildings day in and day out, it's reasonable to assume that restaurants and other retail amenities will pop up to service that customer base. And let's not forget that a major sports venue (FedEx Field) is a 20-minute walk from the Metro station in the other direction. That would provide even more incentive for restaurants, bars, and other leisure activities to locate near the Metro.

Given that there's 56 acres of land there, there's more than enough room to build a variety of housing for the physicians, residents, accountants, orderlies, custodians, human resources professionals, and other personnel who are necessary to run the hospital. Before you know it, you could have a true mixed-use, transit-oriented destination.

by Bradley Heard on Aug 10, 2011 12:14 am • linkreport

I really cannot understand why Prince George's continues to consider developments that are car driven while most of the metro station land sits around empty with people having to walk great distances to get there AND at the same time avoid crazy traffic.

Whoever is managing Planning in Prince George's needs to be barred from any decision making - is it so hard to see the other jurisdictions around Prince George's and how success has come to development surrounding metro stations?

Please continue to keep us informed about this!

by Gabriela on Aug 10, 2011 8:20 am • linkreport

Basically, I don't think Cheryl's right about the ability of a hospital per se to catalyze development. This is something I've considered quite a bit in the past as a Main Street program manager and being involved in commercial district revitalization planning efforts in various places.

A medical school related hospital, a pharmacological related hospital, maybe.

But most hospitals don't, on their own, do so. I was doing a study in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Lawrenceville, in advance of the Children's Hospital moving there. So I analyzed the impact of the Allegheny General Hospital on the E. Ohio business district in Northside, and the hospital that is on the Main Street in the Bloomfield commercial district. There was no substantive discernible impact--at the neighborhood/commercial district level.

While AGH did support neighborhood community development organizations financially in substantive ways (which frankly is pathbreaking--they paid for one or two staff people at the Northside General Conference, and might have invested money in the local community development financial institution which made loans for business development), and they did (I think) have an initiative supporting hospital personnel buying houses in the area, you couldn't really claim that the hospital was a key community and ec. dev. anchor.

The issue these days is that people don't go off campus to eat, shop, etc., because they only have 30 minutes for lunch. They end up being enclaves.

Anyway, then I was the program manager for the Brookland Main Street program in DC. I tried like hell to figure out how the economic energy of the adjacent Washington Hospital Center campus could be captured to generate economic benefit within the Brookland commercial district. Never could, although it might have been possible to get them financially committed to supporting the Main Street program, board leadership problems prevented that from occuring.

In Philly, the Penn Hospitals are one of the financial supporters of the University City BID. And also in Philly, at least 10 years ago, the Frankford General Hospital supported clean and safe initiatives by the local Main Street program there.

For an example of what you think you are suggesting, but aren't, look at the East Baltimore Development Initiative of the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

For a different example (more of an area being taken over, or "reproduced" as a medical district) one could look at the impact of the creation of the medical campus for the University of Maryland in Baltimore.

Still, an objective evaluation of hospitals and related neighborhood and commercial district spillover benefits in say 10 different communities would support my point.

by Richard Layman on Aug 10, 2011 8:47 am • linkreport

I admittedly know very little about PG county - but wouldn't a site that's accessible to both Metro and the Purple Line be best? The purple line hasn't been mentioned once in the entire article or the comments before mine. The blue line doesn't serve much of PG County.

by Paul S on Aug 10, 2011 8:50 am • linkreport

Gabriela, in my blog and elsewhere I've argued that unlike Arlington and Montgomery Counties, for the most part Prince George's County hasn't seized on their transit infrastructure as a way to reposition the development paradigm for the county for the 21st century.

They still have the opportunity but for the most part, the talk seems more rhetorical than based on an understanding of what needs to be done. (E.g., in GGW Matt Johnson wrote a piece about this explaining that a key difference between PG and MC in being able to leverage transit is the fact that MC has places/communities where the transit stations are located, and for the most part PG does not.)

However, I argue that with the coming of the Purple Line, PG has a second chance, another opportunity to seize the ability of transit to allow them to reshape their development paradigm.

Thus far, they have not done so, and the car oriented developments at National Harbor and Konterra demonstrate this profusely.

I'd argue that PG still has a few years to get it right, to reset their course.

While I think the idea of this post moves people toward that position, I'd rather see PG County Government move from Upper Marlboro to a newly created government center at one of the Metro stations, etc.

by Richard Layman on Aug 10, 2011 8:53 am • linkreport

Bradley, you mentioned a particular publication about TOD, I heartily recommend this one:

Trans-Formation: Recreating Transit-Oriented Neighborhood Centers in DC: Design Handbook -- this DC Office of Planning publication is out of print but is still an excellent overview of the principles of how historically, transit was leveraged to create neighborhoods and commercial districts. The principles are universal, and the handbook explains why development followed particularly patterns and defines and explains the principles. It's an excellent primer for understanding how TOD should work.

by Richard Layman on Aug 10, 2011 9:25 am • linkreport

In fairness to PG, wrt to National Harbor - NH was an attempt to leverage a large chunk of vacant land, relatively close in, fronting the Potomac river. The river is key. Transportation investment decisions made decades ago did not place rail transit by the river on the PG side. Would it have been better for PG to forego high density development there, and the revenues and new retail they have gotten?

Within the constraints of where the metrorail is located, NH seems designed to be as multimodal as possible. Good internal pedestrian circ, ped/bike access to Old Town, and I guess frequent bus service. Oh, and water taxi service. If and when LRT or other rail transit makes the loop around the beltway and onto the Wilson Bridge, NH will have rail transit.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 10, 2011 10:10 am • linkreport

It certainly makes sense to locate the new hospital near both transit and roads.

The most sensible location would be at New Carrollton, which is arguably the best "sleeper" location in the entire region. New Carrollton has Metro, commuter rail (MARC), and Amtrack in addition to vehicular access via Route 50 and the Beltway. Considering the recently-announced commercial/residential development plans for New Carrollton, putting the hospital in the mix could create a fantastic urban center in Prince Georges.

by ceefer66 on Aug 10, 2011 10:42 am • linkreport

Richard,

I don’t think you’re arguing that the hospital shouldn’t go next to a Metro station instead of in a sprawling automobile-oriented location. Rather, you appear to be skeptical about how much of a catalytic effect that would have. Fair enough. There’s probably research and live examples to support both the optimistic and the pessimistic views on that issue. You also don’t appear to quarrel with the notion that bringing jobs and transit-oriented development to an empty Metro station is a good thing, although you seem to doubt whether a large single-use facility is properly called TOD. Again, fine.

To the extent you’re suggesting that Prince George’s County should ignore its 15 existing Metrorail stations and, instead, focus the bulk of its TOD efforts on the forthcoming Purple Line, I would reject that idea. That would be a foolish course for the county to take, in my opinion. The county desperately needs to “get it right” at its existing Metro stations first, while also planning responsibly for the Purple Line station areas. Metro is and will remain the region’s primary rapid rail system. The Purple Line light rail network is designed to connect to and augment—not replace—the Metro network. While I agree with Matt Johnson that many of the county’s Metro stations (particularly those along the Orange Line) are not optimally placed, many others—particularly those along the Blue Line—provide ready opportunities for neighborhood place-making. There is no reason why the Blue Line corridor could not be as vibrant as the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor with the appropriate care, planning, and economic development efforts by the county.

BTW, I wholeheartedly agree with your suggestion that it makes sense for the county to move many of its governmental offices (if not the county seat itself) from Upper Marlboro a more central location adjacent to Metro. Largo Town Center would be my vote for that.

by Bradley Heard on Aug 10, 2011 10:43 am • linkreport

@ Paul S. - I wouldn't have a problem with locating the hospital at New Carrollton either, at the currently proposed terminus of the Purple Line. However, I don't know if that station has the available acreage for a major regional hospital complex anywhere near the Metro station. Eventually, I hope the Purple Line will continue around the Beltway and connect to the Blue Line at Largo. That would facilitate a better connection between the Purple Line and the Morgan Boulevard station.

by Bradley Heard on Aug 10, 2011 10:46 am • linkreport

Bradley,

I don't want to speak for Richard, but I'm pretty sure your first paragraph summarizes his skepticism well, while your second paragraph is not what he's saying at all.

I think Richard raises some good points. By all means, large jobs centers like a hospital of this scale should be located on Metro. As Payton notes, they can be huge employment anchors and good for transit service. That said, I'd also agree that the very nature of a hospital is to be closed-off and insular - getting the hospital to truly catalyze more organic development around it is a real challenge and certainly not a given. He's also right to point out that it takes more than just a hospital - the most successful examples are also medical schools and clinics and so on - there's a lot more medical agglomeration there than just the hospital itself.

As for the Blue Line itself, I would argue there are a couple of key shortcomings that do hold it back from becoming a mirror to R-B - they are many of the same issues that Matt identified when discussing the shortcomings of New Carrolton. That Blue Line corridor along Central Ave does not have anywhere near the connectivity that the R-B corridor has. There's no real street grid to speak of, the Metro stations are farther apart, it's essentially impossible to walk from Largo to Morgan Blvd (while I can easily walk from Ballston to Rosslyn using streets that have been there prior to Metro). That's not to say that improvements can't be made, clearly they can. As you note, the opportunities for station-area development are ripe. However, I'd say the precedent to look at the corridor as a whole is more along the lines of Tysons and their attempt to graft a streetgrid onto an pre-existing auto-oriented cul-de-sac pattern.

by Alex B. on Aug 10, 2011 11:12 am • linkreport

+100 Alex B. (and AWalkerintheCity is right in the characterization of NH)

My basic point is this.

1. When PG County got all those Metro stations, it had the opportunity to begin repatterning its land use planning vision and paradigm. (Although there were spatial issues making it really hard, as Alex B. discusses.)

2. It didn't take that opportunity.

3. Now that the Purple Line is coming, there is a second opportunity to reset the vision of the county.

4. But you are wrong to assert that I mean to focus on the new light rail at the expense of the current stations.

FWIW I have written quite a bit about this:

- http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2011/06/what-matters-isnt-transit-oriented.html

- http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2011/05/planning-for-transit-lines-trip-speed.html

- http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2009/08/with-transit-oriented-development-urban.html

Based on the experience of DC, to fully reap the benefits of transit stations and a network takes decades.

FWIW/2, I have written this about issues comparable to those facing PG, but for Baltimore City and Baltimore County, as I wrote a piece for the Baltimore County Master Plan Update process on changing the paradigm for transit planning there, although it ended up being too controversial:

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2011/04/for-tod-to-be-successful-necessary.html

by Richard Layman on Aug 10, 2011 11:32 am • linkreport

@ Richard: I'm always a little leery of the "it takes decades" retort, because, for government officials, it's usually an excuse to do nothing. Sure, full development of Prince George's 15 Metro stations into vibrant transit-oriented places will likely take decades. At the same time, we've already had many of these stations for more than three decades, so time clearly hasn't been the impediment here. And honestly, I don't even think it's lack of planning that's the issue. The planners have been encouraging mixed-use TOD, improvement of existing infrastructure, street gridding, improving bus connectivity, etc., in and around Metro stations for years. The county's General Plan, Master Plan of Transportation, and several sector plans likewise require it (although all of those comprehensive plans could be improved and the allocaton of growth among the developed, developing, and rural tiers needs to be fixed).

The major problem in Prince George's County is the lack of political will in the county to exercise the discipline necessary to execute plans and to (as Richard says) reset the vision of the county. When there is that will, the way forward will be clear. Until that political will and discipline are present, and until the county's citizens require more of their elected representatives, the county's development will continue to languish.

@ Alex: I agree the spacing of the 4 stations presents some practical difficulty in creating a R-B style corridor -- although Capitol Heights and Addison Road are actually less than 1 mile apart and could be made very walkable. Morgan Boulevard could be in easy biking distance of Addison Road, once the streets are made more bike-friendly.

by Bradley Heard on Aug 10, 2011 3:05 pm • linkreport

wtf? What it takes decades means is that you have to bust your ass for a long time, and make the right decisions throughout. DC can f*** up a lot, because we are blessed with a pretty resilient spatial plan and urban design bequeathed to us by L'Enfant. That being said, we can't f*** up as much as we do, and continue to be competitive regionally.

As an example, the H Street revitalization stuff, pretty much written about inaccurately in the press, especially about the streetscape reconstruction (different project from the streetcar, for which public planning started in 2003), has been an 12 year process (Main Street program creation, Revival land use plan, transpo & streetscape plan), excluding the development of the NY Ave. station, and that followed not quite 30 years of public investment in executing the 1970s Urban Renewal Plan, and after the building of the subway system including the red line stop at Union Station, not to mention rebuilding Union Station. IT TAKES A LONG TIME. A lot of stuff happened before the Rock and Roll Hotel, even if WAMU doesn't think so...

But you are right to make the distinction between planners and the elected officials, although I wouldn't say the planners are producing overwhelmingly scintillating documents and plans, although there are some good ones out there in PG County.

(But without doing post-process evaluation of the plans, like the one for PG Plaza, Gateway Arts, Anacostia Trails Heritage Area, even the West Hyattsville TOD plan, you can't move forward by understanding what works, what didn't, and why, and change forward activities accordingly.)

When I worked briefly for Baltimore County, and remember that my perspective is as an advocate, citizens would start lecturing me about why I should be focused on sustainable transportation. I would stop them, hopefully gently, and say I probably knew more about the subject than they do, and that the people they really need to be making those arguments to are the elected officials.

So yes, it's political will, quality of elected officials, and a somewhat weak civil society, especially on smart growth and land use issues. PG County is f***** right now for all the same reasons that DC has been over the past decades, the debate over political power, racial equity, and social justice, vs. urban design/quality of life issues, the kinds covered in Gillette's book about DC _Between Justice and Beauty_.

Many of the residents are former DC residents or either DC Government (e.g., Leslie Johnson) or federal government workers, and they moved to PG County patterned with a lot of bad ideas and beliefs about planning and land use, not to mention the government as teat.

by Richard Layman on Aug 10, 2011 3:43 pm • linkreport

UPDATE: I just had a chance to do a little more weekend web surfing about this new hospital deal, and I came across a good interview that TBD's Bruce DePuyt had with Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown. With respect to site selection, which will be the third step in the planning process of this UMMS-led partnership, the lieutenat governor stated (about 15:30 mins into the interview) that he favors a site that incorporates TOD:

I know there are a few things that the Governor and I emphasise in our state investments in infrastructure and facilities. We like transit-oriented development. We support and promote sustainable growth and priority funding areas. So those are some of the things that we certainly would hope to see in a site selection process and outcome.

Lt. Gov. Brown's comments bode well for building the facility at a Metro station site like Morgan Boulevard. I think DePuyt mentions the New Carrollton Metro station as a possibility in the interview; however, as I argue in this piece, there's really not enough existing vacant space around New Carrollton for the type of medical campus they're talking about. (They could acquire and demolish some old buildings to make way for the campus, I suppose, but why go through that trouble and expense when there is all that existing empty space at Morgan Boulevard that is in need of development and is fairly well assembled?) DePuyt also mentions the former Landover Mall site, just inside the Beltway, near the new Woodmore sprawl development. However, that site is nowhere near a transit station and, therefore, wouldn't meet the TOD test.

The more we can keep the idea of transit-oriented development at the forefront of these officials' minds, the better their site selection and planning process will become.

by Bradley Heard on Aug 13, 2011 2:52 pm • linkreport

The Morgan Boulevard Metro Station is a neighborhood transportation facility whereas the New Carrollton Metro Station is one of 5 metro area transportation hubs. It's far too early for those of you who espouse the Morgan Boulevard Metro site to write off the New Carrollton Metro location. Much smaller sites than 100 acres or even 56 acres are more appropriate for Transit Oriented Development.

by Mike Downes on Aug 17, 2011 1:53 pm • linkreport

@ Mike: Certainly, New Carrollton would also be a viable location for the regional medical center, if the facility could be placed within a five-minute walk of the station. Right now, I don't see where that available space is at New Carrollton. As I think I indicated in an earlier comment, it may be possible to acquire some additional property around that station. So I wasn't really trying to write off New Carrollton. My basic point is that the medical center should not be located anywhere that is not within a five-minute walk of an existing Metro station in central Prince George's County.

That being said, New Carrollton is not the only—or even the best—location for the new medical facility, even if it is "the" major transportation hub in the county. Again, look at Columbia U's Medical Center in NYC. It's not located in lower Manhattan, near the major transit hubs of Penn Station and Grand Central Station. Rather, it's located way uptown, almost near the Bronx, in Washington Heights—which, like Morgan Boulevard, is more of a neighborhood transportation center. Yet, because it's adjacent to the 168th Street subway station, the hospital campus still works quite well as a location—while, at the same time, stimulating economic growth and development in that comparatively lower-income uptown neighborhood.

by Bradley Heard on Aug 17, 2011 10:02 pm • linkreport

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