Greater Greater Washington

How can Prince George's grow in the right places?

At a recent town meeting, Prince George's County planners asked where the county's downtowns are. That meeting inspired me to think more broadly about where and how the county as a whole should grow in the coming years, which I look at in a new policy paper.


Photo by Ben Schumin on Wikipedia.

Titled "Plan Prince George's 2035: Thinking and Growing Smartly Downtown and Beyond," my paper is a response to Plan Prince George's 2035, an ongoing update of the county's General Plan. County planners envision most future growth taking place in a few "downtowns" around the county. Over the past year, they've hosted a town hall meeting for community members and released two reports of their own, Where and How We Grow and Typology and Prioritization.

But have planners selected the right areas for new downtowns, and should we focus on them at the expense of other areas? And will emphasis on "new towns" in greenfield areas undermine the plan's goals? These are the issues I look at in my paper.

After reviewing the project team's two reports and attending the town hall meeting at the University of Maryland along with 300 other community members, I initially had some questions about the criteria that the planners used to rank potential downtowns.

Their quantitative analysis tool gave a higher priority in the top 10 list to places like Cheverly, Suitland, and Riverdale, which aren't really suitable for intense development, than to places that are, like Greenbelt and Largo. Other stations previously recognized as prime development opportunities, like Morgan Boulevard and Addison Road, didn't show up anywhere in the top 10. It didn't make sense to me that certain site-specific factors, such as the presence of available land for development and re-development and the absence of steep slopes, flood plains, and other barriers like railroad lines and highways, did not factor in more prominently in the diagnostic tool.

More broadly, though, I was concerned about what appeared to be a near-singular focus on the county's "downtown"-capable Metro station areas, to the exclusion of other station areas. I was also concerned that the preliminary recommendation to include a "new town" center typology in the General Plan Update seemed to be tacitly endorsing the troubling concept of non-transit-oriented, outer-Beltway greenfield developments like Westphalia, which are contrary to the county's stated land use priorities and basic smart growth principles.

Focus on the whole county, not just downtown

In Thinking and Growing Smartly, I attempt to more fully examine the questions posed by the M-NCPPC project team's earlier two policy papers: where and how should we grow, and how should our transit stations interact with each other to form a coherent growth strategy? To reach those threshold questions, I explore a number of issues:

Change the classification of land: Today, Prince George's County uses an amorphous, three-tier system to classify different parts of the county as either "Developed," "Developing," or "Rural." The project team has sensibly indicated that it intends to adopt and implement the place categorization guidelines developed by the Maryland Department of Planning in connection with PlanMaryland, the statewide development plan.

Those guidelines classify land into one of five categories: Targeted Growth and Revitalization Areas, Established Community Areas in Priority Funding Areas, Future Growth Areas, Large Lot Development Areas, and Rural Resource Planning Areas.

I recommend that Targeted Growth and Revitalization Areas should cover only areas that are within: a 1/2-mile radius around around existing Metro and MARC rail stations, designated 1/2-mile districts along General Plan-designated transitways, and transit-accessible areas in designated Maryland Sustainable Communities and Maryland Enterprise Zones. Future Purple Line stations that aren't in one of those areas already would become Future Growth Areas. All of those areas should be built under the county's new form-based zoning requirements.

Define the place typologies: I generally agree with the planners that different place types belong in a hierarchy that describes the desired land use mix, housing and employment types and targets, and densities. However, the densities that county planners initially proposed are generally too low to support heavy and light rail. They also don't distinguish between areas within 1/4 mile of a transit station, where densities should be highest, and areas within 1/4 and 1/2 mile.

I propose five distinct place typologies, each with their own recommended densities, most of which are higher than those originally proposed by the project team. In descending order, they are: Central Business Districts, Major Urban Districts, Neighborhood Urban Districts, Special Use/Employment Districts, and Transitway Districts.

Rethink greenfield sprawl: Rather than endorsing greenfield sprawl projects like Westphalia and Konterra by according them their own "new town" category, the county should rethink and rezone those areas before major development occurs there, which would further undermine the county's transit-oriented development goals. Those land areas are not in a Priority Funding Area, Enterprise Zone, or Sustainable Community; therefore, they should be classified as either Large Lot Development Areas or Rural Resource Planning Areas.

Use Transitways to connect and revitalize the county: I also recommend 17 "Transitways" where the county should provide frequent bus service to connect major population centers to existing rail transit stations and major commercial and government centers.


A map of 17 proposed transitways from the author. Click for an interactive map.

Through the master planning process, the county should designate various Transitway Districts as focus areas for revitalization and intensive infill development. This would be a good solution for aging or deteriorated automobile-oriented commercial sites like Penn/Mar Shopping Center, Iverson Mall, and Langley Park Shopping Center.

Incentivize private sector development: I recommend that the county take a two-pronged approach to encourage more high quality jobs and development. First and foremost, the county should implement the necessary structural reforms that will foster a more sensible, faster, and less politicized development process. That includes placing appropriate restrictions on growth outside of targeted areas, streamlining the development review process, rewriting and simplifying the zoning ordinance, and eliminating the dreaded "council call-up" review of individual site plans.

Secondly, the county should focus public investment on those high-potential stations most in need of infrastructure improvement to catalyze private sector interest. Three good places to start would be New Carrollton, Addison Road, and Capitol Heights, which are older and less-prepared for new development than their counterparts on the Green Line and the Blue Line extension to Largo. They've also received less interest from public sector institutions, like the FBI or the University of Maryland Medical System's new regional hospital, which could bring jobs that stimulate the local economy.


Image from M-NCPPC.

The planners need to hear from us

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with the M-NCPPC project team to discuss an earlier draft of my Thinking and Growing Smartly policy paper. Kierre McCune, lead coordinator on the Plan Prince George's project, was happy to receive and discuss the paper, and noted that he was particularly pleased to see that at least someone outside of the Planning Department had taken the time to read through the project team's prior materials and provide thoughtful feedback.

Similarly, planner Sonja Ewing remarked that citizens often don't realize the value in providing this kind of feedback to the planners. She said it is helpful for the team to hear and be continually challenged by an outside-the-bubble perspective. And Planning Supervisor Kipling Reynolds said now was a good time for people to give input, since county planners are still refining their first draft of the Plan Update, which goes to the Planning Board in September.

What are your thoughts as to how Prince George's can think and grow smartly? You can let county planners know by emailing them or following them on Twitter @PlanPGC2035. Even after it's released, the public will still be able to offer suggestions. I hope that many of my recommendations will find their way into the draft as well.

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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I am always glad to hear Brad's thoughts on these matters.

I served on the initial focus group for Plan 2035 and in my opinion the planners were on the right track in emphasizing redevelopment and density over the long favored greenfield development of the county. However, the question as always is what the county council is going to do. In the past their decision making as the district council has allowed favored projects to move forward by tweaking zoning, etc.

As county residents, we need to plug into this plan so it reflects our interests, and then hold our elected leadership accountable to stick to it.

by Brent Bolin on Aug 20, 2013 12:07 pm • linkreport

I am sorry, but when anyone, however genuine, wants to replace normal words like Developed, Developing, or Rural with Targeted Growth and Revitalization Areas, Established Community Areas in Priority Funding Areas, Future Growth Areas, Large Lot Development Areas, and Rural Resource Planning Areas, my bullshit-alarm goes off.

by Jasper on Aug 20, 2013 12:09 pm • linkreport

This is all well and good but a lot of work goes into these plans only to be completely disregarded down the road due to political expediency or simple corruption.

by Adam L on Aug 20, 2013 12:18 pm • linkreport

Jasper( Sorry but anytime some throws out the key subliminal transit oriented development and abandoning growth in open areas It goes back to the key agenda of promoting anti-growth. Whoever wrote that commentary did not have Prince Georges County at their best interest and is pushing this Agenda to promote more Business/Economic Growth in Northern Virginia which does not promote strict anti-growth boundries as suburban Maryland.

by steve on Aug 20, 2013 12:55 pm • linkreport

Bradley -thx for reporting on this and your work on it. I am especially glad that you pointed out the greenfield development like Konterra & Westphalia and I agree they/places like that, should be designated rural not "future town center".

Regarding transitways, why no express bus all the way down Rte 1 to the RI Av metro?

by Tina on Aug 20, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

"Targeted Growth and Revitalization Areas"

"blighted" built up areas where we want someone to build new s**t.

"Established Community Areas in Priority Funding Areas, "

Places to not build any new s**t, but they still need $$ so they dont get blighted.

"Future Growth Areas,"

non blighted areas where we hope s**t gets built.

" Large Lot Development Areas,"

Sprawl

"Rural Resource Planning Areas"

ag reserve, but we can't use the same word MoCo does.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 20, 2013 12:59 pm • linkreport

Jasper( I am sorry, but when anyone, however genuine, wants to replace normal words like Developed, Developing, or Rural with Targeted Growth and Revitalization Areas, Established Community Areas in Priority Funding Areas, Future Growth Areas, Large Lot Development Areas, and Rural Resource Planning Areas, my bullshit-alarm goes off.)

- I totally agree

by steve on Aug 20, 2013 1:00 pm • linkreport

so if y'all had an area where you wanted, you know, growth, but there was none at present, what phrase would be more descriptive than "future growth areas"

Ive seen jargon. This aint jaron, its pretty comprehensible. Why does every public document have to be written for 5th graders?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 20, 2013 1:03 pm • linkreport

On the other hand, Jasper, I know New Jersey's state plan does use similar terms and I'm not sure I agree they are replacing interchangeable terms. For example many developed areas are largely built out while others are primed for more growth (see Hoboken vs say Camden in NJ or Bethesda vs White Flint etc). Some green fields near metro stations could be targeted for growth while an agricultural area near suburbia wouldn't. There are also say ecologically sensitive areas in all category that might otherwise be primed for growth etc.

Not to say that it can't be bullshit but I don't agree there isn't value in recognizing more typologies.

by BTA on Aug 20, 2013 1:07 pm • linkreport

Adam( This is all well and good but a lot of work goes into these plans only to be completely disregarded down the road due to political expediency or simple corruption.)

- How van it be "all well and good" when it is nothing but anti-growth corruption in the name showing more progressive Business/Economic Growth favortism to NOVA.

by steve on Aug 20, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

@Steve

I mean these massive planning guidelines, in general, are typically well-meaning but are often just tossed aside. Makes me wonder why we spend the time and money on them at all.

by Adam L on Aug 20, 2013 1:13 pm • linkreport

boilerplate: there's no arguing with steve. He's convinced that there is a conspiracy by everyone to make Maryland crappy in order to boost Va's prominence.

by drumz on Aug 20, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

steve, can you pleas provide examples of this "anti-growth corruption in the name showing more progressive Business/Economic Growth favortism [sic] to NOVA" that you speak of? Particularly in PG County?

Also, a helpful hint. When you want to quote something another poster said, it's much easier to put it in italics than parentheses. To do so, use the <> symbols with the i tag. So you would do this, but take out the spaces (spaces added for demonstration purposes, so the code is visible). < i >This is all well and good but a lot of work goes into these plans only to be completely disregarded down the road due to political expediency or simple corruption.< /i > It looks like this when you remove the spaces:
This is all well and good but a lot of work goes into these plans only to be completely disregarded down the road due to political expediency or simple corruption.

so much easier to read!

by Birdie on Aug 20, 2013 1:23 pm • linkreport

Tina( Bradley -thx for reporting on this and your work on it. I am especially glad that you pointed out the greenfield development like Konterra & Westphalia and I agree they/places like that, should be designated rural not "future town center".)

- Proves my point that it is an attempt to discourage future Business/Economic growth in Prince Georges County which will push for continuing sprawl growth in Virginia encouraging Prince Grieves County Tax Paying citizens to work and shop in Northern Virginia.

Tins(Regarding transitways, why no express bus all the way down Rte 1 to the RI Av metro?)

- Not enough people to support especially when there is a MARC train that runs along US Highway 1.

by steve on Aug 20, 2013 1:36 pm • linkreport

As far as I can tell from the State maps, Konterra actually is within a Priority Funding Area, as much as everyone wants to bash it as greenfield sprawl. I see Konterra as reusing land already greatly disturbed by mining extraction, that is located where the ICC meets I-95, is in a short shuttle bus/long walk from the Murrick MARC station and is located in a prime corridor between two big cities. Just because there is nothing there now, does not mean it can't become something that promotes self contained walkability and trips, and becomes a destination that becomes well served by local and regional bus. As much as Steve is trolling, to keep Konterra from happening is almost self fulfilling his ridiculous sounding statements. One day hopefully Prince Georges County will be seen as a place worthy of locating business and that will lead to improvements in services, schools and families, but you have to create catalysts and establish a tax base and improve the regional name. I don't see many of the available Metro stations being positioned to do this.

Westphalia is another story, and although I personally don't think it's necessarily bad on a regional perspective, can more easily rationalize why it's more sprawly, is being built before it's needed and is much less deserving of promotion by the County.

It would seem to me the best places to push for major change is at the Metro stations with good highway access, making for the best of both commuting worlds (Greenbelt, New Carrollton, Largo, Branch Avenue). Make these centers big, urban, self sustaining, and acting as a 'center' for both people in the established inner communities, and for people in the newer suburbs. Let that energy then migrate inward back toward the City as property values rise and desirability increases. Spreading resources too thin in too many places is not going to help anyone.

by Gull on Aug 20, 2013 1:52 pm • linkreport

@Steve -why would anyone who lives in Riverdale or Hyattsville ride a Marc train to the RI Ave metro station?

by Tina on Aug 20, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

@steve Tins(Regarding transitways, why no express bus all the way down Rte 1 to the RI Av metro?)

- Not enough people to support especially when there is a MARC train that runs along US Highway 1.

Actually, I suspect that it is because there are already buses that run along Route 1 with Rhode Island Ave. Station as their terminal. The 81, 82, 83, and 86 all currently serve the Rhode Island Ave-College Park stretch. Which seems to me to suggest that there are enough people taking the bus. In addition, PG County's The Bus 17 route runs from IKEA in College Park to the MD/DC border in Mt. Rainier, exclusively on Rt. 1.

But more importantly, the MARC system is primarily designed for traditional commuters. Stops are far apart, and service clustered around traditional commuting times. If you want to get from Mt. Rainier to College Park on a Wednesday mid-morning, the MARC is useless to you. MARC as it is presently constructed and operated is not a viable alternative for quality bus service for those who do not own private vehicles.

by Birdie on Aug 20, 2013 2:05 pm • linkreport

"Why does every public document have to be written for 5th graders?"

Because that's the level of reading comprehension in the US. Also, there's regulations about plain language stuff. Plain language often sounds like its written for elementary school.

by Another Nick on Aug 20, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

Another point about the MARC... In addition to being operated only during "traditional" commuter times, it is also very difficult to add more trains, since the line itself is owned by CSX and it is one of their busiest lines between Baltimore and Washington DC. I have it on very good authority that CSX might permit a few</> additional trains, it is unlikely that they would contract with MTA to make the MARC Camden line a viable all-day commuting alternative, and I understand that CSX has all but forbidden weekend MARC traffic.

Also, the MARC does not go all the way to the RI Ave METRO station. In fact, the last stop on the Camden Line in Maryland is in Riverdale Park, so nothing in Brentwood, Mt. Ranier, or WDC.

by Jack on Aug 20, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

Plain language doesn't mean you have to use imprecise language though. Many of the terms used as self explanatory and it's not hard to define the other ones. If you're going to identify several types of growth then you need terms to denote each one.

by drumz on Aug 20, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

@Birdie -Actually, I suspect that it is because there are already buses that run along Route 1 with Rhode Island Ave. Station as their terminal. The 81, 82, 83, and 86 all currently serve the Rhode Island Ave-College Park stretch.

Its only the 83 that goes direct along Rte 1 to/from the RI Av stn. Northbound on Rte 1 the 86 turns west on 38th St and cuts west away from Rte 1 toward the Prince George Plaza Stn.; the 81 has very limited weekend only service; the 82 has a very limited rte & service and doesn't go up/dwn rte 1.

I am interested in an express along Rte 1 at least from E-W Hwy to/from the RI Av metro b/c I know the 83 well.

by Tina on Aug 20, 2013 2:33 pm • linkreport

PG County's The Bus 17 route runs from IKEA in College Park to the MD/DC border in Mt. Rainier, exclusively on Rt. 1.

Yes, and this really sucks for someone needing to go all the way to the RI Av stn. There is only 1 bus rte, the 83, that does it.

by Tina on Aug 20, 2013 2:35 pm • linkreport

The 81, 82, 83, and 86 all currently serve the Rhode Island Ave-College Park stretch.

No. Only the 83 does.

by Tina on Aug 20, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

In fact, the last stop on the Camden Line in Maryland is in Riverdale Park, so nothing in Brentwood, Mt. Ranier, or WDC.

Another reason for an express bus on Rte 1 from ~E-W Hwy to/from the RI Av stn. (Between Riverdale and North Brentwood is downtown Hyattsville.)

by Tina on Aug 20, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

Gull( As much as Steve is trolling, to keep Konterra from happening is almost self fulfilling his ridiculous sounding statements.)

- Until you can provide proof that I made a statement about not supporting Konterra then you have zero purpose to refer to me as a troll just because you can't accept me calling BS to the anti-Growth rhetoric that is being thrown at suburban Maryland. What you stated twards me makes you the real troll.

by steve on Aug 20, 2013 3:11 pm • linkreport

@Steve-No one here wants to see PG Co. or MD fail.

by Tina on Aug 20, 2013 3:25 pm • linkreport

RE: Westphalia

Westphalia really flies in the face of everything that post mentions for long term planning. It should also be noted that at least three of the people involved with the approval process are now in prison. It is definitely time to rethink that development and its impact. The frequently heard reasoning for that location is: "BRAC! ANDREWS!! JOBS!" But is that really true? And if Andrews needed more around it, there is plenty of already developed strip malls and properties that could use revitalization in the surrounding area...Camp Springs and Clinton could benefit greatly from this.

These large sprawling greenfield developments will probably hasten the spread of the "suburban slum" in PG Co. Between just Konterra and Westphalia, there are almost 25,000-30,000 housing units planned. That doesn't include all the other smaller projects which combined probably add another couple of thousand. That will have a huge impact on the real estate market in PG Co. Looking at recent sales records, the average annual number of homes sales is about 10,000 in PG Co (using Redfin). These two developments alone will dump an enormous surplus into the market. Who is scrambling for all this new housing in PG Co? There is still a huge backlog of empty or foreclosed homes not even on the market yet. The days of "build it and they will come" are long over. The county needs to have a long range plan and stick with it. Developments that were born of illegal kickbacks should be at least re-evaluated in light of the new TOD push. Considering this is the county that thinks gaming tables are the path to the ecomonic future, I won't hold my breath for such re-examination of priorities.

by ArchStanton on Aug 20, 2013 3:33 pm • linkreport

@Steve
I never said you didn't support Konterra, I was actually directing my comments if you read them correctly at all of the people who are preaching that Konterra is a terrible greenfield idea, and was saying that blocking Konterra may actually fulfill this idea that MD is hindering growth and making it more likely business will keep picking Virginia. You seem so upset that I and others are pointing out how silly you sound suggesting sabotage of local government officials that you jumped to conclusions. You would actually notice in my comment that we're sort of on the same side. Though I don't believe officials in MD or residents in MD are purposefully trying to kill the business climate of MD, their actions do have that negative impact sometimes.

@Arch
I do agree these new town centers may bring tens of thousands of new homes, that is in part why I am less supportive of Westphila, for one it's already got lots of competition from other development near by and 2, it's got a lot more land designated for lower density sprawl. Konterra has a larger, more urban town center, and is located in an area that is as much Prince Georges Co as it is eastern Montgomery and southern Howard. That area has more growth demand and would not have as much of a long term negative effect, and may actually help increase property values in places like Laurel. It's also important to realize these town centers are not meant to be built in 1, 2, or 10 years. They are themselves mini-master plans that will take 20+ years to fully build. I'd finally suggest the County probably is not scrambling for the housing, but is scrambling for the retail and office space to be built. It's easy to say lets downzone these greenfield areas and that will 'force' or 'encourage' redevelopment in the older neighborhoods, but that may not be the case. It can just as easily encourage more development in Charles Co or NOVA if the developers don't like their returns on investment in the rest of Prince Georges County.

I think you'd have a difficult time 'redeveloping' many of the existing commercial properties in places like Clinton and Camp Springs. That part of Prince Georges has no resemblance of a street grid, making these commercial properties stand alone nodes, and because of the low density residential surrounding uses, there would be a huge NIMBY to anything other than putting a pretty new facade on the existing shopping centers. I see the same problem in urbanizing many of the Baltimore area suburbs, especially Anne Arundel County, with the established land use pattern extremely hostile to major redevelopment.

by Gull on Aug 20, 2013 3:49 pm • linkreport

@Gull

Better to build needed (if truly needed) office and retail space situated near transit if that is indeed the county's long term goal. Yes, I recognize that these are longer term development plans, BUT developers have a history of dropping the retail/office space for just more low density housing. And I think for Westphalia, the development phases are actually pretty condensed in time (not 20 years, but much shorter). Westphalia has plans for at least one large hotel. Is that really needed? Some of this development is a zero sum game. Development there takes away from elsewhere. You are right that Konterra is probably better situated for longer term development. But is both Westphalia AND Konterra needed? I think your original statement is correct about Westphalia: too soon for it.

To clarify: I don't think a massive investment is required for Clinton, Camp Springs for developing Andrews related services and hotels. I think the needs of Andrews are frequently overstated in order to drive certain agendas for development (cough...Westphalia...cough).

Ultimately, these developments aren't built in an economic vacuum and need to be evaluated and prioritized based on the future competitive market. Westphalia will exist in a world with National Harbor, Konterra, and the Metro-accessible developments. Will it just end up as 750,000 sq ft of retail devoted to nail salons, check cashing, and T shirt shops?

by ArchStanton on Aug 20, 2013 4:18 pm • linkreport

Should PG grow? It already has nearly 900,000 residents, and for every single-family home development there is one or more packed apartment complex. Can PG realistically handle any more people and the infrastructure, schools, and social services they require? Who will be the new residents? Two income families? Single high-income professionals? Immigrant families? Low income "refugees" from gentrifying DC?

by dcdriver on Aug 20, 2013 4:32 pm • linkreport

@ Tina

WMATA has started a study of the Rhode Island Avenue-Baltimore Avenue Priority Corridor in the District of Columbia and Prince George's County evaluating bus service on the Routes G8, 81, 82, 83, 84, 86, and T18. At a focus group meeting held on August 6th in Hyattsville as part of this study, riders requested that a limited stop bus service from College Park to Downtown Washington be considered. To obtain additional input from riders, the first round of public meetings for this study will be held in late September.

by Douglas Stallworth on Aug 20, 2013 4:38 pm • linkreport

If you use the bus line there is also a survey on the Metrobus Studies page:
http://metrobus-studies.com/Rhode%20Is%20Ave/Rhode%20Is%20Ave.htm

by MLD on Aug 20, 2013 4:45 pm • linkreport

@MLD -thx!

by Tina on Aug 20, 2013 5:17 pm • linkreport

@dcdriver

Hell yes PG should grow. There's already an imbalance in the area as far as jobs, commercial retail, etc. Just look at the major traffic problem areas. NoVa, I270 Corridor, I-95 in Prince William County, etc. But, PG can't have growth without the infrastructure and funding that it takes to compete in the DMV. It's the chicken before the egg. If most of your revenue comes from residential taxes, adding more people won't solve that issue. I agree that we need more commercial development near metro stations. Cut back some on the rural areas as far as more residences. Because what will happen is you'll have even more people coming from PG traveling west to go to work, instead of them not having to cross the border and working right in the county.

Downtown Silver Spring is an excellent model. There are just as many offices and retail as there are residences. PG needs to strike that balance. And it wouldn't hurt to have more jobs than residences. There needs to be a balance with a slight favor towards jobs to sustain beneficial growth. I think we all agree the growth should be inside the beltway near mass transit. Not only do you cater to the younger generation who may not own vehicles, you also catch the baby boomers who don't want to or can't drive, but may enjoy walking to where they need to go.

We need commercial revenue bad.

by adelphi_sky on Aug 20, 2013 5:59 pm • linkreport

ArchStanton( And I think for Westphalia, the development phases are actually pretty condensed in time (not 20 years, but much shorter). Westphalia has plans for at least one large hotel. Is that really needed? Some of this development is a zero sum game. Development there takes away from elsewhere. You are right that Konterra is probably better situated for longer term development. But is both Westphalia AND Konterra needed? I think your original statement is correct about Westphalia: too soon for it.)

- So in translation you think Westphilia and Konterra will draw business/retail traffic away from Alexandria and Fairfax County and no real Upscale Business/Retail development should ever be built in Prince Georges County or any other part of suburban Maryland except for small retail/expensive apartments near selected train stations.

by steve on Aug 20, 2013 5:59 pm • linkreport

Tina( @Steve-No one here wants to see PG Co. or MD fail.)

- No tax paying Maryland citizen wants Maryland to fail but a lot of folx in Virginia wants to see Maryland by any means.

by steve on Aug 20, 2013 6:02 pm • linkreport

dcdriver( Should PG grow? It already has nearly 900,000 residents, and for every single-family home development there is one or more packed apartment complex. Can PG realistically handle any more people and the infrastructure, schools, and social services they require? Who will be the new residents? Two income families? Siasked ngle high-income professionals? Immigrant families? Low income "refugees" from gentrifying DC?)

- They do have good housing in Prince Georges County but that is

by steve on Aug 20, 2013 6:13 pm • linkreport

No excuse to stop Office and Retail Growth in Prince Georges County.

by steve on Aug 20, 2013 6:14 pm • linkreport

CSX might permit a few</> additional trains, it is unlikely that they would contract with MTA to make the MARC Camden line a viable all-day commuting alternative, and I understand that CSX has all but forbidden weekend MARC traffic.

CSX is going to allow the MTA to add 2 additional mid day trains next year.

The MTA has plans to pay for a third track which will greatly increase the capacity.

Amazingly the old B&O line use to carry 29 passenger trains each way and 8 frieghts.

by Richard B on Aug 20, 2013 6:37 pm • linkreport

Good to see that Mr. Baker chose the Largo site over Landover Mall for the new hospital. With Kaiser Permanente also investing in that general area, perhaps there will be a critical mass of medical facilities in Largo.

by JimT on Aug 20, 2013 10:51 pm • linkreport

@Arch

I'd love to see all future growth happen around the PG county Metro stations, I just don't see that as the economic reality right now. I work in the planning field, and it's not like planners can play sim city and say office you go here, houses you go here. Planners can zone the land, but it can sit empty for decades if the private market does not want to build it. Silver Spring is a good example today of a mix of business and residential, but even there the local officials are concerned because there has not been any new office development in a decade but thousands of new residents. All of the proposed development is housing, over 3,500 new apartments are in some phase of the pipeline, and only a token 100,000 sq ft of office, which is the last phase of one of these pipeline projects. If Silver Spring can't attract new office investment, I don't see anywhere in PG county doing it, save maybe the College Park metro if that area can leverage off of UMD, and maybe Branch Avenue (the ideal location in my opinion to put the 'Joint Base Andrews' needed private office market.

@dcdriver
Historically Prince Georges Co was the regions largest population county. It was the first to suburbanize and grow, unfortunately that's now left it with some of the oldest neighborhoods that were built during a different era and have led to some of the neglect we see today. Geographically the county is large, and can accommodate hundreds of thousands more people if it's done correctly. Fairfax is at what, 1.2 million, and they're doing fine, and it's a smaller county in area.

by Gull on Aug 21, 2013 8:15 am • linkreport

@ AWalker:Why does every public document have to be written for 5th graders?

My education is quite a bit above fifth grade, and these terms mean nothing to me. I'll give my interpretation:

* Targeted Growth and Revitalization Areas:
Blighted with potential.

* Established Community Areas in Priority Funding Areas:
Blighted without potential.

* Future Growth Areas:
Sounds clear, but how far in the future? Next years, or in a decade or so?

* Large Lot Development Areas:
Gifts to large developers. Or to put it in PG terms: Empty out your bra, cuz more money is on it's way! Good thing the FBI may be moving in.

* Rural Resource Planning Areas
Rural, but we're gonna mess with it anyway.

The problem with marketing language is that it always sounds nice, but it nearly always ambiguous enough that most people will read in it what they want. That is a good strategy to get political support, though not the most honest one.

by Jasper on Aug 21, 2013 9:30 am • linkreport

I would hope that PG county planning documents include some sort of glossary or define terms as they come up. That's been my experience reading other jurisdiction's planning documents. That way you can have the multiple terms and erase the ambiguities (though its still less ambiguous than sticking with "rural" and "developed").

by drumz on Aug 21, 2013 9:40 am • linkreport

@Gull -Fairfax is at what, 1.2 million, and they're doing fine,

Transportation in FFX is notoriously failing. They're not doing "fine".

by Tina on Aug 21, 2013 10:54 am • linkreport

@ Tina:Transportation in FFX is notoriously failing.

And that's why they're building the Silver Line, and looking how to extend the Yellow and/or Blue Lines. Furthermore, they are constantly optimizing the Fairfax Connector buses. The county is looking at bike sharing and implementing a county wide bike plan. Aren't there also plans to extend the Columbia Pike beyond Arlington?

And for cars they've repaved the Fairfax County Parkway, are working on the Franconia-Springfield Parkway and got the HOT lanes.

No, Fairfax is not fine. But they're moving forward. Too slow? Always, forward nevertheless.

by Jasper on Aug 21, 2013 10:59 am • linkreport

transport in FFX has problems. They arent leading the county into death spiral, and they arent really intrinsic to the county's total pop or overall average density. It would have been better if the county has a larger rural reserve (instead of just the corner around Clifton) and more of that 1.2 million at urban densities. More important (and more realistic) would be if we had built at the densities we did, but with better design - more road connectivitity, etc - which would not only have meant better transport today (across modes) but also would have made it easier to retrofit urban density. Certainly PG should try to avoid the bigger mistakes of FFX - like failing to require the bones for multimodalism in new greenfield developments until the county was close to buildout. But the point that 1.2 million is manageable, is probably not incorrect.

Note, the average commute time in FFX is about 30-35 minutes. Largely thats due to a lot of people with short intersuburban commutes (esp to Tysons). Whether thats realistic for a county outside the "favored quarter" is another question.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 21, 2013 11:02 am • linkreport

More important (and more realistic) would be if [FFX] had built at the densities but with better design - more road connectivitity, etc - which would not only have meant better transport today (across modes) but also would have made it easier to retrofit urban density. Certainly PG should try to avoid the bigger mistakes of FFX -

Exactly.

by Tina on Aug 21, 2013 11:10 am • linkreport

@ Jasper and AWIC

Re: Categorization of land: The Prince George's County planners didn't come up with those 5 terms, so there's no need to call B.S. or to wonder about what the terms mean. The Maryland Department of Planning defines them in pretty remarkable detail in their Planning Area Guidelines. I think the whole point of MDP's coming up with these terms is to provide some uniformity across the state as to the ways in which local jurisdictions classify land. That also helps the state in determining where it should target its funding to localities. The state doesn't mandate that localities use these terms, but encourages them to do so; and I think Prince George's would do well to use them instead of the existing 3 terms (Developed, Devloping, and Rural), which are pretty much meaningless and haven't served the county well.

@ Gull
I'd love to see all future growth happen around the PG county Metro stations, I just don't see that as the economic reality right now....[I]t's not like planners can play sim city and say office you go here, houses you go here. Planners can zone the land, but it can sit empty for decades if the private market does not want to build it.

True, planners can't just waive a magic wand and make development happen, but it's essential that the county have a plan in place that guides strategic growth. Of course, having the plan is only the first step. The next step (and the bigger and harder step, in fact) is for the county leaders to actually follow the plan. As several commenters have noted, the county has historically done a horrible job in following the plan by aligning its budget and development review priorities to the transit-oriented growth strategy that forms the basis of the county's official plans.

Part of the reason there doesn't seem to be a market for Metro station development in the county is that the county hasn't adhered to its own TOD growth strategy. Instead, in a misguided attempt to bring development and jobs to the county at any cost, they do things that actually make it harder for Metro station development to occur - like upzone massive greenfields like Westphalia and then approve millions of square feet of development there, far away from transit. Additionally, instead of setting policy and allowing the appropriate agencies to implement it, the county council insists on meddling in individual site plan review through the odious "call-up" review process - thus introducing an intolerable level of politics into the process. None of this makes things appealing to developers interested in doing true TOD projects.

So yes, the county needs to do more than just come up with an awesome plan. It needs to actually commit to it, market it, fund it, and believe in it. In that regard, there are glimmers of hope. County Executive Rushern Baker's reecnt decision to recommend a site near Largo Town Center Metro Station for the new regional hospital is a step in the right direction. And earlier this year, the county formally endorsed locating the new FBI headquarters at Greenbelt Metro Station. Going forward, we need more decisions like those, and fewer decisions like Westphalia.

by Bradley Heard on Aug 21, 2013 11:23 am • linkreport

@ Gull:I]t's not like planners can play sim city and say office you go here, houses you go here.

But they can! Through zoning policy.

by Jasper on Aug 21, 2013 12:48 pm • linkreport

Great

So basically what this is telling me is that all of the development that was touted for the Central Ave corridor is pretty much out of the window.

by Dwight on Aug 21, 2013 4:35 pm • linkreport

Tina( @Gull -Fairfax is at what, 1.2 million, and they're doing fine,

Transportation in FFX is notoriously failing. They're not doing "fine".)

- But yet Fairfax continues to add High Paying Business employment and Upscale Retail and Better Highways that continues to suck Prince Georges County Tax Payers into spending time and money in Virginia.

So nice try but you totally fail in addressing the obvious FACT that Fairfax County is doing far better than Prince Georges County.

by steve on Aug 22, 2013 1:12 pm • linkreport

"But yet Fairfax continues to add High Paying Business employment and Upscale Retail"

At Tysons, which is undergoing a transformation to urban form. Similar to what MoCo is attempting in White Flint

" and Better Highways" The only major new highway project to be completed recently in FFX are the Beltway toll lanes.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 22, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

Dwight( Great

So basically what this is telling me is that all of the development that was touted for the Central Ave corridor is pretty much out of the window.)

Umm Hell No

by steve on Aug 22, 2013 1:25 pm • linkreport

AWalkerInTheCity( At Tysons, which is undergoing a transformation to urban form. Similar to what MoCo is attempting in White Flint)

- Tysons Corner has the largest upscale retail Mall(s) in the Mid-Atlantic. White Flint is suffering from anti-Progressive Hustlers that want demolish upscale retail mall just to build expensive apartments/condos and small store front retail that most people are not going to Spend their money at.

AWalkerInTheCity(" and Better Highways" The only major new highway project to be completed recently in FFX are the Beltway toll lanes.)

- Springfield Interchange and the I-395/95 widening.

by steve on Aug 22, 2013 1:55 pm • linkreport

springfield interchange was over 10 years ago.

The i95/i395 widening is not completed. Most of the untolled portion will be Arlington/alexandria. MOst of whats in Fairfax will be HOT lanes, including the conversion of existing free HOV lanes to HOT lanes.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 22, 2013 2:01 pm • linkreport

"Tysons Corner has the largest upscale retail Mall(s) in the Mid-Atlantic. White Flint is suffering from anti-Progressive Hustlers that want demolish upscale retail mall just to build expensive apartments/condos and small store front retail that most people are not going to Spend their money at."

Nonetheless the NEW development at Tysons is urbanist high density, including offices, expensive apartments/condos, and store front retail.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 22, 2013 2:03 pm • linkreport

AWalkerInTheCity( The i95/i395 widening is not completed. Most of the untolled portion will be Arlington/alexandria. MOst of whats in Fairfax will be HOT lanes, including the conversion of existing free HOV lanes to HOT lanes.)

That's right which means that they are in the right direction of highway improvements.

by steve on Aug 22, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

You want PG to take its existing HOV lanes (does it have any?) and convert them to HOT lanes?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 22, 2013 2:17 pm • linkreport

AWalkerInTheCity( Nonetheless the NEW development at Tysons is urbanist high density, including offices, expensive apartments/condos, and store front retail.)

- which makes tysons mote progressive due to the Malls, better highway access, high speed subway unlike the Maryland suburbs that have dem anti-Growth extremist trying to demolish malls and prevent new highways from being built or widening....

by steve on Aug 22, 2013 2:38 pm • linkreport

AFAIK the owners of WF wanted to tear it down, because they believed it would be more profitable open air than as an enclosed mall. If the owners of Tysons Corner Center wanted to do that, the County would certainly allow it. That they have not probably has more to do with retail trends in the County quite apart from urbanist issues.

The Silver Line will not be higher speed than the Red Line that serves WF.

There is no new highway serving Tysons. The beltway recieved HOT lanes. I think its hard to argue that the lanes have made that much difference.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 22, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

- I look forward to reading your paper.

- a couple random bits... because of the timing of the real estate crash, it turns out that the artsdistrict hyattsville project lost $20+ million. ... plus the foreclosures at University Town Center ... and a developer says that because the property taxes are higher in PG than in MoCo besides, they'd rather not build housing there, as long as they have other places to develop in other places

- in short, it's a tough place to get good developers to be willing to take big risks

- my point is always to focus on the areas that are already successful and build outward from there.

- wrt Richard Bourne's point about the old B&O and the number of trips, the point today is that this is the major freight route that CSX has between Virginia and West Virginia through Maryland, hence their de-prioritization on freight.

- and there used to be a station in Hyattsville. I presume there had been one in Mount Rainier but not according to ca. 1970s timetables. Earlier, there was a DC station in Langdon. There might have been others. But yes, it appears that there is minimal use of the PG County stations on the Camden line currently.

- remember that there is an old MTA study for the mid 1990s on streetcar for Rte. 1

- AWITC, wrt your point about an "Ag. Reserve" in Fairfax, I picked up a 1962? FFX plan at a used bookstore called "Vanishing Land" that was all about the problems of leapfrog development. Evidentally, the document was brushed away by developer interests...

by Richard Layman on Aug 23, 2013 10:25 am • linkreport

sorry "de-prioritization on freight" was supposed to read "de-prioritization on supporting passenger services."

by Richard Layman on Aug 23, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

AWalkerInTheCity(You want PG to take its existing HOV lanes (does it have any?) and convert them to HOT lanes?)

- Why do that when they can widen the Highways in Prince Georges County and include HOT lanes.......

by steve on Aug 27, 2013 5:22 pm • linkreport

AWalkerInTheCity, Thanks for proven my point that you support anti Business and anti Highways in Suburban Maryland to satisfy your backyard of Northern Virginia with more Highway and Business growth.

by steve on Aug 27, 2013 5:26 pm • linkreport

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