Greater Greater Washington

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Westphalia developers admit it's a bad deal for Prince George's

Even the developers of the proposed Westphalia town center project in Prince George's County realize that it's a fool's errand to build a sprawling edge city on a rural greenfield that's disconnected from transit. But will county leaders figure it out?


Photo by Walton Group.

William Doherty, CEO of Canadian firm Walton International Group, recently spoke to local business leaders about the proposed 480-acre development in southern Prince George's, which will have 4.5 million square feet of office, 1.4 million square feet of retail, 600 hotel rooms, and 5,000 homes. Walton wants to lure the new FBI headquarters as well.

Doherty acknowledged that Westphalia's location was a problem. "There will be 15,000 jobs at Westphalia…and there is no [transit] service," he said. He wants the county or state to build a $75 million bus rapid transit line to the Branch Avenue Metro station and a $150 million new interchange at Pennsylvania Avenue and Suitland Parkway. Doherty said Walton is even "willing to" pay a portion of the cost.

County and state officials have shown no willingness to back away from this ill-advised project. In fact, they're planning to help the developers out by building expensive new infrastructure at public expense, even as the county's 15 Metro stations languish from underdevelopment.

Westphalia was born of bad policy and corrupt politics

Former county executive Jack Johnson and former council chair Jim Estepp first conceived Westphalia with former District 6 county councilman Samuel Dean and two developers, Patrick Ricker and Daniel Colton. In 2007, they worked to secure the approval of an elaborate master plan that upzoned this rural area into a major regional mixed-use center.

Five years earlier, the county had adopted its 2002 Approved General Plan, which stressed transit-oriented development around Metro stations and revitalization of existing communities inside the Beltway. The 2005 Countywide Green Infrastructure Master Plan identifies most of Westphalia as an area of countywide environmental significance, given its vast forest lands.

Although the 2002 General Plan had identified Westphalia as a "possible future" community center, it in no way suggested that the area should be prioritized for development ahead of the county's existing Metro stations and its existing inner-Beltway communities. Indeed, developing at Westphalia at that juncture seemed to be contrary to all of the county's stated development goals and priorities. Nevertheless, the 2007 Westphalia Sector plan sailed through the Planning Board and the County Council.

Then came the Great Recession, which pretty much stalled all significant development projects across the region, good and bad. And if that wasn't enough, toward the end of 2010, the FBI arrested county executive Jack Johnson and his wife, Leslie, bringing to light the long-running federal corruption and bribery investigation of the Johnson administration, arising out of a series of development-related schemes. The Johnsons, Patrick Ricker, and many others pled guilty and went to prison, while Colton still awaits sentencing.

Walton swooped in to resurrect a failed idea on the cheap

The Great Recession and the corruption scandal had left the Westphalia project all but dead on the vine. Ricker and Colton had defaulted on their loan, and Wells Fargo had foreclosed on the property. This would have been a perfect time for the county to reevaluate the Westphalia plan and the suburban sprawl strategy that undergirded it.

Unfortunately, a bad idea doesn't die that easily. Shortly after Rushern Baker's election as county executive in 2010, his administration signaled that Westphalia would continue to receive significant county backing. In June 2011, Baker's spokesperson Scott Peterson said, "the [Westphalia] development is important to the residents of the community and the county, and we'll be working hard to keep the project on line."

In February 2012, Walton purchased the property from Wells Fargo for $29.5 million, with the full blessing of the Baker administration. Aubrey Thagard, assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development, stated that the administration was "encouraged by [Walton's] approach in terms of the quality of development that would come to Prince George's County."

Walton has already secured a $150 million commitment from Governor Martin O'Malley to build the Pennsylvania Avenue/Suitland Parkway interchange. While the county leadership supports Greenbelt over Westphalia for the FBI headquarters, it still enthusiastically supports the creation of a new edge city that District 6 councilmember Derrick Leon Davis hopes will one day rival the county's largest city, Bowie.


Councilman Derrick Leon Davis at Westphalia groundbreaking. Image from YouTube.

The county's support of Westphalia will continue to stifle real TOD

At a groundbreaking ceremony in June, Councilmember Davis stated that Westphalia represented a "new era in Prince George's County." But it's really just a continuation of the same "business as usual" approach that has resulted in the county having 15 of the least developed Metro station areas in Greater Washington and virtually no transit-oriented walkable urban places.

It's also the reason that the county now has more than 2,000 miles (and more than 5,000 lane-miles) of roadways that it is responsible for maintaining. Many of these existing roads lack sufficient lighting, sidewalks, and pedestrian signaling, even around Metro stations, which often leads to deadly results.

Westphalia will require scores of miles of additional roads that the county will have to maintain. And a project as large as Westphalia would siphon away most of the development opportunities around nearby Metro stations, like Largo Town Center and Branch Avenue, for decades to come.


Westphalia's proximity to 6 Metro stations. Click for interactive Google map.

Westphalia is also fairly close to the former Landover Mall site, which has been shuttered for more than a decade and is now in need of new investment. While the Landover Mall site is also not Metro accessible, it is at least inside the Beltway, already has the roadways and other infrastructure to support dense mixed-use development, and doesn't require developing farmland.

Councilman Davis suggests that it's possible for Prince George's County to "walk and chew bubble gum" at the same time: that is, to support suburban edge city projects like Westphalia while simultaneously supporting TOD at places like Largo Town Center, both of which are in his district. But the hard truth is that the county cannot successfully pursue sprawl development and transit-oriented development at the same time.

County planners note that growth in the wrong places causes the county to "miss significant opportunities to better utilize our transit infrastructure and capture forecasted regional demand for new housing and jobs." Furthermore, sprawling development patterns put the county in an economic bind by causing it to expend crucial resources "to expand, duplicate, and maintain new infrastructure, in addition to maintaining the existing infrastructure in mature communities."

I suggested in my recent policy paper that the county should rezone Westphalia to a rural or very low density zone and focus its attention on bringing true high-quality transit-oriented development to its Metro stations, in keeping with its stated development priorities. It will take an incredible amount of political courage and will for county leaders to do so, given their previous full-throated support of this project.

Likely the only way they would even consider doing it is if there were a significant response from the community for a new direction. Knowing my fellow citizens, that's a very tall order indeed.

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'll share this w/ my inside the beltway, walkable, urban PG County city neighbors, but you're right, it's an uphill battle.

by thump on Sep 23, 2013 12:06 pm • linkreport

On the other hand, if our leaders in Washington need a place to go to negotiate a peace treaty sometime, Westphalia would seem to be an ideal spot.

by Mike on Sep 23, 2013 1:04 pm • linkreport

---(Even the developers of the proposed Westphalia town center project in Prince George's County realize that it's a fool's errand to build a sprawling edge city on a rural greenfield that's disconnected from transit.)---

- That can not be even close to being the truth as the developers may have been fooled with bribes/brain washing by some MD hating special interest from the other side that do not wish to see suburban MD reach the levels of the northern region of the old dominion in the subject of upscale business/highway growth.

by steve on Sep 23, 2013 1:42 pm • linkreport

That can not be even close to being the truth as the developers may have been fooled with bribes/brain washing by some MD hating special interest from the other side that do not wish to see suburban MD reach the levels of the northern region of the old dominion in the subject of upscale business/highway growth.

I have no idea what this run-on sentence means. Could you please clarify?

by thump on Sep 23, 2013 1:53 pm • linkreport

? I thought walkable town centers were the future?

by Chris S. on Sep 23, 2013 2:01 pm • linkreport

Guys, steve always comments on stories about Maryland because he's convinced that there is a conspiracy afoot by maryland elected officials to make the state worse off in order to make northern Va look good by comparison. There is no reasoning to it.

by drumz on Sep 23, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

+1 to Mike

by JDC Esq on Sep 23, 2013 2:11 pm • linkreport

Seems like PG county could have saved itself a lot of money and headache if they had just ponied up the $29 million and made a nature preserve or park out of the lot of it. Keep it in trust for 15-30 years and then see what was up then. By 2040 development out there might not be that far out, or park land might be more valuable. Either way it wouldnt have to build any additional road.

by Richard B on Sep 23, 2013 2:14 pm • linkreport

...the county leadership ... enthusiastically supports the creation of a new edge city that District 6 councilmember Derrick Leon Davis hopes will one day rival the county's largest city, Bowie.

What does that mean? Is Westphalia going to incorporate, and then annex enough land until, like Bowie, it has the land mass of Alexandria?

it's a fool's errand to build a sprawling edge city on a rural greenfield that's disconnected from transit

I doubt these people are fools. Common sense suggests that the value of such a community 4 miles from the Metro station is less than such a community next to the Metro station. How much less? Probably no more than the cost of running a light rail line to the Metro, maybe alot less than that. But developing a Greenfield site may be alot cheaper than assembling parcels near a Metro Station.

Who is Westphalis really competing against? It seems unlikely that it is competing against TOD's for buyers, since it is so different. If these folks would otherwise live in Prince William or Charles county, maybe it is not so bad. The problem is is the state pays for highway upgrades to enable this, rather than (for example) re-establishing the grid over US-50 and I-95 necessary for communities near Metro to become viable.

Westphalia will also tend to re-inforce the support for an Outer Purple Line connecting New Carrolltion to Largo, Westphalia, Branch Avenue, and National Harbor.

by JimT on Sep 23, 2013 2:20 pm • linkreport

Last summer, I learned to grow organic vegetables from a new, young farmer on a piece of land a stone's throw from Westphalia (Radix Farm). She has dreams of growing her farm and enticing more and more young farmers to cultivate the great land so close to DC and its surrounding communities. We need those young farmers, and we can preserve land for them by encouraging development where it should go (at the Metro!)and preventing the huge sprawl development scheme at Westphalia.

by Kelly B on Sep 23, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

I propose that for every new parking space proposed in Westphalia, the developer should pay to decommission, dig up, and replant a never-used parking space elsewhere in Prince George's. Call it parking pavelot mitigation. Greenbelt has 1000s of unused parking places that could be reconverted to park space, fill-in development, or mini-agriculture. We would approve them for recommissioning as dirt, grass, or trees. No net new paveover in PG!

by Greenbelt on Sep 23, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

I agree in principle, however it's not an insurmountable distance IF there is good transit. I mean by comparison it's closer to dowtown than Rockville. Although I do think there is a lot of value in maintaining strong rural/urban boundaries that allows the county to maintain its agricultural heritage intact.

by BTA on Sep 23, 2013 3:07 pm • linkreport

@ Jim:

I think Councilman Davis was talking about Westphalia eventually rivaling Bowie in population and jobs, not necessarily in land area. And it is that desire—for an outer-Beltway greenfield to become one of the county's most populous areas—that is emblematic of what's wrong with Prince George's County.

Despite all their talk about TOD around Metro stations, the hard evidence shows that county leaders really have little sincere commitment to or interest in the idea. Most of the "big ticket" projects in the county (National Harbor, the casino, the outlet mall, Woodmore Towne Center, Konterra, Brandywine, Bowie Town Center, and Westphalia) are outside the Beltway and away from Metro.

To their credit, Rushern Baker and his administration have supported TOD more than their predecessors. Their decision to support siting the regional hospital at Largo and the FBI headquarters at Greenbelt were tangible steps in the right direction. But that support is heavily diluted by their continuing support of sprawl projects like Westphalia. It's the proverbial one step forward, two steps back.

Yes, it's always going to be cheaper (at least in the short term) to build on greenfield sites. But to your point, the long-term costs of sprawl (even mixed-use, edge city-type sprawl) to the county, in terms of ongoing maintenance of infrastructure, adverse environmental impacts, etc., is where the real problems come. The county can't adequately support all this new infrastructure in the hinterlands and also make all the infrastructure improvements needed inside the Beltway to make TOD around Metro stations a viable option for developers. And thus far, for more than 30 years, the county has consistently bet against TOD and in favor of suburban development.

by Bradley Heard on Sep 23, 2013 3:39 pm • linkreport

Several years ago, former Congressman Albert Wynn bragged about how he had obtained a promise of, and funding for, the Suitland Parkway/MD 4 interchange. Sometime after that the gas station at that intersection was torn down to prepare for construction. Then everything stopped and the powers that be deliberately forgot the promises they had made.

So, the interchange is not a new idea.

Seems to me that if Rushern Baker is truly interested in TOD, he will make any and all approvals of Westphalia development contingent upon DEVELOPER-FINANCED construction of a rail transit line--either

1. A true extension of Metro from Branch Avenue to Westphalia with an Andrews stop, or

2. A light rail line, with inside the station, across the platform transfer from the subway.

And if Baker truly believed in TOD, he would have made such a scheme also part of the gambling deal he once promised never to allow.

Unfortunately, Baker cannot be trusted. He lied about gambling and hos talk about supporting TOD is all BS, since he has supported many major projects that are nowhere near Metro while land around several PG stations remains undeveloped or near-slum crummy development.

by D.C. Russell on Sep 23, 2013 3:58 pm • linkreport

@Bradley H.,
Can you provide the contact information for who to contact about this? I see there are signs up again along Rt 4 about another meeting relating to the project. I cannot go (they usually have them at 10 am), but I would like to have an opportunity to express my dissatisfaction about this project. I purchased a home in that area because I liked the rural feel. Do we even know how is on board for the retail? Previously, they would drop the "luxury" word to entice people...but how often does that really pan out for PG County? Will it be another 1.5 million sq ft of mediocre retail that I can go just a couple miles to find already? Who will be using these 600 hotel rooms?! The days of "build it and they will come" are over. As you mentioned, it is notable that many of those involved in the initial planning process are now or soon will be behind bars. Stick with the TOD and don't waste resources on this sort of project.

by ArchStanton on Sep 23, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

Bradley, thanks once again for thorough information about development plans in PG Co.

Anything planned during Jack Johnsons admin should be withdrawn for close inspection, and probably rejected as "fruit of a poison tree". This plan looks like its objective is to create real estate losses so someone can take big deductions off federal taxes -600 hotel rooms? WTF?

Why should Co. residents bear the onus of paying for infrastructure that's not needed? There is already so much expensive under-utilized infrastructure (metro stations and immediate surrounding area.)

And...Did we learn nothing about transportation problems from National Harbor?

This type of development should be within 1/2 mi. of a metro station -any of the several under-utilized stations in the Co.

Greenfield should be protected.

This plan is really depressing, especially in light of the story about MDs high death rate attributable to emissions. Do PG Co. planners/officials WANT to kill off even more Co. residents with even more avoidable emissions?

by Tina on Sep 23, 2013 4:51 pm • linkreport

@ ArchStanton

Here's a couple of contacts for you. Right now, there's a hearing scheduled for 9/26 on a Detailed Site Plan for umbrella architecture relating to the project. That DSP number is DSP-13001. There's also a pending DSP for Phase 1 of the project, but no hearing has been scheduled on that yet. That DSP number is DSP-13006.

You should complete a Request to Become a Person of Record form at the linked site, and then sign up for both of those pending DSP applications. That will give you access to mailing notices of hearings and reports concerning the project. The MNCPPC staffer assigned is Henry Zhang, who can be reached at: Henry.Zhang@ppd.mncppc.org.

Also, more generally, you may want to reach out to the county executive's office: countyexecutive@co.pg.md.us.

by Bradley Heard on Sep 23, 2013 4:56 pm • linkreport

@Bradley -in the link to sign on to be a 'person of record' there is a required line for 'application number'. What is it?
Thanks.

by Tina on Sep 23, 2013 5:10 pm • linkreport

@ Tina : That's where you put in the DSP numbers I listed above: DSP-13001 and DSP-13006.

by Bradley Heard on Sep 23, 2013 5:14 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by steve on Sep 23, 2013 5:22 pm • linkreport

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by Tina on Sep 23, 2013 5:26 pm • linkreport

It does not matter how it is worded. There gas never been this much off the wall talk about stopping new development in Fairfax and Loudoun County but as soon as the thaught of a new development in suburban Maryland that can rival NOVA all hell breaks loose.

by steve on Sep 23, 2013 5:30 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by steve on Sep 23, 2013 5:32 pm • linkreport

@Steve -I happen to live in PG Co. and care about this sprawl plan for several reasons including where my Co. taxes go, but I am against this type of development ANYWHERE, including in No. VA (and communist China). Some of my reasons are expressed here:

http://chronicle.com/article/A-Scientist-Pushes-Urban/130404/

by Tina on Sep 23, 2013 5:35 pm • linkreport

@Tina, the only people here that needs psychological evaluation are the characters that support sabotaging new development projects in suburban md that will potentially rival nova.....

by steve on Sep 23, 2013 5:42 pm • linkreport

@Tina, sorry Im not falling for that okey doke. A true PG County tax payer will support development projects that will bring Business Growth, Upscale Retail Growth, Population Growth, Improved Highways, and Transit growth.

This project will encourage transit growth due to population growth but noo you people do not support that because it would be too much identical to how Tysons Corner, Fair Oaks, Reston, and Dulles/Sterling/Ashburn is growing.....

by steve on Sep 23, 2013 5:48 pm • linkreport

As residents and taxpayers here the region's poor cousin, we Prince Georges County don't consider ourselves to be in the position to turn our noses up at a development simply because it doesn't satisfy the urbanist "walkable transit-oriented" template.

It is true that PG hasn't maximized the development potential of the area around its Metro stations. But we should keep in mind that many of those areas simply don't have the space or the demographics that make a locating project like Westphalia in those areas feasible.

Steve's comments are a bit "out there" but he's not that far off-base.

We in PG can be very sensitive about outsiders trying to tell us how to develop and rightfully so.

When National Harbor was being planned, environmentalists and Alexandria residents came over here and packed hearings to voice their opposition to the project because, among other reasons, they were concerned about preserving their views of open space. All the while conveniently forgetting that while they were building up Old Alexandria into a desirable upscale mecca with a strong tax base, none of them came over to PG to ask our opinion.

Now PG again has to contend with people telling us how we should grow, this time lecturing us about "sprawl" and "open space" even though Westphalia is only 5 miles from the Branch Avenue Metro, right next to the Beltway, and surrounded by undeveloped areas. We have to put with being scolded about "unnecessary" road improvements by people who seem to be oblivious to the fact that DC gentrification has pushed DC's poor into close-in PG communities and thereby ruined any chance for upscale transit-oriented development in those areas.

As others have pointed out, development of Westphalia might become a catalyst for extending Metro beyond Branch Avenue(then any resulting "sprawl" will be OK with the urbanists since it will Metro accessible)

Everywhere else in the region is growing. We want ours.

by ceefer66 on Sep 23, 2013 7:14 pm • linkreport

I don't know about the design of Westphalia so it may be wonderfully designed to be walkable and compact and so forth.

But when the developers themselves are admitting that its just not a good idea without big transportation investments. That takes money that the county may not have or it will cut something else important.

This isn't to say that PG shouldn't grow or that its less deserving. But in order to avoid typical sprawl mistakes (which are innumerable in nova and MoCo) while reaping the benefits of growth then the county needs to be firm in its planning and its requirements for new development. Otherwise it'll be trading long term and more sustainable growth for short term gains. And it'll be that much harder to fix it (see: Tyson's).

by drumz on Sep 23, 2013 7:28 pm • linkreport

Moreover, this (and national harbor) aren't silver bullets that will put PG on par with its neighbors when the problems are systemic and not solvable by one development.

by drumz on Sep 23, 2013 7:31 pm • linkreport

The sad thing is that PG county seems to be emulating Loundon County rather than Arlington or Montgomery County.

Nothing worse than fighting the last war:
http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0123/p02s02-ussc.html

by oboe on Sep 23, 2013 8:40 pm • linkreport

Why is the title of this article so misleading? Developers did not "admit" Westphalia is a "bad deal for Prince George's". They merely expressed their understandable desire to attract a large, federal employer to their site and this is not the first time they've done so. If they truly want to achieve this goal, it's their job to sell it to the GSA.

This article is so transparently full of your own bias, it's laughable.

by notenoughpop on Sep 23, 2013 8:57 pm • linkreport

@ ceefer66:

We in PG can be very sensitive about outsiders trying to tell us how to develop and rightfully so.

Your "outsider" argument is both a red herring and, in this particular instance, factually inaccurate. I'm no "outsider." I live, pay taxes, and own property in Prince George's County, inside the Beltway. But even if I didn't, I could still have a worthwhile opinion about the consequences of Prince George's County's failure to embrace TOD.

The "outside agitator" argument was a common salvo for southern segregationists who tried to discredit out-of-town civil rights protesters. Martin Luther King, Jr., quickly and strongly dispensed with this argument in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. His words and reasoning have equal relevance here:

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states.... We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea.
Additionally, I take issue with your argument that the current comparatively lower socioeconomic demographics of the inner-Beltway communities have "ruined any chance for upscale transit-oriented development in those areas." The demographics are a challenge, certainly, but not an insurmountable challenge. Many now-thriving areas in DC and in other cities were once riddled in poverty, crime, and disinvestment.

It takes political will, focus, and most of all financial commitment to revitalize such areas. For example, if Prince George's County and the State of Maryland chose to invest $150 million in revitalizing the Capitol Heights and Addison Road Metro station areas, instead of spending that same amount to build a fancy interchange next to rural farmland, we would no doubt see a great deal more market interest in developing around those Metro stations.

Likewise, if the county sends the signal (through its investments and its focus) that it has abandoned the inner-Beltway, the development community will follow suit. These things are not unrelated.

by Bradley Heard on Sep 23, 2013 10:34 pm • linkreport

There is vacant land and vacant ex-federal office space within walking distance of the Branch Avenue Metro Station--inside the Beltway. PG officials pay lip service to doing something there, but never seem serious about it. And despite significant pedestrian traffic along the road that goes from Branch Avenue Station to Andrews, PG officials refuse to build sidewalks to protect the pedestrians.

The crummy, run down, crime ridden area immediately around the Naylor Road Station, just minutes from downtown, cries out for redevelopment. Although there is lots of pedestrian traffic, there are almost no sidewalks along the most direct routes from nearby garden apartments, and PG continues to tolerate the Metro fence that prohibits direct pedestrian access to the station on the Naylor Road side.

Also ignored by the PG pols is the large amount of vacant land next to the Southern Avenue Station--another station with limited pedestrian access.

It is hard to take Rushern Baler's rhetoric about TOD seriously when his actions belie his words.

by D.C. Russell on Sep 23, 2013 11:24 pm • linkreport

When Prince Georges County comes crying to the state and federal governments for road building dollars because they have created another autocentric mess, I hope they get the cold shoulder. Developers and buyers of development have to be told explicitly that there will be no relief because there is no money. Currently there is an implicit understanding that the county will fix the mess later. If buyers understand this a priori then the equation looks considerably different.

by Alex Pline on Sep 24, 2013 7:07 am • linkreport

If Westphalia can manage to get 50,000 people into the land it has, then it will be more like Hoboken than Bowie.

I wonder whether it is more productive at this juncture to focus on how to make it better than planned, than to hope that it goes away. If it represents a decade's investment in various arrangements, the momentum may be there and hoping to stop it may be tilting at windmills.

Clearly, some sort of streetcar, DMU, or light rail to Branch Avenue via Joint Base Andrews would make this alot better. Committment to a standard grid with connections to all of the surrounding areas (unlike National Harbor). And somehow use this development to place a comparable area (or more) in the rural tier permanently off-limits to development.

That is, more might be accomplished by working with the leadership to help them put a true smart growth face on this thing. I'm assuming that there are not alot of big investors who say "I want to relocate in PG no matter what...Hmm Largo or Westphalia," but rather Westphalia competes with Howard and Charles, while Largo competes with other metro-acessible.

by JimT on Sep 24, 2013 8:08 am • linkreport

Hahha. Who's gonna live there. Right now at the Branch Ave Metro there is a giant, seemingly empty apartment complex. The three years I worked near there there was no retail in the first floor retail sites.

This is a terrible idea.

Of course the issue is - its alot cheaper to build on greenfields than to buy up similar sized property in the existing suburbs near the metro stations.

Plus there is less stigma from crime and stuff.

by TomA on Sep 24, 2013 8:22 am • linkreport

Forgive me for being a little ignorant about the project, but have the developers made any accommodations for transit to pass through it, like at King Farm?

by Neil Flanagan on Sep 24, 2013 8:30 am • linkreport

Other than the BRT line proposed for PA Ave. In other words, is there any connectivity to the actually urbanized part?

by Neil Flanagan on Sep 24, 2013 8:34 am • linkreport

For over a year, I attended (on my personal time) Park and Planning meetings on Westphalia that continued to hold up the financial help planned by the county because the cover of night didn't cloak the deals. I continued to ask questions they couldn't answer. Apparently, they have answers now to all of those financial questions. I warn Prince Georgians, if you don't take hold of these "carpetbaggers" and politicians, you will be broke. Go ask Mr. Stone, who sat in the same meetings I did, about the way 6 schools will be funded and infrastructure paid for (police, fire, etc.)- taxpayers, raise your hand!!!!!

by Judy Robinson on Sep 24, 2013 10:31 am • linkreport

@ceefer66, I'm not anyone's poor cousin. Speak for yourself.

by Tina on Sep 24, 2013 10:59 am • linkreport

@Bradley Heard 10:34pm +1!!!

by Tina on Sep 24, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

@ Jim:

LOL @ Hoboken vs. Bowie. :-)

I agree the Westphalia momentum is strong and that there's little likelihood the current county leaders will actually change course, but I don't know if the solution is to figure out how much more lipstick we can put on this pig to make it seem like a better idea. What really needs to happen is that we need to hold our political leaders accountable for the wrong-headed decisions they make. What I said in 2010, before the last election, is equally true today:

We need elected leaders who will do more than just talk about the benefits of transit-oriented development. We need them to have the discipline to work together to make it happen.
The other thing we need to do is insist that sprawl developers pay the true cost of their sprawl. That means funding the initial construction and the ongoing maintenance of roads and other infrastructure necessary to sustain their new development. As I said in the post, Walton's $29 million purchase of this greenfield was a steal, and they know it. It's even more of a bargain when you know off the bat that the state's going to hand you a $150 million present in the form of a new interchange right next to your development. And if they can get the state and/or county to fund most of the cost of the transit connection, then Walton is really winning.

D.C. Russell's is right when she says in her earlier comment that any approval of Westphalia should be contingent on a developer-financed Metro or light rail extension. Additionally, Westphalia should form a special taxing district to fund the construction and ongoing maintenance of their roads, etc. Eventually, they can incorporate into their own muncipality. If they want to be a "new town" so badly, they should assume the responsibility of municipal government.

@ Neil Flanagan:

They haven't submitted a full detailed site plan yet, but in their resolution approving their coceptual site plan, the Planning Board stated the following about Westphalia's proposed transit connection: "A transit area is located in the portion of the Core that extends south to Pennsylvania Avenue and is currently foreseen as a park-and-ride location for a future bus rapid-transit station, but could eventually allow for a rail station."

by Bradley Heard on Sep 24, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

drumz( But when the developers themselves are admitting that its just not a good idea without big transportation investments. That takes money that the county may not have or it will cut something else important.)

- It's clear that the delvelopers may have been bribed/brain washed if it was true to what was said...

by steve on Sep 24, 2013 11:46 am • linkreport

notenoughpop( This article is so transparently full of your own bias, it's laughable.)

- More like anti-PG/Maryland bias.....

by steve on Sep 24, 2013 11:54 am • linkreport

@Neil

Yes, per the PG Master Transportation Plan, there is currently a spur of the Southern Maryland Light Rail project which curves north past the Branch Ave. Metro station to Westphalia. There is also a spur from the blue line (if you look at map 19) that planners hope will also go to Westphalia. It's also intersected by the Purple Line.

http://mncppcapps.org/planning/publications/Publication_download.cfm?FilePath=http://www.mncppcapps.org/planning/Publications/PDFs/238/Part%206%20Maps.pdf

So in a sense, officials do hope it will one day become a hub served by a multitude of transit options, it's just really far flung into the future.

If that infrastructure existed now, it'd be a great cooperative, serving personnel from Joint Base Andrews so it has a reliable intersection to spur development. Many great cities form at crossroads. Right now there's none at Westphilia, it's just before it's time.

by Swftkat on Sep 24, 2013 12:08 pm • linkreport

Bradley Heard( Your "outsider" argument is both a red herring and, in this particular instance, factually inaccurate. I'm no "outsider." I live, pay taxes, and own property in Prince George's County, inside the Beltway. But even if I didn't, I could still have a worthwhile opinion about the consequences of Prince George's County's failure to embrace TOD.)

- Anyone can claim that they reside/pay taxes in PG County but show Extreme Doubts of Credibility when they express venom hate towards improving the growth of Business, Development, Population, and Highway Growth in PG County/Maryland...

by steve on Sep 24, 2013 12:36 pm • linkreport

Tina( @ceefer66, I'm not anyone's poor cousin. Speak for yourself.)

- How can you be the poor cousin when you are the rich cousin that inherit money from capitalists, lol....

by steve on Sep 24, 2013 1:17 pm • linkreport

Your "outsider" argument is both a red herring and, in this particular instance, factually inaccurate. I'm no "outsider."
------

A "Red Herring"?

Have you read the comments?

As for the title of the article, it's misleading. The developers have said no such thing.

You want to express an opinion and suggest alternatives? Fine. But don't put words in people's mouths.

by ceefer66 on Sep 24, 2013 1:25 pm • linkreport

Tina, @ceefer66, I'm not anyone's poor cousin. Speak for yourself.)
------

You know what I mean, Tina so spare me the insults.

by ceefer66 on Sep 24, 2013 1:30 pm • linkreport

@ Swftkat:

That proposed outer-Beltway alignment for the Purple Line extension from New Carrollton to Alexandria, as outlined in the 2009 MPOT, is another example of the pro-Westphalia sprawl-driven politicking that made its way into county land use policy, courtesy of former CE Jack Johnson, former District 6 CM and PZED Chair Sam Dean, and company. It would squander vital opportunities to provide more direct transit connections to existing major uses such as FedEx Field, and to redevelop several existing automobile-oriented commercial centers inside the Beltway.

A better alignment for the Purple Line extension would proceed inside the Beltway, connecting Largo, FedEx Field, Morgan Blvd, Penn/Mar, Branch Av, Marlow Heights, and National Harbor before heading across the Wilson Bridge.

@ ceefer66:

Yes, your outsider argument is a red herring, and it was your words. And no, the title isn't misleading. The developers admit their project makes no sense without transit connections, and they want the county and state to help foot the bill. That's a bad deal for PGC, when we already have 15 existing and underutilized transit connections, via Metro, and several more on the way, via the Purple Line.

by Bradley Heard on Sep 24, 2013 1:41 pm • linkreport

Bradley Heard, so basically you are promoting anti-Growth for PG County which is no surprise.....

by steve on Sep 24, 2013 1:50 pm • linkreport

@ceefer66 - It's not an insult to ask you/anyone to refrain from presuming to include me in an expression of a point of view based solely on sharing a superficial characteristic. To use your own words:

...don't put words in people's mouths.

I happen to share a superficial characteristic with you, residing in the same county. But I do not see myself as any ones "poor cousin" because of that, as you apparently do, and I clearly have a different point of view than you regarding this Westphalia plan.

by Tina on Sep 24, 2013 1:54 pm • linkreport

I wonder whether it is more productive at this juncture to focus on how to make it better than planned, than to hope that it goes away

As a PG county taxpayer, what would make the project better planned is if taxpayer money was not being used to subsidize the project. While the project is too sprawling and distant from transit to be ideal, it's not too problematic in design to proceed given this late stage. The biggest problem is the enormous subsidy taxpayers will be providing for this project when there is underinvestment in inside-the-beltway communities.

Priorities are not straight when $5M goes to TNI -- the initiative to improve and develop six close-in neighborhoods (kentlands, langley, oxon hill, bladensburg, suitland) -- while hundreds of millions go to subsidies for this one developer.

you people do not support that because it would be too much identical to how Tysons Corner, Fair Oaks, Reston, and Dulles/Sterling/Ashburn is growing.

Instead of trying to copy Fairfax/Loudoun, how about modeling growth after Arlington or DC? They've been just as successful financially while avoiding the transportation problems of Fairfax/Loudoun.

by Falls Church on Sep 24, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

Shorter echo of what Falls Church said. It's not the growth its the planning. And particularly, the type of planning and the design and uses it promotes.

Fascinating how a story about planning in Arlington means that Smart Growth (however you define it, if not Smart Growth then GGW or whoever) just doesn't care about the consequences of development but an article about planning in PG means that same crowd wants to stop all growth to the detriment of residents.

by drumz on Sep 24, 2013 2:58 pm • linkreport

Steve--
Who said anything about being against development in PG County!? Read what is actually being written. People are against the Westphalia project because it will HINDER DEVELOPMENT ELSEWHERE. We aren't against smart development that leverages transit investments already made (like the existing 15 Metro stations). Westphalia is an opportunity cost calculation. By supporting it, PG Co loses the opportunity to support other transit-oriented development in the country. Why put up a disconnected edge city when there are so many other low hanging fruit locations for (re)development? Sure, go ahead and build the equivalent of Westphalia adjacent to a Metro station. You get the same number of jobs and you utilize the existing infrastructure instead of dreaming about extending some light rail that won't exist for at least 8 years.

by ArchStanton on Sep 24, 2013 3:07 pm • linkreport

"Fascinating how a story about planning in Arlington means that Smart Growth (however you define it, if not Smart Growth then GGW or whoever) just doesn't care about the consequences of development but an article about planning in PG means that same crowd wants to stop all growth to the detriment of residents."
------

My sentiments exactly.

by ceefer66 on Sep 24, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

Bradley Heard, so basically you are promoting anti-Growth for PG County which is no surprise.....

Steve, it's pretty clear that Bradley and everyone else here commenting against this development isn't against growth in PG. Many of us live here and simply want the county to better use what it's already created, concentrating development where the infrastructure is already in place so that we don't shell out massive public subsidies to private entities. The bottom line is that this state/county money would be far more effective if it was spent on inside-the-beltway PGC communities.

by thump on Sep 24, 2013 4:15 pm • linkreport

Except the story would be very different if A: Westphalia was somehow closer to an existing metro station or B: instead of the developers saying "boy, this won't work without the county doing this" they said "hey in exchange for us building this interchange and extending the Green line to here will you let us build this". In those cases I think a lot of people would be supportive.

In short: it's not the growth. It's the planning.

by drumz on Sep 24, 2013 4:16 pm • linkreport

@Tina,

"I happen to share a superficial characteristic with you, residing in the same county. But I do not see myself as any ones "poor cousin" because of that, as you apparently do, and I clearly have a different point of view than you regarding this Westphalia plan.'
----

I am a bit confused why you, as a Prince Georges resident and taxpayer (I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt here) would be opposed to a project that would add to the tax base, raise the median family income, and serve as a catalyst for further upscale development in PG simply because it doesn't fit what "you" consider to be the "right" type of development.

I've seen your comments for a while - a couple of years actually - and many of them are strongly anti-suburb and anti-road. To oppose this project simply because it's not transit-dependent is pretty simplistic, especially considering that PG County is starving for the type of businesses and residents that Westphalia is targeting.

I suppose I have selfish reasons for wanting this project to succeed. You see, I'm paying significantly more gas taxes to build a trolley line that will increase property values on the other side of the County. And I don't mind because I see the big picture. Pardon me for getting a bit sensitive when people express a desire to block a project that will likely increase my property values partly at MY OWN EXPENSE because THEY won't see beyond their own selfish interests.

by ceefer66 on Sep 24, 2013 4:18 pm • linkreport

I can't speak for Tina but wanting to see a specific planning regimen implemented (with certain expectations for transportation,design, location, etc.) and thus opposing a development because it doesn't meet those criteria (which the county says they endorse) doesn't make someone anti-road or anti-suburb. It just makes them someone who wants to see things done right the first time. It's not like the owners of the land there can move everything over to Charles County. It's better in the long run to get it right the first time or else you trade long term sustainability for short term gains.

by drumz on Sep 24, 2013 4:30 pm • linkreport

@ Ceefer66 -I'm confused why you think this project will add to the tax base.

It's clear from the planning and from statements by the developers themselves that tax payer funded infrastructure will be needed to make this development accessible to anyone who does not intend to hike in on a deer trail. Thats the big picture.

An even bigger picture is the public health costs of car-dependent environments.

by Tina on Sep 24, 2013 4:34 pm • linkreport

@ drumz

Bingo. The county has a plan. Stick to it. These "pet" projects detract from that overall vision.

@ceefer

Wouldn't we get that same increase in tax base and other benefits if the county better utilized the existing infrastructure? Actually, there are arguments that these huge greenfield developments actually COST more over a long period of time due to the expanded infrastructure required...not to mention the schools, police/fire/emergency enhancements, etc compared to redevelopment and infill. So there is an argument that we get a better use of resources developing within the Beltway and adjacent to transit.

by ArchStanton on Sep 24, 2013 4:37 pm • linkreport

...and what @drumz said.

Add to that - I care about protecting green fields, farm land close to population centers and wild life habitat.

by Tina on Sep 24, 2013 4:38 pm • linkreport

...and what @ArchStanton said..

by Tina on Sep 24, 2013 4:40 pm • linkreport

Falls Church( Instead of trying to copy Fairfax/Loudoun, how about modeling growth after Arlington or DC? They've been just as successful financially while avoiding the transportation problems of Fairfax/Loudoun.)

- That will require developing 90% of PG County with Office Buildings, Upscale Shopping Malls, High Rise Apartments, dense city blocks, Complete the missing Freeway links, and extend subway lines in order to model after dc/arlington and if you have a problem with that then you have no point of bringing up the quoted statement.

by steve on Sep 24, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

ArchStanton( Who said anything about being against development in PG County!? Read what is actually being written. People are against the Westphalia project because it will HINDER DEVELOPMENT ELSEWHERE.)

- You mean people from across the river are against it due to it Potentially taking away Revenue and Business Growth away from NOVA.

by steve on Sep 24, 2013 4:56 pm • linkreport

I'll add to the chorus. It's about ROI, and when we're talking about building more school, roads, sewers, electrical, police, fire/ems and supporting all those things over multiple life-cycles, it's perfectly appropriate to ask if this type of development provides a positive one. Short answer is, very probably no...and the money would be far better spent where infrastructure is already in place.

by thump on Sep 24, 2013 5:02 pm • linkreport

thump( it's pretty clear that Bradley and everyone else here commenting against this development isn't against growth in PG. Many of us live here and simply want the county to better use what it's already created, concentrating development where the infrastructure is already in place so that we don't shell out massive public subsidies to private entities. The bottom line is that this state/county money would be far more effective if it was spent on inside-the-beltway PGC communities.)

- That's just a roundabout way of saying that you do not support New Upscale Growth in PG County/Maryland while Virginia continues to develop 50 miles away from DC.

by steve on Sep 24, 2013 5:03 pm • linkreport

Steve...
Why do you keep bringing up Northern Virginia!? Your responses are definite head scratchers.

by ArchStanton on Sep 24, 2013 7:20 pm • linkreport

Excellent piece Brad! Note that the whole scheme is 6000 acres. And the number of jobs promised is a fantasy. Capturing tens of thousands of jobs would have to come from streering the FBI away from Greenbelt Metro station.

by Cheryl Cort on Sep 24, 2013 8:57 pm • linkreport

While I am dubious about this project, I think we probably need some numbers to know whether ceefer66 is right or wrong. There are factors pointing in both directions and simple intuition can not tell us which forces are greater.

If I follow ceefer66, his optimism about this project is based largely on the assumptions that

  • Residential units in Westphalia will have higher market values than the average residential unit with the same amount of adults and children, so property taxes per family will rise
  • The average income of the residents will be higher than the average income of residents in the county, so income taxes will rise, and
  • The relatively compact nature of this development means that infrastructure costs per unit will be less than the countywide average
I am unclear about the magnitude of these effects. There is also the question as to whether this development comes at the expense of other upscale development closer to Metro, or somewhere farther out along MD-4, MD-5, or US-301. The point that this development has less cost and more tax revenue than the average, is less compelling if it comes at the expense of something that would be even more economical.

Recall that Wayne Curry pushed for an end to what he viewed as the cheap townhouses being built everywhere, in favor of larger units on larger lots. Of course that was then, and he was largely successful, though now we may have second thoughts on whether that was such a good idea. Even then, Glendenning was more interested in smart growth (and paying for the interchange to FedEx field).

Against the supposed benefits of this relatively upscale development, are the costs. There seem to be two different types of costs: the opportunity cost of what might happen elsewhere in Prince Georges County (or perhaps some other county), and the county subsidy.

Again, I think we need to better substantiate the magnitude of the county subsidy for Westphalia. The new interchange will be funded by the state, based largely on the feeling that it is already a failing intersection and traffic continues to worsen. I'm not sure whether there was ever any chance that those funds would go anywhere other than a freeway interchange, because of the political balance between Purple Line and highway funding. Conceivably, the US-1 widening could be accelerated instead, but College Park is already getting the Purple Line. So if this interchange was not built, the extra money would probably go to MD-210 or MD-5.

That said, the county surely does not need to pay for the rest of Westphalia's wish list. Clearly, some sort of special taxing district would be in order, perhaps to pay off bonds that would fund the upfront transportation improvement being sought. Maybe someone else can elaborate on how the new authority championed by Senator Miller relates.

by Jim Titus on Sep 24, 2013 10:04 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure whether there was ever any chance that those funds would go anywhere other than a freeway interchange, because of the political balance between Purple Line and highway funding. Conceivably, the US-1 widening could be accelerated instead, but College Park is already getting the Purple Line.

I think there's a problem with basing infrastructure spending on a desire to spread investment evenly around the county instead of pursuing the project with the highest return. Widening US-1 (a project that could include an improved streetscape and bike lanes) would be a better fit for the county's (and state's) smart growth vision than a new highway interchange.

Admittedly, my interests in PG are not near Westphalia but I can understand the desire of folks near there to get their fair share of spending. But, the investment could be in something other than a highway interchange.

That said, I think there's an issue with trying to cancel a project that's in such a late stage. It harms the county's credibility to make a 180 degree turn on something they've promised and worked on for such a long time.

by Falls Church on Sep 25, 2013 10:01 am • linkreport

The thing that I don't get is that office vacancies are high for drive-only suburban office regionally, and in Prince George's in particular -- so where's the market for new buildings that aren't all that convenient to anything in particular? "Build it and they will come" isn't how things work in the real world.

by Payton on Sep 25, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

@Jim Titus-I was unaware that Rt. 1 is possibly being widened. Do you know where that's supposed to happen? From my perch in Mt. Rainier, it seems like it needs to be narrowed substantially. Widening it here would be madness, even if it included bike lanes (there's already plenty of room, it's just all allotted to MV's).

@steve-[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] I still feel the need to respond to you.
Point 1-What does Virginia have to do w/ PGC? Continuing to reference NOVA doesn't make sense. Asserting that I (and others) want NOVA to grow at the expense of PGC is ludicrous.
Point 2-I'd prefer that we direct "new upscale growth" to areas where the infrastructure is already in place. Mt. Rainier is in discussions w/ a developer for a parcel at Eastern/RI Ave (Rt. 1), the Hyattsville Arts District development has been nothing but a success (and it's not "cheap"), The Mall at Prince Georges is basically empty and waiting for redevelopment (not to mention a number of other completely or mostly empty malls inside or directly adjacent the beltway), the shops at Queens Chapel are a shadow of their former selves, including the strip type mall directly behind them on Chillum Rd. (less than a 1/4 mile from a Metro station).
The point that you, and ceefer don't seem to understand is that THERE IS A TON OF OPPORTUNITY FOR INFILL DEVELOPMENT THAT WILL COST TAXPAYERS FAR LESS IN DIRECT SUBSIDIES AND FAR LESS IN OPPORTUNITIES LOST than building a new, massive greenfield development. I want a positive ROI for my tax dollars, this doesn't give me that.

by thump on Sep 25, 2013 10:46 am • linkreport

ArchStanton, You know very dmn well that if this project was in Southwest Fairfax County or Southern Prince William County there would not be any energy for the soo-called transit supporters to make a big deal like they are with this subject.

by Steve on Sep 25, 2013 11:30 am • linkreport

Right Falls Chruch.

I'm a PG County resident as well from the southern part of the county.

ceefeer, we're a small group, but so far there are more PG county residents in this discussion that don't support this development. I understand you want this project to succeed with good reasons, the supposed development is supposed to attract higher income residents and higher end retail supporting PGs tax base. However, we've tried this with the National Harbor and it's still taking it's time getting off the ground even with the support of the greater region it's supposed to cater to.

It's tough to say that a remote development will have any sizable notice outside the county.

I agree with the others when they bring up mention that there are many developments both in and even outside the beltway that deserve more support than this development.

So who's more deserving?

For this area near Westphalia in particular, I feel the whole of the Route 5 corridor through Clinton would be better off with the reinvestment than Westphalia. There is a lot of potential to redevelop the Old Branch Avenue strip into what's envisioned at Westphalia. There's legacy and infrastructure and it's right next to Joint Andrews Airforcebase, has a pending light rail line that has the full support of PG and Charles County AND it captures much of the Southern Maryland commuter base. That commuter base can be tapped as a commercial wealth before returning to Waldorf and points south. Westphalia doesn't have anything drawing it to its core. It isn't a destination of anything remarkable and there's little beyond the base that would draw people to it as it exists. How does it draw business if it isn't poised as any kind of vibrant destination? It will have to build something really unique to capture a market and so far there's nothing that indicates this nor is there anything I feel the region doesn't already have that it can cater to. That's one of its major flaws right now.

Outside of the Route 5 corridor, there's been talk about redeveloping Oxon Hill for ages. It's visible from the beltway and one of the first things people see in Maryland (well before the National Harbor arrived anyway), has legacy, history, the semblance of a street grid in the neighborhoods, hotels, office space, retail outlets, Rosecroft Raceway for horse racing and for families, a brand new state of the art high school and it's poised for light rail connections. It's got some great potential for redevelopment. Sure, there are a ton of depressed looking buildings in the area, but they're utilized. There were plans for it's development and restructuring the grid in the 'downtown' off Oxon Hill road, but it's always pushed to the wayside. Some investment could really catalyze serious development here.

There's also Upper Marlboro. Yes, it's farther out, but it's historic, serves as the county seat and already has a tiny close in 'downtown' that is comfortable to walk through. It's definitely not going to be served by transit anytime in the near future, but I could see a nice community built up in this area that fits the ideals of those who wish to be a bit more remote than city dwellers but still want a slice of walkability and comfortable community.

Then we have all the neighborhoods inside the beltway. I'm not as familiar with this territory, though simple investment around metro stations wouldn't be a bad idea. It's easy to say that, though these areas simply have a hard time attracting any investment. Crime hasn't been as bad in the last few years, but it will probably take a few more years of lower crime for anyone to get over the stigma of this part of PG being a bad area.

Until then these other places probably serve the county better, help EXISTING residents, and will offer the same growth as Westphalia (if properly invested) without the added cost of overblown new highway and utility infrastructure netting more money for the county.

by Swftkat on Sep 25, 2013 11:39 am • linkreport

Cheryl Cort, why the FBI and not other Public and Private industries relocating to Westphalia... Or is it fear that it will attract businesses in NOVA to relocate to Westphalia....

by Steve on Sep 25, 2013 11:39 am • linkreport

"ArchStanton, You know very dmn well that if this project was in Southwest Fairfax County or Southern Prince William County there would not be any energy for the soo-called transit supporters to make a big deal like they are with this subject. "

There is no available land in SW fairfax county. The only large block of land there that is not already developed, is in a rural preservation area near Clifton. Lorton Station was done before GGW, CSG, etc were around.

There likely would be opposition from CSG to anything like this in PWC. Probably not as much discussion on GGW simply because there are fewer active participants from that area.

We did debate a development in Loudoun a while back - density outside walking distance from transit. We didnt all agree, but those who supported it pointed out it was only about one mile from one of the new Silver Line stations (which transit line is already on its way, whether the development gets built or not). I would note strong opposition expressed here to the Bi-County parkway, and mixed opinions on the Silver Line phase 2.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 25, 2013 11:39 am • linkreport

Steve, that's because those counties in Virginia don't already have the existing infrastructure like PG does.

The problem, as people keep saying, is that PG has tons of infrastructure, but doesn't properly use it.

It's like saying I've got a million dollars worth of things lying around, but instead I take a loan to spend a million on things I already have.

I've essentially just wasted two million dollars because my things still aren't being utilized and the new things may not be utilized to their fullest either.

by Swftkat on Sep 25, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

Patron, that "build it and they will come" reference worked for Western Fairfax County and Eastern Loudoun County....

by Steve on Sep 25, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

Swftkat, where the

by Steve on Sep 25, 2013 11:53 am • linkreport

Swiftkat, where was all the outrage with the years of mass developing between Tysons Corner and Dullest Airport while US 1 has been abandoned for years.....

by Steve on Sep 25, 2013 11:57 am • linkreport

Steve, much of the development in Loudoun and Fairfax was catalyzed by Dulles Airport. Dignitaries, deliveries and other businesses first enter Washington through that airport and thus see the open land and invest. They want to do business on the way to the Capitol.

This is why Tysons is as big as it is today and why everything else in the Dulles Toll Road corridor continues to grow exponentially.

PG is kinda a backwater county in the eyes of the region. There's nothing to seriously draw people to it.

I'm not against growth in PG at all, I love my county and I've been here all my life. I'm just stating the way things are.

If we want growth in PG, we need a reason to keep it growing and a reason for people to keep coming here and WANTING to come here.

My girlfriend lived in Virginia her whole life and was afraid of setting foot in to Maryland half jokingly when she met me because she thought 'that's where all the problems happen.'I get this from friends and family outside the area as well.

It's a cultural stigma that's a greater threat to PGs long term growth.

These aren't as easily fixed by a 'good' development or two.

If people want to come to PG, residents need to learn to love where they live and tell people this is the place to be and that they're happy here. To do that, we need to reinvest in EXISTING communities.

That's what needs to happen.

by Swftkat on Sep 25, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport

@Swftkat, I like that analogy.

by Tina on Sep 25, 2013 11:59 am • linkreport

Thump, all that typing is not going to change the fact that you do not support PG County/Suburban Maryland to develop on the same or greater than scale of NOVA....

by Steve on Sep 25, 2013 12:09 pm • linkreport

Unless PG county develops the exact same way that Steve wants it to develop we're all part of the conspiracy.

by drumz on Sep 25, 2013 12:16 pm • linkreport

Swftkat, so in other words it is best to abandon any form of new development in PG County except for areas near metro stations which will continue the bad stigma of people from VA and other states especially further south to continue to avoid suburban Maryland because it is nothing like upscale and business friendly NOVA.

by Steve on Sep 25, 2013 12:38 pm • linkreport

drumz, I did not make you dislike PG County/Maryland, your doing that all by yourself.

by Steve on Sep 25, 2013 12:40 pm • linkreport

steve

Todays WaPo Local has an article about school budget cuts in Fairfax, and recently we have had items on a murder of a high school football in Prince William. All is not skittles and beer over here.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 25, 2013 12:55 pm • linkreport

@thump: The US-1 widening project that I know about is from the Capital Beltway south at least as far as College Park. You can sort-of tell that this is coming if you look new buildings north of the University of Maryland. The plan is for bike lanes but the City has lobbied SHA to put in a cycle track instead, so far to no avail. I think it's still about 10 years away.

@Falls Church: I think there's a problem with basing infrastructure spending on a desire to spread investment evenly around the county instead of pursuing the project with the highest return.

As always, you take a balanced view toward things here. My general impression is that alot of deals were struck to get the transportation funding act passed. There was never a way to get landowners near proposed stations to pay for the Purple Line. People who drive down MD-4 buy alot of gas, and some even live in Senator Miller's District. Alot of them probably would have been happier to buy cheaper gas and live with the intersection as it is. People who wanted to see the gas tax passed and Purple Line built knew that half the money would go to this type of highway improvement and pushed it anyway.

@Swftkat: Can you articulate a little more about the particular state road improvements you have in mind for Oxon Hill and the Camp Springs/Clinton area? Maybe something can be done to raise their profile in the County's requests to SHA. I personally focus more on the bike stuff in that letter, but that letter tends to have a real impact on what the state funds when it gets the money.

by JimT on Sep 25, 2013 1:28 pm • linkreport

AWalkerInTheCity, no place in the world is perfect however there are places that are worst off than other places, but you already knew that.

by Steve on Sep 25, 2013 2:26 pm • linkreport

@JimT-Thanks..I now recall hearing about this a while back. I wish the SHA would get with the program in close-in burbs though and stop ramming highway geometries through them.

Steve-I give up. You're right. I would prefer that the house I bought in PG County loses value and that amenities like banks, restaurants, grocery stores, and clothiers go to Northern Virginia. When I purchased my home in PGC, it was b/c I saw the massive potential of the Rt. 1 corridor and wanted to be able to actively undermine it in the hopes that NOVA land values would increase. Then I could NOT buy in NOVA b/c I could no longer afford to. I pushed the city to put in permeable pavers in the adjacent alley b/c I new that it was possible that weeds would grow between them and that city staff might only cut them or spray a couple times of years. The improved aesthetics and stormwater mitigation from the pavers increased my property values a bit, but you know "ewww...weeds", no developer would tolerate weeds in an alley, and thus my property values have clearly declined. FACT!* I'm also about to put up a fence on my property and I'm springing for a fancy-pants cedar and rod wire one b/c I know that the wood will rot faster than one of those sturdy, property value raising chain-link numbers. I'm simply trying to speed the devaluing process along.
Granted, my plan makes no sense what-so-ever, and I'm going to lose my shirt if it comes to fruition, but I'll be damned if I don't consider myself an evil genius! MUAH HA HA HA HA!!!!!

*Not an actual fact

by thump on Sep 25, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

I pushed the city to put in permeable pavers in the adjacent alley ...

Is that why the pavers stop at your property line and don't go all the way to [the next street up]?

Even so, I heard from a good source that the pavers fixed the flooding-the-yard-with-every-rain problem on the property adjacent to yours.

by Tina on Sep 25, 2013 3:35 pm • linkreport

Tina-No, they just ran out of money. The pavers were what was left over from the kiss and ride parking lot job. OR...it's possible that they are really trying to get upscale development to relocate to NOVA. I haven't decided yet.

by thump on Sep 25, 2013 4:30 pm • linkreport

@Thump:
I think you need another "HA" to be truly diabolical.

by ArchStanton on Sep 25, 2013 4:37 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Steve on Sep 25, 2013 5:01 pm • linkreport

When all else fail make up stale sarcastic comments, lol

by Steve on Sep 25, 2013 5:12 pm • linkreport

Not sarcastic Steve...I'm accepting your argument. You've thoroughly convinced me that I'm working against my own self-interest as a property owner in PGC and actively working to promote NOVA despite all my previous protestations to the contrary.
Before you couldn't believe that I (or others) weren't. Now that I've said I am, you still don't believe me. I'm not sure now how I can convince you.

by thump on Sep 25, 2013 5:26 pm • linkreport

Thank you soo very much for proving my point.

Checkmate!!!

by Steve on Sep 25, 2013 5:43 pm • linkreport

@ Jim Titus, Falls Church, Swftkat, and others, re: "I'm not sure whether there was ever any chance that those funds would go anywhere other than a freeway interchange, because of the political balance between Purple Line and highway funding."

I definitely get that it probably was a political necessity to devote some significant portion of the transportation money to highway projects. But we can do that in a way that still enhances the goal of supporting existing communities. The governor and SHA prioritized the MD-4 interchange near Westphalia because it was highlighted in PGC's 2013 priorities list.

There are many other state highway projects in and around existing communities that could and should've been prioritized in support of TOD. You all have mentioned the US-1 improvements. Around my neighborhood, both major roads connecting the Capitol Heights and Addison Road Metro stations (MD-214/Central Ave and MD-332/Old Central Ave) are in need of major work (sidewalk, crosswalk, and streetlight enhancements, boulevard treatments, utility relocation and burial, etc.).

Further west, improvements could be made along MD-210/Indian Head Hwy to better connect Southern Ave Metro Station and National Harbor (adding priority bus lanes, etc.). And if suburban highway projects are politically necessary to balance things out, I agree that it would've been better to do something along MD-5, like install priority bus lanes b/w Branch Ave and Waldorf.

But none of those things made the county priority list, so SHA and the governor didn't consider them for funding. Sad...

by Bradley Heard on Sep 25, 2013 10:42 pm • linkreport

Checkmate!!!

No joke..I just snorted out some coffee.

by thump on Sep 26, 2013 10:32 am • linkreport

Key word is snorting, smdh

by Steve on Sep 26, 2013 5:50 pm • linkreport

Send this to Richard Layman. Perfect example of the Growth Machine in action.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Sep 27, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

More like anti-Growth machine against suburban MD....

by Steve on Sep 27, 2013 5:05 pm • linkreport

Steve: Perhaps I didn't make myself clear about what "Growth Machine" means.

Please start here: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2777096

or here: http://web.archive.org/web/20050224033427/http://nw-ar.com/face/molotch.html

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Sep 27, 2013 5:10 pm • linkreport

I am refering to the same ol folx that will find any and every excuse to criticise any development project in Suburban MD that would potentially rival NOVA....

by Steve on Sep 27, 2013 5:48 pm • linkreport

NO NO NO to Westphalia.

Develop the land and areas about the current underused metro station in PGCounty: New Carrollton, Branch Avenue, Southern Avenue, Morgan Blvd, etc.

by lilkunta on Sep 28, 2013 8:59 pm • linkreport

As a resident in Mitchellville who is pretty keenly aware of PG County's politics, I can tell you that Westphalia is going to happen because it has the support of the strongest voices on the Council. The same is true for the Whole Foods in CPark. I don't know if people here are right that the Westphalias and National Harbors of the world harm TOD in the county. It seems to me that before either NH existed or the plan for Westphalia, TOD in the county wasn't doing well because of poor placement of metro stations in 'undesirable' communities and poor TOD planning. And that was true before there was a National Harbor and is still true today.

by Ron T. on Sep 29, 2013 12:10 pm • linkreport

@ Ron T.: When you say "undesirable" communities, I assume you're referring to the socioeconomic demographics. But those demographics can change over time, if the county were actually committed to developing those inner-Beltway areas instead of places like Westphalia. It's really the county's disinvestment in these the inner Beltway communities that makes them so "undesirable" -- both for developers and the residents.

by Bradley Heard on Sep 29, 2013 12:48 pm • linkreport

I don't think the cause of these communities being undesirable is the County's disinvestment. It is a function of over-concentrating a great deal of poor and minority residents in these areas. @Bradley Heard it sounds like you're talking about "the DC treatment" of gentrification and displacement, which I am not necessarily against, but let's call it what it is. If the County assists developers through tax incentives and/or eminent domain in making these communities more "mixed income" (which really means displace quite a few of the poor and minority and bring in more white and high income), then what you are proposing can be accomplished. An overconcentration of poor residents definitely exists in PG County's inner beltway areas, but very few have the courage to say so. Again, though, I'm not sure I agree with you that promoting the Westphalias and National Harbors of the world would prevent the County from pursuing such a strategy of "urban renewal" in the inner beltway TOD areas.

by Ron T. on Sep 29, 2013 4:29 pm • linkreport

@ Ron T.: No, I'm not definitely talking about displacing low income or minority people from the inner Beltway of Prince George's County. We do, of course, need to find a way to infuse higher-income and more highly-educated people (of whatever race) to the inner Beltway, but that can be accomplished without kicking the poor out. Basically, we need to increase population, income, and educational attainment levels, while also ensuring that affordable living options remain for all income levels. That's the goal.

As far as race is concerned, PGC is already the wealthiest African-American county in the nation. It's just that wealthy blacks (like wealthy whites) currently tend to live outside the Beltway. Race doesn't necessarily serve as a proxy for income levels, particularly in PGC.

by Bradley Heard on Sep 29, 2013 7:57 pm • linkreport

Mr. Heard, I don't think you're dealing in reality. More upper income yuppies moved into the District only when the District started replacing "projects" with higher end residential and other amenities. The increase in property values and rents will lead to displacement. Efforts to "relocate" the poor in the new development never works. Only a minor portion of the pre-existing low income population isn't displaced by the new reality of higher expenses and property values.

by Ron T. on Sep 29, 2013 8:13 pm • linkreport

@ Ron T.: Revitalizing and redeveloping an urban area does carry some risk of displacement, due to the increasing property values, but that's certainly no reason not to revitalize an area in need of revitalization. Our 15 Metro stations shouldn't be left barren. To mitigate the risk of displacement, it's important to have policies in place, such as inclusionary zoning, to insure that a variety of income levels can be accommodated, even as an area's overall affluence increases.

by Bradley Heard on Sep 29, 2013 8:30 pm • linkreport

Some "risk"? How nice and PC of you. Yes IZ sounds great in theory but, in the end, it only winds up "including" a few. Again, I'm not opposed to gentrifying the inner beltway in Prince George's, which is what you're advocating. But let's be clear that that's what we're talking about.

by Ron T. on Sep 29, 2013 8:37 pm • linkreport

@ Ron T: As I'm sure you're aware, "gentrification" is a highly charged and amorphous word, often used by folks who are opposed to seeing a particular area change (for whatever reason). As I've said before, the increase in property values occasioned by revitalization and redevelopment naturally carries a risk of displacement. That's an economic reality. To guard against that, one has to be intentional about ensuring housing affordability. It's not easy, but it can be done.

Surely you're not suggesting that to avoid "gentrification" and "displacement" in urbanized areas inside the Beltway, we should just keep developing greenfields in outer suburbia? That would be a creative argument, indeed.

by Bradley Heard on Sep 29, 2013 9:02 pm • linkreport

I guess I'm a little more straight forward in calling things what they are. I actually agree with you on gentrifying the inner beltway areas, though I probably don't agree with you that this means that we shouldn't have pursued National Harbor or shouldn't pursue Westphalia. I do think it is wishful thinking that IZ is going to do anything more than save affordability for a small few, just as the article you linked suggests.

by Ron T. on Sep 29, 2013 9:10 pm • linkreport

lillunta, sorry kid but no matter how much you hate Maryland they will build Westphilia project wether you folx from NOVA like it or not....

by Steve on Sep 30, 2013 11:03 am • linkreport

Ron T, exactly.... If TOD was successful as these anti-PG folx claim then why is it taking almost 30 years to build the soo-called crystal city like development at the Greenbelt Metro Station while Reston, Tysons, Fair Oaks, Ballston, and Pentagon City is far more advance than PG County.

by Steve on Sep 30, 2013 11:10 am • linkreport

What is "folx"?

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Sep 30, 2013 11:14 am • linkreport

that answer is simple steve, Arlington prioritized building near its transit stations while PG didn't. That's in fact Bradley's thesis, that PG is ignoring its own transit. According to you though, they're doing that because PG government just wants to be less cool than Va. You may be right.

by drumz on Sep 30, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

Bradley Heard, they are developing greenfields in NOVA, Richmond Suburbs, and the Hampton Roads area especially near Virginia Beach and none of those places are worst off than PG County...

by Steve on Sep 30, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport

Drumz, your right it is an easy answer; the property tax is very high near the transit centers in PG County compared to NOVA plus it is a known FACT! that NOVA is far more business and development friendly than PG County/Maryland Suburbs.

by Steve on Sep 30, 2013 12:29 pm • linkreport

So, Bradley's thesis is correct. PG is better off for focusing on its existing infrastructure rather than throwing a bunch of new money at Wesphalia. Even if Westphalia represents a larger short term gain.

by drumz on Sep 30, 2013 12:33 pm • linkreport

@Ron T. -when you say "poor and minority" in reference to PG county -- you are aware that PG is majority black?

by Tina on Sep 30, 2013 12:40 pm • linkreport

Bradley's thesis is biased against developing PG County/Maryland Suburbs in favor of supporting more Business and Economic Growth in NOVA.

by Steve on Sep 30, 2013 12:41 pm • linkreport

Tins, playing the race card only proves that not only there is an existence of anti-Growth against PG County/Suburban Maryland on favor of developing NOVA but also preventing the majority African American populated PG County from developing as rapid as Atlanta and Dekalb County, GA which is similar to PG County in terms of African Ameerican population however Dekalb County has more upscale retail, business growth, and better built roads/highways than PG County.

by Steve on Sep 30, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

The [Deleted for violating the comment policy.] responsible for advising county officials on transit just got promoted: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/syrian-born-leader-tapped-to-improve-permitting-and-inspections-in-prince-georges/2013/09/22/d1b2c27e-1572-11e3-be6e-dc6ae8a5b3a8_story.html

Jack johnson lives on

by jonathan on Sep 30, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

*@steve- "playing the race card"? I wrote the exact same thing you did:

majority African American populated PG County

and

PG is majority black

If anyone "played the race card" it was the person who insinuated anyone unhappy w/ the Wesphalia plan wants to punish PG and the majority black population living there.

by Tina on Sep 30, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

*I know i shouldn't bother...

by Tina on Sep 30, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by MLD on Sep 30, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Steve on Sep 30, 2013 3:25 pm • linkreport

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