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Prince George's TOD is big business opportunity

Prince George's County has 15 Metro stations, the highest in a single jurisdiction outside the District. However, the county only averages approximately 230 businesses within a ½ mile of stations, while the
region as a whole can support close to 1,000.

Naylor Road Metro. Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

These were some of the statistics Shyam Kannan of RCLCO presented at a community forum last week organized by the Coalition for Smarter Growth and Envision Prince George's. Mr. Kannan detailed the market potential of transit-oriented development (TOD) in the county.

Several community members also questioned why current discussions of TOD differed from earlier plans for the county and why years of talk about developing Metro stations hasn't turned into action. County Councilmember Mel Franklin promised a new direction for Prince George's.

The District leads in numbers of businesses near Metro stations. Montgomery County is next highest, supporting roughly 800, Fairfax and Arlington roughly 550 and Prince George's last at 230. While the numbers are skewed because of the density within the District, the difference is stark nonetheless.

Furthermore, the land around Prince George's Metro stations accounts for 1/3 of the developable land in the county. With a significant amount of land that is currently underused, Prince George's is ripe for successful transit oriented development.

Mr. Kannan called the last 50 years of suburban development an experiment that is not sustainable. The initial costs for TOD are higher than traditional suburban development, but the value of TOD investment grows rapidly after the initial decade.

At the same time, traditional suburban development declines in value. Utility infrastructure costs are also significantly higher per unit of suburban development than per unit of TOD, while also generating less tax revenue.

Mr. Kannan urged Prince George's to take advantage of TOD opportunities. He said the county was in position to add hundreds of thousands of new jobs and residents. He pointed to the Silver Line extension in Arlington as proof that other jurisdictions are already moving ahead with new development.

Several community members in attendance questioned the county's commitment to TOD. Some stated that they had attended similar meetings in the past without seeing any action. Others expressed a concern that development would not bring enough quality high-paying jobs.

Councilmember Mel Franklin of District 9, who was a featured guest, acknowledged that the county had failed to take action in the past. He pointed to the county's new executive, Rushern Baker III, as a strong advocate for smart growth.

Franklin also admitted the county had been too quick to give tax breaks to developers in far flung areas of the county. He promised to introduce legislation to encourage smart growth and "put the economics behind the plans."

Jamie Scott is a resident of Ward 3 in DC and a regular Metrobus commuter. He believes in good government, livable communities and quality public transit. Jamie holds a B.A. in Government from Georgetown University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Policy at Georgetown. 


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No stats for Alexandria?

by S.B. on Feb 14, 2011 12:09 pm • linkreport

At the forum, Mr. Kannan provided stats for "Virginia" but I broke it down into Arlington and Fairfax here. I take it that the numbers for Alexandria are comparable to these two counties.

by Jamie Scott on Feb 14, 2011 1:17 pm • linkreport

No mention of the corruption in Prince George's County? Hopefully, this will slowly be weeded out, though.

by aaa on Feb 14, 2011 2:02 pm • linkreport

What I'd like to see is what legislation will be introduced in the council. And, isn't it telling that others have the same level of interest in seeing Prince George's County, as one small measure of evidence could be potentially seen in the number of remarks for Prince George's related articles? What's sad is this (or the next couple of posts) will probably be the last post on this particular article.

@David Alpert: Nice to meet you at the LWV meeting on Metro Governance this past Saturday.

by C. R. on Feb 14, 2011 2:04 pm • linkreport

Most likely 10 years from now we will probably be reading the same headline with no real progress, other for some big government subsidized project near a metro

by Mike on Feb 14, 2011 2:53 pm • linkreport

I may be slightly confused about how to read the numbers given. It sounds like PG has about 230 businesses per station, indicating that some 15x230 = 3450 businesses are located within a quarter-mile of one PG station or another. Is this correct?

If so, the 40-some DC stations similarly averaging over 800 nearby businesses each would work out to well over 32,000 businesses (and that just near Metro stations) in DC.

This seems a bit high, but maybe I'm just not familiar enough with statistics on economic activity.

by davidj on Feb 14, 2011 3:21 pm • linkreport

I want to echo C.R.'s comments. This blog talks about VA, DC or MoCo more than any other jurisdiction (see "Tags" section). We don't often get stories about PG County yet it seems as though the county as a whole probably needs blogs like this, with motivated, intelligent readers behind it, more than most others. A big, bright spotlight needs to be shined on PG County, not only to prevent and rectify the "pay-to-play" business as usual mentality, but to advocate for the right kind of development and growth.

by thump on Feb 14, 2011 3:39 pm • linkreport


These are total numbers. In the presentation, there were 2 stations that had less than 20 businesses respectively.

Interestingly enough, there was a meeting on Saturday that Congresswoman Edwards hosted where I asked her about this very same topic. She said that DHHS is considering whether it will relocate its HQ from Montgomery to Prince George's, and apparently the DHHS director is giving it some thought. I thought that was some good news, but not enough (not to be greedy).

What I'd like to see is at least 3 Federal and 2 State agencies relieve some of the burden on the eastern sector of the region as a whole (not just in Prince George's). The more I think about it, that (jobs imbalance) is the only thing that keeps the massive imbalance from east to west in place. This is where pressure on local, state, and federal officials needs to be applied, zealously.

by C. R. on Feb 14, 2011 3:45 pm • linkreport

"The initial costs for TOD are higher than traditional suburban development, but the value of TOD investment grows rapidly after the initial decade."

100% wrong. There is now a glut of condos on the market. And in most locations, they're worth less now than they were 3 years ago.

"At the same time, traditional suburban development declines in value."

Again, wrong. If you look at traditional suburban development in close-in surburbs, like Bethesda, N. Arlington, and Alexandria, single-family home prices are generally higher now than they were 3 years ago.

On top of that, buying a SFH in an older close-in area means you won't be paying a condo fee. So that even if a $500,000 investment in a condo and the same sum invested in a SFH end up rising in value by the same amount after a given time, less total money has been spent for the SFH.

by JB on Feb 14, 2011 4:50 pm • linkreport

JB, condo fees pay for shared utilities, insurance, maintainance and taxes. If the condo assn. is run well one does not pay more than for a SFH. In many cases the condo costs less.

by Tina on Feb 14, 2011 4:55 pm • linkreport


Your argument factor in the maintenance costs of the SFHs as compared to the condos. Plus where are you getting these facts for arguing that in "most locations", condos are worth less than they were 3 years ago? Where are these condos located, because last time I checked, the far-flung exurbs do not have a 'glut of condos'. Did you not pay attention to the quote you copied that says the average time for the value of the investment in TOD to appreciate takes at least 10 years?

For your second argument, why did you not argue what other things are in close proximity to those 'close-in' suburbs, such as transit, major corporations, etc.? Those are the things that keep all home prices high (be it a SF or a condo) because of the proximity to amenities, or in other words, how accessible are these things (able to be reached conveniently), and the resultant demand that the market places for such convenience. It's very prevalent in all the areas that don't have major corporations and the associated amenities near them, in that their home values are, on average, less than those who live near their job (or someone else's job, for that matter).

Please consider arguing facts that can be substantiated and not generalized (see wikipedia: logical fallacy). I do, however, respect your opinion on the matter.

by C. R. on Feb 14, 2011 5:12 pm • linkreport

JB, those "close-in surburbs, like Bethesda, N. Arlington, and Alexandria" have pursued TOD -- which, largely by adding retail, has raised property values for nearby SFHs as well as for the TOD-core condos and offices.

by Payton on Feb 15, 2011 1:57 am • linkreport

I concur with reasons stated for why it would be nice to see this blog focus on Prince Georges, though I would not criticize GGW for less focus on PG because perhaps you are offerred fewer contributions.

If I may suggest a topic, more on efforts to reduce influence peddling opportunities would be useful. Below I copy part of an email of a civic leader who is skeptical about reforms, and I think that perception may be widespread:

Legislative Proposal to End Council “Call-ups” of Developer Applications

State legislation (including MC/PG 114-11and 117-11) has been proposed that would do away with the ability of County Council members to “call up” zoning applications for District Council review of site plan cases when no appeal has been filed from a decision of the Planning Board. The argument made in favor of these bills is that some County Council members have abused “call-ups” as part of “pay-to-play.” But [our association's] experience over many years of dealing with zoning applications is that call-ups have served citizens well, in some cases providing a crucial opportunity for public input into development projects that would not otherwise have been possible. Doing away altogether with the ability of our elected representatives to call up a controversial application for public hearing before the District Council is a very blunt instrument, likely to work to the disadvantage of county residents. [Our association] will consider this legislation.

by JimT on Feb 15, 2011 9:16 am • linkreport

We would love to have more coverage of Prince George's County. Remember, GGW is written by a bunch of volunteer writers, so we publish articles when someone agrees to write one and it's good.

If anyone is interested in attending community meetings and writing about the discussions there, or about researching and writing about issues like the call-ups one JimT listed, please contact us at

by David Alpert on Feb 15, 2011 9:20 am • linkreport

Just because there is a transit station doesn't automatically make TOD an excellent possibility. It's dependent on the location, proximity to other centers, and the broad land use in the area. It's the difference between Fort Totten and Deanwood and Columbia Heights or Petworth. Fort Totten is capable of urban patterns, but Columbia Heights already has it and the location of the metro station was leveraged to support intensification. Many of the transit stations in PG County need a lot of changes in order for intensification to make sense.

It's a similar problem with transit stations in parts of Baltimore City and Baltimore County. The relative disconnected nature of the location doesn't yield the kind of land value increases that support intensification.

by Richard Layman on Feb 15, 2011 3:18 pm • linkreport

Looking at the Green Line in southern Prince George's:

There are virtually no businesses near the Southern Avenue station. A megachurch now occupies what was once a nearby shopping center.

The Naylor Road station has parkland in one direction, a crime-magnet club across one street, and rundown low quality retail running along Branch Avenue--an area that was much nicer 40 years ago and has declined even more since Metro opened. Crossing Branch to the retail and residential areas on the other side of the street requires a long hike to a safe crossing point.

The Suitland station is positioned far away from most retail in the area--over half a mile walk around the fences the federal government uses to separate subway riders and government employees from a once-thriving retail area. Pedestrians wanting to go to stores or apartments on the other side of Silver Hill Road are forced to walk away in the other direction to find a crosswalk.

The retail space near the Branch Avenue station is empty because of lousy design and placement--a long hike from most of the residential units and across a sea of parking lots from the Metro entrance. Sure, there's transit and development, but the area is designed to discourage pedestrian traffic and all but require driving from the residences to any retail or amenities.

The Green Line presented a great opportunity for the county, but they screwed it up--two stations with no thought of development, and two stations where the design is all wrong.

by John M. Scroggins on Feb 15, 2011 6:24 pm • linkreport

I think the Tyson's corner design is a great blue print for a lot of area's in PG. The old strip mall lay out mentality is played out, people need to be able to walk with out the threat of being killed as a result. Folk also need more bike friendly area's. PG is a wealth of opportunity for business, the media in my estimate is dispurportionately highlighting crime in the county to deliberately sabotage growth. The newly elected County Exec. should recognize this and push on with attracting developement that's more pedestrian friendly.

by 4Therecord on Feb 20, 2011 7:32 pm • linkreport

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