Three months after the state’s plans to relocate the Department of Housing and Community Development’s headquarters to a planned complex at the New Carrollton Metro station fell through, Prince George’s has a new contender for the project.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board on Dec. 20 approved a joint development agreement with Forest City Washington and Urban Atlantic of Bethesda for the 39 acres surrounding the New Carrollton station. The approval was announced Thursday.
WMATA also is partnering with the Maryland Department of Transportation to support the project.
Although the joint venture was initially selected for the project in April 2011, the new agreement approves the actual layout of the project, sets the terms for development and provides the designated development rights.
Plans for the $1 billion project include residential, office, retail and hotel uses that will cover from 2 million to 4 million square feet. The project also is expected to catalyze the development of up to 10 million additional square feet of development in the surrounding area, according to a WMATA news release.
The Forest City-Urban Atlantic team introduced its bid for the new housing agency location last month, said Vicki Davis, principal in charge of the joint venture.
“We hope we’ll be picked,” she said, adding that the site is considered the best transit-designated site in the state.
The joint venture’s first, $140 million phase will potentially include the housing agency headquarters, along with residential and retail grocery components, Davis said. She said the project should spur $28 million in economic benefit and create 160 new permanent jobs and 800 construction jobs, while generating $3 million in annual state and county income taxes.
The entire $1 billion build-out should lead to 3,800 permanent jobs during the next 15 years and 5,000 construction jobs, Davis said.
She emphasized that the plan’s strongest aspect is that it introduces a grand town center concept to a Metro location.
“This is a mixed-use project that connects locally and regionally with bus, Metro, commuter rails and Amtrak,” said Aubrey Thagard, Prince George’s assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development and public infrastructure. “It allows such tremendous connectivity for people doing business with the state.”
Thagard referred to the site’s proximity to Metro’s Orange Line, MARC rail service from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Amtrak’s Northeast Regional trails, and regional and intercity bus services. The station also is a terminus for the proposed Purple Line from Bethesda.
“This is really shaping up to be a great example of transit-oriented development,” said Andy Scott, director of real estate for the state transportation department. “On a state level, we’re looking to bring mixed-use development within walking distance of our Metro stations. People who live next to the Metro are much more likely to ride it. This makes it easier for them to take advantage of investments into transit.”
Although the project is planned on both WMATA and state property, it calls to mind the now-defunct private $170 million Metroview project near the New Carrollton station. That planned 700,000-square-foot development was originally picked as the new home for the 300 state housing agency employees until Metroview developers Carl Williams and Tim Munshell failed to secure the necessary finances. The housing agency’s move from Crownsville has been deferred until a new location can be chosen.
Thagard emphasized that the county’s main objective is to see a state agency headquarters in Prince George’s.
He reiterated previous official statements that locating the housing agency in Prince George’s would be particularly appropriate because the county has been the state’s epicenter for the housing crisis. Prince George’s has consistently had the state’s highest foreclosure rates in recent years.
State officials declined to comment on the project’s potential to host the housing agency’s headquarters.
Thagard also pointed to the developers’ experience, referring to Forest City’s work on several “transformative” projects in Washington and Urban Atlantic’s joint redevelopment deal with WMATA at the Rhode Island Avenue station site, which contains 247 apartments above 70,000 square feet of retail.
The New Carrollton project aligns with WMATA’s strategic plan and provides more economic value for its assets, beyond just commercial parking, said Stan Wall, director of real estate for WMATA.
The project ties into WMATA’s priority of connecting communities and provides for a New Carrollton town center instead of a “sea of parking lots,” he said.
Wall also said the current parking at the New Carrollton station will be relocated to the Landover Metro station about half a mile away; some will be shifted back to the New Carrollton station when feasible.
“This project clearly shows that developers are taking notice that Prince George’s County is a great place to live, invest, work and visit,” Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) said in a statement. “I remain committed to more development around our metro stations. Prince George’s County is the perfect location for projects like this, which is why I am confident we are going to attract more transit-oriented development projects in the future. These projects spur economic growth that will create jobs and opportunity for our county, the state of Maryland and the Washington region.”