Sunday, April 26, 2015

Strolling Through “Downtown” New Carrollton

New Carrollton Station. Image by author.
The New Carrollton transit station in Prince George’s County—serving Metrorail, MARC, Amtrak, and a host of local, regional, and intercity buses—is the Washington region’s second-most significant multimodal transportation hub, behind Union Station in DC. Soon, Metro and county officials hope that the station will anchor the county’s first true “downtown.”

The Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG) recently conducted an extensive walking tour of the station area to highlight the latest joint transit-oriented development (TOD) plans prepared by Urban Atlantic and Forest City Washington. WMATA and the State of Maryland selected these developers in 2010 to develop approximately 41 acres of surface parking area adjacent to and across from the station.

Image by WMATA

This project’s been a long time coming

New Carrollton’s longtime mayor, Andrew Hanko, explained how this project was the latest in a series of efforts over the past several decades to breathe life into the station area, which currently lies just outside of his city’s municipal limits. District 3 county councilwoman Dannielle Glaros echoed those sentiments and gave the group a brief history of the many comprehensive plans that the county has created for the area.

CSG policy director, Cheryl Cort, and the chief of countywide planning for the Prince George’s Planning Department, Derick Berlage, added that the county’s new General Plan fully supports this type of intensive development at New Carrollton, which is one of three “downtown” station areas slated to receive the bulk of the county’s economic development resources over the next 20 years. The others are Largo Town Center and Prince George’s Plaza.

(While I support the General Plan’s effort to direct up to half of the county’s future growth over the next 20 years to the three designated “downtowns” and five other “regional transit districts,” I continue to believe that the county can and should do more to develop and revitalize the close-in gateway Metro station areas near the DC line.)

The goal: build a viable central business district

At full build-out, these currently vacant parking lots are envisioned to have 2.7 million square feet of new TOD, including 1.3 million square feet of apartments (approximately 1,370 units), 1.1 million square feet of office space, 150,000 square feet of retail space, and 150,000 square feet of hotel space. It would look something like this:

Image by WMATA.

The first phase of development will be decidedly more modest, however: 260,000 square feet of apartments (approximately 260 units) and 13,000 square feet of retail. This is comparable to, but slightly smaller than, the Jenkins Row development across from the more neighborhood-scaled Potomac Avenue Metro Station in southeast Washington, DC, with about a quarter of the retail and slightly more residential.

Phase 1 of the project will go on the south side of the station, which has the bulk of the developable area. Just look at all this available space:

South side development areas. Image by author

Urban Atlantic’s Dan McCabe explained that starting on the station’s south side would also allow construction of the Purple Line’s eastern terminus station to proceed uninterrupted on the north side of the station, should the light rail project be approved by Governor Hogan.

If all goes as planned, groundbreaking on Phase 1 could occur as early as next year.

Stan Wall, director of WMATA’s Office of Real Estate and Station Area Planning, emphasized that future phases of development would need to be “market driven,” and that the joint development framework with Urban Atlantic and Forest City contemplates this. Essentially, WMATA would negotiate ground leases of up to 98 years for each discrete phase of the project, with a requirement that all development be transit-oriented and not interfere with Metro operations.

You can view more photos from the walking tour in this album.

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Note: On Tuesday, April 28, 2015, from 5:00–8:00 p.m., the county Planning Department will host a community open house to discuss the transit district development plan for the county’s northern “downtown,” Prince George's Plaza. It will be at Prince George's Plaza Community Center, 6600 Adelphi Road, Hyattsville, MD 20782. Please attend if you can!

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