Prince George’s continues to struggle with ‘Smart Growth’

Montgomery, Arlington, and even Fairfax have now embraced their current and future Metro stations, to varying degrees. But Prince George’s, which has 15 Metro stations — more than any other jurisdiction besides the District — continues to struggle.

At stations such as Cheverly or West Hyattsville there exist few of the amenities usually clustered around stations, like apartments, a few stores, restaurants or rowhouses. With the exception of Prince George’s Plaza, the county’s stations don’t offer the work/live/play vibe that drives transit-oriented development.

Look at The Gazette’s Q&As from the County Council candidates. Almost unanimously they want to better utilize their stations, which are so lightly used on weekends Metro considered closing some of them.

But the current council keeps pushing through the same sprawling development, approving tax breaks for developers in Brandywine, Glenarden and Capitol Heights, the only of the three areas that is Metro accessible. And it is considered an achievement to bring a Wegman’s into Prince George’s, yet that store is in the same sprawly type of environment that has made it hard to attract young ‘creative class’ workers to live in Prince George’s that instead head to Bethesda or Ballston.

To many in the Prince George’s community that I have spoken to, it is a chicken/egg game. You need some development to bring more development; developers just don’t see the opportunities in Prince George’s that they see in Montgomery, mostly because it is the frontier of TOD development. This is what I see:

View looking away from West Hyattsville station. From GoogleMaps.

View looking away from West Hyattsville station. From GoogleMaps.

Hundreds of people use the West Hyattsville station a day, and many are taking buses. Some of them would likely rather live closer to their home station. But they have no incentive to if the county keeps encouraging autocentric development; those tax breaks should be going to affordable housing near Metro stations, not Beltway-convenient culs-de-sac.

Look at the Navy Yard/Near Southeast, which the District is doing its best to turn into an extension of downtown. Thousands of people live there already, and the amenities are gradually coming: parks, restaurants and shops. If the county government can take the long view on this issue, there is no reason why Prince George’s can’t compete for housing young professionals near Metro stations, just like its neighbors. Once there is housing near these stations, other amenities will flow naturally. Have you seen what the median income for a Metro rider is? Over $100,000. That should be all developers need to know.

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One Response to Prince George’s continues to struggle with ‘Smart Growth’

  1. carsonata says:

    Good points all, though the Navy Yards area has more going for it than Hyattsville in terms of location and proximity to existing amenities, even though it is getting its own bit by bit. Interesting how big the divide is when you compare the two areas this way.

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