Agency’s move to New Carrollton bogs down -- Gazette.Net







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This story was corrected on April 12, 2012. An explanation follows.

When Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) announced with great fanfare last fall that the Department of Housing and Community Development would move its headquarters from Crownsville to a proposed $170 million mixed-use complex near the New Carrollton Metrorail station, many Prince George’s leaders hailed it as the fulfillment of his campaign promise and a sign of the county’s rising prominence.

Today, the proposed move in the fall of 2013 seems like wishful thinking at best, as various delays have plagued the project.

“Obviously, things are not moving as quickly as we would like,” said Aubrey Thagard, Prince George’s assistant deputy chief administration officer for economic development and public infrastructure. “At least on our side, we have done everything we can to make sure this moves forward.”

He said the project no longer has a definitive timetable.

Much of the timing rests in the hands of developers Carl Williams and Tim Munshell of Grand Central Development, and their planned 700,000-square-foot Metroview project, which would house the state agency. Metroview plans feature 30,000 square feet of retail space, a three-level underground parking garage and 442 apartments, with 20 percent reserved for work-force housing. The project was originally estimated at $170 million.

The move would relocate the housing agency’s 330 employees from its current quarters in a building constructed in 1991 on the grounds of a state-owned former psychiatric hospital in Anne Arundel County. The state would rent the New Carrollton space, sparking criticism that the move would not be fiscally prudent.

Michael Gaines, assistant secretary for the Office of Real Estate, part of the Maryland Office of General Services, said state officials continue negotiating with the developers.

Metroview must present a recommended lease document before it can move on to the next step, which is vetting by the state Board of Public Works.

“With this real estate stuff, you hope you can get it done as quickly as possible, but that’s not always the case,” Gaines said.

“It’s a complicated process, and there are delays to be expected,” Takirra Winfield, O’Malley’s spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

The project also faces some trouble over several tax liens the state comptroller’s office has filed against Williams involving one of his companies.

In September, Williams filed an appeal regarding the back taxes the state claims he owes and still is awaiting a response from the state, said Barbara Clapp, spokeswoman for Metroview. That was the same month the New Carrollton project was announced.

Metroview also is struggling to obtain tax increment financing for the project through the New Carrollton City Council. City officials have been reluctant to approve the tax plan because, they say, the city’s police expenses would rise to increase security around Metroview.

Overall, Clapp said, the project is going well, even as its many components make it a complex endeavor. She said details still must be worked out for the retail, office and parking components.

“No development right now gets done as fast as expected,” she said. “But Williams is still positive, upbeat and excited about this project.”

Metroview also faces opposition from the Anne Arundel County delegation, which wants to keep the housing department in Crownsville. The state Senate has approved a budget change to withhold $500,000 from the housing agency unless it provides more information about the move.

Del. Melony G. Griffith (D-Dist. 25) of Upper Marlboro, chairwoman of the Prince George’s County delegation, said moving the housing agency to New Carrollton is “critical” to the county’s economic development.

The agency’s headquarters there would act as an anchor for transit-oriented development projects in the area because of its proximity to the Metrorail station, which also handles MARC commuter and Amtrak trains.

“The location they identified seems to be a fantastic one in that all transportation vehicles are available at that location,” Griffith said.

“Most folks in Annapolis understand how serious we are about this relocation,” Thagard said. “There are numerous issues concerning housing in Prince George’s. We could be the epicenter for the state.”

Thagard also pointed out that Prince George’s is the state’s second-largest county but has no state agency headquarters — a point O’Malley also made.

Explanation: The original version incorrectly said the Department of Housing and Community Development’s headquarters are in a former state psychiatric hospital in Crownsville; they are in another building on the hospital’s grounds.