The Prince George’s County Planning Department this week began exploring how to encourage transit-oriented development around the four Metro stops on the southern stretch of the Green Line, an area that largely has been ignored by commercial real estate investors.
The county scheduled the first of a series of community “vision” meetings Thursday evening, focusing on the growth potential of the corridor stretching southeast from the Southern Avenue station to the end of the line at Branch Avenue.
The goal is to create conditions for growth around Metro stops that have seen very little development since they opened in 2001, said Barry Gore, project manager of the planning department’s Metro Green Line Corridor Action Plan.
Perhaps the best opportunity for development — and the greatest example of squandered potential — is at the Suitland stop, the focus of the first planning session. With the 2.8 million-square-foot Suitland Federal Center just steps from the station, the location would seem to be the ideal place to build a mini-city to give government employees not just a place to work but to live, eat and shop.
But the 226-acre compound is fenced off from the surrounding neighborhood, and developers and the federal General Services Administration have not followed through on efforts to create transit-oriented space to take advantage of the presence of more than 8,000 white-collar workers.
“They’re on their own complex with its own Au Bon Pain,” Gore said. “It’s like they kind of deliberately didn’t want to engage with the community.”
The planning department describes a location that is ripe for development, with an average of 6,453 riders boarding Metrorail each workday at Suitland. There is plenty of open space available to build on, with Metro owning 18.4 acres and the federal government owning most of the rest of the surrounding land on both sides of Suitland Parkway.
Adjacent to the federal center is the long-stalled Suitland Manor project, which has been the centerpiece of the 33-acre Suitland community redevelopment vision going back to the 1990s. The county wants to replace a dilapidated neighborhood — where 200 buildings with more than 700 units and 13 commercial properties have been demolished — with a 2.5 million-square-foot mixed-use complex, including office, retail and residential space.
“The county is faced with a lot of challenges and has to work on them to make people want to come out to Suitland,” Gore said.
There has been almost no commercial development closer to the Washington, D.C., line, near the Southern Avenue and Naylor Road Metro stations. A community planning meeting has been scheduled later for those stops.
There has been more investor interest around the Branch Avenue Metro station, a state-designated transit-oriented development site that attracts 6,448 weekday riders.
The area has seen recent development north of the station, including new apartments, condominiums and retail space in mixed-use buildings. Plans have been approved for the rest of the undeveloped property north of the station parking lot.
“Right now it’s functioning very well as a commuter rail station,” Gore said. “We need to come up with strategies of people arriving at the station in a mode other than private auto. We want to encourage mixed-use development.”
The station is surrounded by 33 acres owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which has studied potential for joint development. There are more than 3,200 surface parking spaces.
The Branch Avenue planning meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday.
<>Washington Property turns dirt on 232 luxury apartments <>
Washington Property Co. announced that it broke ground on Solaire-Wheaton, a 232-unit luxury apartment complex that will replace the former First Baptist Church of Wheaton.
Leasing is expected to begin in September 2013 for the $75 million development, which is two blocks south of the Wheaton station on the Metro Red Line. The church, renamed Streams of Hope, has relocated to Olney.
“This project is the culmination of six years of planning,” Charles K. Nulsen III, president of Washington Property, said in a news release. “The recession put a hold on our plans for several years, but now Wheaton is turning a corner with more than 1,000 new apartments built or in the pipeline, a new Safeway and Costco, and planned relocation of the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission offices.”
The Bethesda company bought the 50-year-old church building and lot for $8 million in May, setting the stage for the congregation’s move to Olney.
“It was a long, hard process, but in the end we had a win-win situation, and it was nice to know that [Washington Property] was looking out for our interests,” said Ed Williams, the church’s pastor.
The new apartments, designed by the Preston Partnership of Atlanta, will feature a cyber café, billiards lounge, fitness center and a “resort-style” swimming pool, according to Washington Property.
RBS Citizens Bank provided project financing; Clark Builders Group is the general contractor; and Gables Residential will provide property management and leasing services.
The project is Washington Property’s second Solaire-branded apartment project. Solaire-Silver Spring, a 295-unit tower next to the Silver Spring Metro station, delivered in May 2012 and currently is leasing.
<>COPT seeks $166M in preferred stock sale<>
Corporate Office Properties Trust of Columbia announced that it plans to pay off some debt and buy back shares with part of $166 million it expects to raise on the sale of 6 million shares of preferred stock.
The company has granted underwriters an option to purchase up to an additional 900,000 shares during the next 30 days to cover any over-allotments on the stock, which have a 7.375 percent dividend yield. Wells Fargo Securities and Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith are co-managers of the offering.
<>St. John breaks ground on two proving ground buildings<>
St. John Properties of Baltimore said it has started construction of two single-story, class A office buildings totaling about 47,000 square feet within the Government and Technology Enterprise project at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County.
Upon their completion in the first quarter of 2013, St. John will have constructed 12 office and research and development buildings within the past three years on the base, totaling more than 640,000 square feet of space.
“With continued activity from new companies looking for a presence inside the fence line of Aberdeen Proving Ground, as well as momentum among existing tenants needing expansion space, we are committed to building speculatively to satisfy the demand of tenants looking to be on the proving ground,” Matt Holbrook, St. John’s regional partner, said in a statement.
The new buildings are designed to achieve silver certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.
St. John has approval to build up to 2 million square feet at its 416-acre Aberdeen office park. The project includes many government contractors and agencies that support the base, including Boeing, CACI, General Dynamics and Raytheon.
Also this year, St. John Properties began construction on a three-story, 75,000-square-foot class A office building at Aberdeen that is on track for completion in November.
<>Manekin redeveloping medical office building <>
Manekin of Columbia announced it began redeveloping a 72,000-square-foot former factory building into a class A office building at the Johns Hopkins Bayview medical complex in east Baltimore.
The building, at 5500 E. Lombard St., is directly off Interstate 895 at the National Institutes of Health entrance next to a future MARC and light rail stations.
“Upgrading the use of this facility fits in well with our current strategy of identifying redevelopment opportunities that are transit-oriented and medical,” John Graham, Manekin’s investment services co-director, said in a statement.
The building previously housed a furniture factory that employed almost 300 people at one time. Delivery is expected next spring.
Manekin will manage the property and has begun pre-lease marketing.
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