The Prince George’s County Planning Department last 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 held the first of a series of community “vision” meetings June 21, 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.