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How The Second Half Of This Year Could Be Huge For Prince George's County

One way to understand how Prince George's County is changing, beyond looking at the billion-dollar developments it is attracting, is to look at the retail coming to the county. That will be one topic of conversation at Bisnow's 6th annual Future Of Prince George's County on July 19

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker at Bisnow's 2015 Prince George's County State of the Market

This fall, the county will open its first Whole Foods in Riverdale Park, as well as its second Harris Teeter in Bowie. Later this year, the county's first Nordstrom Rack will open at Woodmore Town Center, where the county's first Wegmans debuted in 2010. 

County executive Rushern Baker—who returns to our event this year (we snapped him at last year's shindig)—says he had to change a lot of perceptions to create the environments where these retailers would want to open, and he sees their openings as a signal to others that Prince George's County is on the rise. 

"It made a difference because Whole Foods has a certain cachet," Baker tells Bisnow. "By bringing Whole Foods and the hotel and apartments into Riverdale, it allowed us to attract Harris Teeter to come to the county, and it led to redevelopments all along Route 1. Those projects actually changed how business and retail perceived the county." 

Largo Medical Center
A rendering of the University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center in Largo

Baker says everybody wants to talk about the $1.3B MGM National Harbor, or the FBI HQ bid, but he is just as excited about some of the things happening in Suitland—where the county is investing $50M—and Largo

In Largo, developers have been awaiting the groundbreaking of the $650M Regional Medical Center, which a study showed will spark a $3B boom with tens of thousands of jobs. Apartments and retail have already popped up around the site, but construction has been stalled due to funding concerns, mainly state healthcare commissioner Robert Moffit's recommended $100M cut to the project.

"I have some disagreements with the person the governor put on that’s overseeing this," Baker says. "He hasn’t been around, he’s new, he doesn’t know healthcare.

"The concessions he wants us to make by cutting $100M out of the hospital is not taking into consideration that we want a world-class facility that is going to take back the people we're losing to DC right now," he continued. "The discussion we're having right now is to make sure we don’t lose the integrity of what we're trying to do."

The Hotel UMD Southern Management Corporation College Park
A rendering of the $150M Hotel at UMD, set to open in September

Baker is also excited about the blossoming arts district and Route 1 corridor (being rebranded as Baltimore Avenue) beginning at the soon-to-open $150M The Hotel at UMD (rendered above) and running through College Park, Riverdale Park, Hyattsville, Brentwood and Mount Rainer. That area abutting DC will soon take off as a combined arts district with DC along the Rhode Island Ave Corridor, Baker says.  

Ken Ulman, who runs a consulting firm aimed at spurring College Park development, points to two arts-focused attractions along the Route 1 corridor that will revitalize the area. UMD alumnus Scott Plank is creating a 15k SF restaurant with a stage and a courtyard aimed at spurring creativity and innovation. Also, the vacant bar that was once the Thirsty Turtle and the Barking Dog will soon open as an entertainment venue that fits up to 500 people.

Purple Line Map

The project linking all of these developments together, and spurring plenty of new ones, is the proposed Purple Line. After years of planning, the project finally has federal and state funds allocated. Prince George's County also allocated $120M for the line, which Baker says will "jump-start economic development throughout the county." 

Even with all the money in place, the project that seems to take forever to launch is facing yet another hurdle: a lawsuit from Chevy Chase residents is looking for a six-month delay to conduct an environmental impact review. Attorney general Brian Frosh said this could jeapordize the project, a sentiment Baker echoes.

"We finally have the federal dollars, the state dollars, the county dollars. This is a statewide project were doing," Baker says. "Any delay, especially since we're having the Purple Line start in the county, will hurt us. It will hurt our ability to get those businesses."

FBI hq Greenbelt site

This could be a game-changing year for the county—and not just because the $1.3B MGM National Harbor is opening in Q4—as the FBI is expected to announce by year's end where it plans to move its HQ. Prince George's County has two of the three sites in consideration, in Landover and Greenbelt, rendered above.

Based on his conversations with the GSA, FBI and OMB about what they are looking for, Baker remains extremely confident one of these sites will win the bid over the third site in Springfield, VA. 

If the Springfield site does win out, Baker joked that he will have to ask for a revote. In all seriousness, he does have contingency plans for development at both sites, considering one is destined to lose out no matter what. Just having the conversation about landing the HQ represents a huge shift in the way the county is viewed, he says. 

"It's an exciting time for me to see, having lived through the first two years of the administration when I came in, where every question was about FBI investigating the county now to every question being about are you going to get the FBI here," Rushern says, referring to previous county executive Jack Johnson's kickback scandal. "That is the story of the county right there. You go from one of the worst possible scenarios to one of the greatest opportunities."