Why Prince George's Is Just Getting Started
Prince George’s County executive Rushern Baker has ushered in an era of nigh-unprecedented economic growth in Washington, DC’s eastern and southern neighborhoods, which is why he’ll be the opening speaker at our Future of Prince George’s County event on Sept. 29 at the UMD Riggs Alumni Center, part of the United Bank Neighborhood Series.
Since Rushern took office four and half years ago, the county has seen $7B of development under construction or in the pipeline. Under his watch, National Harbor has signed and started construction on its billion-dollar MGM Resort casino, and the area around the University of Maryland has been transformed (and will continue to transform), but he’s not resting on his laurels. “We want to have nodes throughout Prince George’s County where people can see the quality of life you see in other areas,” he told Bisnow yesterday. “We want folks to not just go to National Harbor, but to be able to go to Largo, to University Town Center, to Suitland, and find great places to eat, live and work.” While UMD and National Harbor anchor the northern and southern ends of the county, it’s parts in the middle where Rushern believes mixed-use, transit-oriented development will catch fire.
When he took office, billion-dollar developments were tough to foresee. His predecessor, Jack Johnson, drew national infamy for a kickback scandal, the low point of which was when Johnson and his wife tried to flush a $100,000 check down the toilet as the FBI was on its way to arrest them. “We had some really horrible battles and discussions dealing with the legacy of the previous administration,” David Iannucci, who heads the county’s economic development and infrastructure departments, says. “I can’t emphasize enough how instilling ethical leadership at the top has led to the success of the county since.” Baker had to convince business and developers to trust him, and the county, when deals all over the region looked more appealing. And even though the tide has turned, Rushern is still hustling, as seen in his trip to China earlier this month (thanks to the county photographer for the photo).
All over the 500-square-mile county, the fruits of his labor are apparent. After the recession seemed primed to take the wind out of National Harbor’s sails, the casino and Tanger Outlets figure to spur millions of dollars in ripple-effect investment. “People are going to want to be around there,” Rushern says. Apartments by Peter N.G. Schwartz near the Metro are targeted at casino and Joint Base Andrews workers, but congressional staffers and others working downtown should take notice, he says. In College Park, David Hillman’s four-star hotel and conference center, coming out of the ground now (as seen above), is anchoring the next wave of development along Route 1. UMD president Wallace Loh was hired around the same time as Rushern, which worked in both men’s favor. “It made a great marriage,” he says. “Working with David, they have committed to use the university to anchor quality of life in Prince George’s County.”
In Suitland, there’s a large federal government presence and a Metro. In other words: untapped potential. The area's undergoing a re-envisioning as a mixed-use downtown, and it reminds the county executive of a few decades ago as a student at Howard University. “There was nothing there and the Green Line was tearing up the streets,” he says. “But in Suitland, the infrastructure is already there. You had to wait 30 years to see U Street spring up. Suitland can do it in much less time.” On the Blue Line, the Largo Town Center Metro stop will be reinvigorated when the $650M Prince George’s Regional Medical Center (above) opens in 2018 or 2019, which could spur the redevelopment of the town center. Medical offices should follow suit to collocate with the new hospital. “Think of Bethesda, Rockville, Columbia Heights. That’s how Largo is going to look,” Rushern says.
That’s not even mentioning the planned development at New Carrolton (above), led by Vicki Davis (another event panelist) and Urban Atlantic in a JV with Forest City Washington, where 1.3M SF of residential, 1.1M SF of office space, 150k SF of retail space and a hotel will eventually be built. Near the Prince George’s Plaza Metro stop, University Town Center is redeveloping and the Mall at Prince George’s is due for a revitalization. The massive Konterra Town Center project in Laurel is quietly progressing toward its ultimate vision: 3.8M SF of offices, 4,500 rental and condo units, 600 hotel rooms and 1.5M SF of retail.
But despite all that’s happening all over the county, the biggest game changer in David's eyes is the potential relocation of the FBI. Two of the three sites in contention are in Prince George’s, at WMATA’s Greenbelt site (rendered above) and Lerner’s Landover site. They're competing with Springfield, VA. David compares a possible FBI HQ, with more than 2M SF worth of employees, to the rocket fuel the Pentagon gave Arlington development post-World War II. “Even though Mr. Baker has accomplished a lot,” says press secretary Scott Peterson, “if we got the FBI, there probably would be no bigger legacy for the Baker administration.” You can hear David and the county executive talk all about it at our Future of Prince George’s County event on Sept. 29 at the UMD Riggs Alumni Center. Sign up here!