Maryland leaders hope Blue Line investment lifts Prince George’s

Placeholder while article actions load

Residents in central Prince George’s County have for decades been promised development that has not arrived.

But state and local officials say the record investment that the county secured during the session could make this year a turning point. Among the funding signed into law this month was $400 million for redevelopment along the Blue Line Corridor, a five-mile area stretching from Capitol Heights to Largo that County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) said she wants to turn into a hub for sports and entertainment.

Whether the Commanders choose to keep their stadium in Landover, Alsobrooks said, she wanted to ensure there was a plan in place so that residents benefited.

“2022 will be remembered as a truly transformative year for our county and for the state,” Alsobrooks said last Wednesday at a news conference with Gov. Larry Hogan (R) at the Largo Town Center Metro station.

Hogan, who signed the funding into law last week said that he was excited to help Alsobrooks and her team turn their “bold new vision for this area into a reality.” He cited the groundbreaking this month of a new cancer center at the regional hospital in Largo, which received $67 million from the state, as another example of nearby investment.

“A strong Maryland,” Hogan said, “depends on a strong Prince George’s.”

The Commanders may relocate. Neighbors say good riddance.

The vision outlined by the Alsobrooks administration includes an amphitheater, library, market hall and civic plaza. Officials said that plans are still in development, with neither a timeline for construction nor the cost to the county determined.

There has not been much development around the stadium in recent years, with fans largely spending their money inside then leaving. The mall across from FedEx has been largely abandoned since it closed two decades ago.

Partly because of the team’s fraught reputation, lawmakers decided that none of the funds in the $400 million package will go directly toward a new stadium for the Commanders. Alsobrooks has said that she prefers Commanders to stay after their contract at FedEx ends in 2027, but that none of the planned development is contingent upon it.

“Today really isn’t about the Commanders,” she said at the news conference when asked about possible consequences if the team relocated. “We have made an affirmative decision that we are talking about the people who are here. … I hear from residents every day. They want to know where the opportunities are. … Where are the arts? Where are the restaurants? Where are the opportunities for us to entertain ourselves?”

Efforts to develop the central portion of the county, which includes some of the county’s poorest neighborhoods inside the Beltway, are not new.

When the football stadium opened in 1997, residents in Landover remember hearing big promises about restaurants, bars and amenities. Yet following an initial state investment to in roads around the stadium, there was no infusion of funds to the area — from the team, the state or the county. As funds were funneled to other projects in the state and county, including the transformation of the Route 1 corridor from Mount Rainier to College Park in the county’s north and the opening of National Harbor in the county’s south, there was relatively little investment in central county . And the presence of the stadium alone was not enough to catalyze development.

State Del. Jazz Lewis (D-Prince George’s), whose district includes the stadium, said he often hears the same question from residents watching development elsewhere, including around Route 1 and National Harbor: “What about us?”

Alsobrooks’s predecessor Rushern L. Baker III (D), who was in office from 2010 until 2018, focused on improvements to the greater Largo area, leading to developments including the new hospital and county administration building.

But what is different this year is that there is a “unified vision” behind the Blue Line revitalization efforts that’s shared by the Alsobrooks administration, county council, David team and business community, said Harrington, the outgoing president of the Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce.

Harrington said the moment could be a “turning point,” noting that the Blue Line is a direct connection from Prince George’s to the District and, at the other end of the line, Crystal City, where Amazon’s HQ2 will open, beginning with a first phase in 2023.

To ensure that the county seizes this opportunity, Harrington said, officials need to make sure that land around the corridor is zoned for high density development and that the county’s sometimes cumbersome development processes facilitate efficient building, Harrington, a former county council member, also noted that $400 million is only a fraction of what it will take for a true transformation. The extent of the government investment, though, gives the project the credibility it needs to attract such private capital.

“When the private sector sees government investment, it leverages it,” said state Sen. Melony G. Griffith (D-Prince George’s), the president pro tem of the state senate. “We have a jewel hear that just has not been refined.”

As development gets underway, officials said they want to make sure it happens equitably. County council member Jolene Ivey (D-District 5), who represents the area, said she is excited about the potential for change but worries about rising taxes for people who cannot afford them. Lewis, the state delegate, said, he wants to ensure that development happens at the Metro stops at Capitol Heights and Addison Road in Seat Pleasant, which are closer to the District line, not just in wealthier Largo.

Angie Rodgers, Alsobrooks’s deputy chief administrative officer for economic development, said it has been important to the administration to ensure that lower income residents aren’t left behind as development happens. The county secured $10 million in state funds this year, she noted, for its right of first refusal program, which helps the contain maintain its existing affordable housing, and another $10 million for its housing investment trust fund, which supports the creation of new affordable housing homes

Md. has $400 million plan for Commanders, but it won’t build a stadium

The development of Alsobrooks’s current plan dates back at least to 2020, when Rodgers, then newly-hired, conducted a study of the county’s public land. Looking at the results, Rodgers, said, it was clear that the Blue Line corridor represented the best catalyst for economic growth.

So she and her team in Summer 2020 put together the vision that they began sharing with lawmakers. During last year’s session, the county secured about $17 million in state funding for the project.

This winter, knowing that the state was flush with cash because of two years of federal stimulus and unexpected economic growth, Alsobrooks and her team met with Prince George’s General Assembly delegation before session to solicit opinions and outline their list of asks. Alsobrooks personally met with Hogan, the presiding officers in both chambers and leaders on the budget to push for her vision.

At the news conference, Hogan and others described her as “the closer.”

Next, Alsobrooks’s administration will work with the Maryland Stadium Authority, which will issue the $400 million in bonds, on the detailing plans for the financing of various parts of the development. Some projects, such as the amphitheater, will leverage private financing, Rodgers said, while others, like the civic plaza, could be built entirely with public funds. Interest from developers in areas around the Blue Line, she said, is already spiking.

Leave a Comment