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Planning Prince George’s Downtown

By Ceemac126 @PGCBlogging

We were welcomed to the June 15th Plan Prince George’s 2035 meeting by Elizabeth M. (Betty) Hewlett of the National Capital Park & Planning Commission.  She is a total booster for the planning of this county.  I honestly thought that at the end of her intro, we were going to do the wave.  300 residents of Prince George’s County community came together to give input on the general plan.  Plan Prince George’s 2035 is a continuation of Envision Prince George’s; it essentially replaces the 2002 General Plan for land use, economic development, infrastructure, environment and takes us to the next step in this revamp process.  This General Plan will include 3 downtown areas of high quality development.

The Planning Commission has engaged America Speaks to facilitate these large scale, interactive town halls.  Our afternoon’s facilitator was Prince George’s County resident, Steve Brigham; he kept us moving along and got us out of there before guests for the wedding reception to follow began showing upCouncilwoman Andrea Harrison, chair of the Prince George’s County Council did her spiel on how the Council is working with the Planning Commission by way of  shortened business permit processes,  and jobs/transit oriented development legislation (bill 20-2013) to bring the county into position for a better future.

Betty Hewlett
Councilwoman A. Harrison
Sonja Ewing

 

Plan Prince Georges 2035 Slide In Background
We were asked which location in the county is best primed for becoming a real downtown.  The top 3 responses were Greenbelt Metro, College Park, and Riverdale; two out of three aint bad.  Sonja M. Ewing, Project Urban Designer for the Plan Prince George’s 2035 team, named the 3 high performer sites (1st tier): Prince George’s Plaza Metro, College Park-UM Metro, and New Carrollton Metro and the 3 game changer sites (2nd tier) Greenbelt Metro, Largo Town Center, and Branch Avenue Metro.  These sites were chosen based on research that showed an are’s growth potential, strategic and coordinated application of public resources, infrastructure, and incentives to catalyze business and job creation.  Of the 300 people taking part in the interactive polling, 79% were in favor of  the county supporting 2-3 downtowns in PGCo. Each downtown site holds the potential for being bumped up or downgraded.  At the Branch Avenue Metro station, for instance, WMATA owns 33 acres of land so if they can actually do something with that land that is fruitful, their “Completeness Score” will go up.  Ewing commented on Greenbelt as a game changer, “We have to make sure the FBI comes in as an anchor, not a fortress.”   The Completeness Score is a number, 1-100 that weighs such factors as walkability, place (presence of large employer, major attractors, crime), market, and transit access to come up with number.  The highest any of the proposed downtown sites scored was 66, Prince George’s Plaza Metro; the other two top tier sites scored a whopping 65.  Ain’t that a stinking shame?  We have work, mucho work to do folks.  O

 

Plan Prince Georges 2035 Feature
Ewing state that the Prince George’s population is projected grow by 110k residents by 2035.  “Our plan for bringing businesses as a tax base and developing in walkable areas must be bold.Future residents want condominiums, multi-family buildings that are high quality. Currently 68% single family homes, 32% multi family units.  Our research says we have to reverse this statistic.”  I was and am always horrified to hear that Prince George’s has is home to 15 of the 86 WMATA stations.  The average yearly revenue generated from half mile areas near metro stations is $3.1 Billion.  Prince George’s County  is not generating anything near that number. Regional job growth near metro stations is 13.8% in the DC region, but  3.85% in PGCo.

 

Kierre McCune

Kierre McCune

Kierre McCune, Team Plan Prince George’s 2035, presented on General Plan 2035, and discussed how county is experiencing “graying and browning” to mean that our residents are getting older and more diverse. The County’s response to millennials and baby boomers will help define county as it goes forward.  Both demographics are downsizing their residences in favor of condominiums and want to be closer to transit oriented development.  Two of the the biggest challenges faced by Prince George’s County are creating jobs and  and the school systemAnother challenge is the perception that county is crime ridden and has poor schools. The General Plan seeks to addresses these larger problems but stay within the parameters of the plan.  An example would be the General Plan providing funding for safer routes to school, but certainly education and schools are not within the General Plan’s scope.
Facilitation Question: What percentage of youth in our county are considered obese or overweight.  Answer was 64.1%.  High rates of cancer, diabetes

What I liked about this town hall meeting is that the turnout was reflective of the state’s demographics and at my table of eight, there were 4 young people there under the age of 25, all wanting to be a part of the process.  Yes!  A strong concern of the young people at my table was the environment.  Did you know that only 8% of  streams in Prince George’s County are in good condition?

I walked away with a great experience and a desire to stay engaged in this process.  I’m looking forward to the next step.

 


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