Prince George's seeks federal tenant after 'cherry-picking' Camp Springs

By |
Photo - Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker at the Branch Avenue Metro station (Examiner file photo)
Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker at the Branch Avenue Metro station (Examiner file photo)
Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly

Prince George's County is hoping to woo investment near the Branch Avenue Metro station with a plan focused on retail space, apartments and securing a federal tenant.

A resolution being considered by the County Council would create the Town Center at Camp Springs Development District, along with a tax increment fund meant to entice new businesses and, potentially, a federal agency.

"Branch Avenue is one of our priority transit-oriented development sites," Thomas Himler, the county's deputy chief administrative officer for budget, finance and administration, said at a County Council committee meeting. "Through the ups and downs of the economy, mostly down recently, the project needs a boost."

Himler said the current plan is preliminary, so it includes no financial information, which would likely come next year. The goal is to send a signal to developers that the area will be a priority for the county.

Not every official is happy with the plan, however. Councilwoman Karen Toles, D-Suitland, accused the county of playing favorites while leaving some stations to languish.

"I look at this as cherry-picking one particular area over another," she said. "We're going to be sitting here 15 years from now wondering when a Metro station like Suitland or Naylor Road is going to be developed."

Himler said the county is trying to move forward with Branch Avenue because it already has a developer there in Peter N.G. Schwartz Management Co. Once developers for stations like Suitland can be found, the county would look into tax increment financing districts there too, Himler said.

According to the resolution, the county has plans for a parking garage, stores, and housing and office space for a potential federal agency. While the General Services Administration has no plans to relocate a federal government agency to Camp Springs, county officials remain hopeful.

"It is a prime location for many potential opportunities -- not just federal agencies," said Councilman Mel Franklin, D-Upper Marlboro. "It sends a signal to the private sector that this is a place where we really want to attract investment."

Federal tenants are a key part of the county's transit-oriented development plans, especially after the Treasury Department announced plans to move 450 jobs from Hyattsville to West Virginia. While Prince George's residents make up a quarter of the federal workforce, less than 5 percent of federal offices are within the county.

If it succeeds, the Branch Avenue Metro station development plan would tie into the county's larger plans to turn a stretch known as the "Branch Avenue Corridor" into a transportation hub. The Metro station would be linked to other neighborhood centers through bus rapid transit or a rail line.

For now, though, officials are focused on finding businesses and tenants for Camp Springs. "I don't have any money in my pocket, I don't own any of this specific land and I can't by myself spend a billion dollars to develop it," said Councilman Derrick Leon Davis, D-Mitchellville. "We need to create private-public partnerships."

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Matt Connolly

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner