Prince George's pushes Joint Base Andrews as development catalyst

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Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly,Prince Georges County

Prince George's County officials are turning to the area around Joint Base Andrews in their next step in redeveloping the county.

The Andrews Working Group, established two years ago by County Executive Rushern Baker, announced a preliminary action plan aimed at bringing more county residents to the area and giving those who live and work on the base more places to eat and shop.

Facets of the plan range from relatively short-term improvements -- like widening the Capital Beltway ramp at Forestville Road, a project that is already being funded by the state -- to more long-term projects like extending the Metro Green Line past the Branch Avenue station to add a stop at the base's main gate.

"This is the first time I can recall the county government putting a major focus on Joint Base Andrews," said Greater Prince George's Business Roundtable President M.H. Jim Estepp, a member of the working group. "This is the initial effort to recognize Andrews not only for what it does for national defense but also for the economic development opportunities that exist in and around the base."

Council members pushed the group to focus on two major areas near the base -- Andrews Manor, a community with a 20-store shopping center, and Westphalia, where the county is planning 6,000 acres of new development.

"Work, live and shop -- we want all three to happen at Andrews Manor Shopping Center," said Councilman Mel Franklin, D-Upper Marlboro. "But right now we're really falling short of that."

Estepp said the working group had a "major focus" on Andrews Manor, though the county would have to work with private owners to make significant gains there.

"We want to do all that can be done both under existing programs and funding, but we're also working with the owners to improve the facade and the general appearance of the center," he said.

New development in Westphalia, meanwhile, can lure workers at the base to settle in the county when their deployments end, said Councilman Derrick Leon Davis, D-Mitchellville.

"It's our hope that the people who utilize Joint Base Andrews like my family did 40 years ago will find that Prince George's County will become their home," Davis said.

Estepp said the working group has reached out to federal and state agencies as well as local contractors to secure funding for different parts of its proposal. When it's complete, the plan will be submitted to the council for approval.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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