UPPER MARLBORO — Excitement is mounting for the forthcoming regional medical center in Largo and plans are in motion for a total revitalization of the area. Now, Retail Properties of America, Inc. (RPIA) has begun the process of bringing major development just across the street from the future hospital. RPIA is proposing to develop nearly […]
UPPER MARLBORO — Excitement is mounting for the forthcoming regional medical center in Largo and plans are in motion for a total revitalization of the area. Now, Retail Properties of America, Inc. (RPIA) has begun the process of bringing major development just across the street from the future hospital.
RPIA is proposing to develop nearly 50 acres of land where the I-495 Beltway and Medical Center Drive (formally Arena Drive) meet. The location is right next to the site where the new regional medical center will be built and is part of a larger planning area near the Largo Metro Station – where the county envisions major transit-oriented development to occur.
“The site is located within the development district overlay zone for Largo Town Center,” said Amber Turnquest, the planning staff lead on the preliminary plan of subdivision case. “The site is in the (transit-oriented development) core of the Largo Town Center sector plan.”
The preliminary plan was before the planning board on April 12 along with another plan for townhomes in Largo. The RPIA proposed development calls for approximately 1.2 million square feet of retail, commercial, hotel and office space, as well as 3,000 dwelling units. It also feaures a centralized green area, which Andre Gingles, the developer’s attorney, said is envisioned as a community gathering place.
The nearly 50-acre site will be broken into 16 parcels, which Gingles and Craig Friedson, RPIAs assistant vice president of development, said will be developed over time.
“It’s a multi-phase development. Its very complicated in terms of what we will do and what we will do when,” Gingles said, noting that all the potential development had to be shown on the preliminary plan.
The site will not have direct access to the Capital Beltway, but will instead use the preexisting nearby offramp, which connects to the development through Medical Center Drive.
“I see a lot of opportunity here and myself, particularly, as well as our company is excited for what we see in the future,” Friedson said.
The planning board unanimously approved the preliminary plan of subdivision.
However, the approval of the preliminary plan of subdivision was not without significant debate. Largo community residents came out to the planning board meeting to voice their concerns about the development.
One of those present was Cheryl Cort, the policy director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, who said that while she looks forward to development on the site, she wants it to be done the right way. That includes complete streets and an interconnection between the future medical center and the future development.
“This new connector road should be knitting together the area between the hospital and the RPIA site as a low-speed, multimodal street and should have a clear and easy pedestrian crossing along the way,” she said.
In addition to resident concerns, planning staff suggested more than 20 conditions for approval, with several of those conditions having multiple bullet points. Some of those recommendations including revisions to the tree conservation plan, submission of noise analysis, a limit on peak-hour trips once the development is completed and the formation of a business owners association.
Beyond conditions for approval, planning staff and Gingles spent a significant amount of time debating how and if the developer would handle the mandatory dedication requirement of the project. One of the several conditions for approval said RPIA would need to submit a payment in lieu to the county’s parks department, which would be charged with creating public parks or recreations facilities for the future residents, instead of the mandatory dedication. A dedication is mandatory in this case due to current laws.
The planning board’s attorney said a request for payment in lieu could be made of a developer if the county finds that there is not adequate space or location for a publicly dedicated park or recreational facility.
But Gingles and the developer argued that the future development would have some facilities available to the future residents of the proposed dwelling units and that all the nearby parks, where the fee in lieu could theoretically be used, are all outside of the immediate vicinity.
“Those parks are really not approximate to this property,” he said. “We don’t want to be sending unnecessary trips off of that area.”
Gingles further argued that the new residents of the transit-oriented development would choose to live there because everything they need is in the vicinity, meaning they would not likely want to travel to seek recreation. However, Board Chair Elizabeth Hewlett strongly disagreed, saying Prince George’s County residents are known for traveling a great distance for recreation centers and specific community programming.
To add to the growing argument over the mandatory dedication, Turnquest also noted the developer’s examples of proposed recreation onsite had only been handed to her that day and therefore planning staff did not have time to determine if they would be adequate or public. The proposal from Gingles and the developers includes onsite private recreational facilities and a $250,000 payment or “donation” to the parks and recreation department. Board counsel interpreted that amount as only a “partial” of the possible payment in lieu, which is typically 5 percent of “the total new market value of the land as stated on the final assessment notice.”
After several off-camera and off-microphone conversations, Gingles and planning staff agreed on Gingle’s motion involving the private onsite facilities and $250,000 payment, with the understanding that it may be further reviewed not only during the detailed site plan process but by the District Council as well.
The passage of the onsite recreation facilities also came with two additional conditions.
“I’m excited about the development. I’m excited about everything that is happening there – from the hospital on down. I’m really pleased with RPAI,” Hewlett said. “We’re here. We balance competing interest week in and week out. It is difficult. I applaud what you are providing already. I still think there is a requirement for the general public and I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive.”
A decision on the preliminary plan had to be voted on at that meeting.
Moving forward, Gingles said the success of a property such as the one in Largo hinges on understanding the markets and having the flexibility to meet the demand. While the preliminary plan of subdivision shows the wants and the possibilities of the site, nothing is set in stone as of late.