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Stakeholders discuss how to revitalize East-West corridor

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Posted on: November 11, 2011

BY SUSIE CURRIE — On November 1, the Prince George’s County Council unanimously passed County Executive Rushern Baker’s signature initiative, the $50 million Economic Development Incentive Fund.
It was designed to attract and spur development in the county over the next five years. Having access to EDI funds, said County Councilmember Will Campos, would be essential “in the event that we get another opportunity like HHS.”

University Town Center, which lost its bid to house the Department of Health and Human Services, has seen several businesses close, Photo courtesy Rebecca Bennett.

Campos was referring to the possible relocation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Earlier this year, University Town Center had been one of three Prince George’s County locations bidding for the $450 million, 15-year lease; in the end, HHS decided to stay on Parklawn Drive in Rockville.
The EDI legislation comes a month after Campos and Maryland State Delegate Justin Ross hosted a meeting of a handful of elected officials and developers to discuss ways of revitalizing the businesses along the East-West Highway corridor.
The October 3 meeting included David Iannucci, one of the architects of Baker’s EDI program; mayors John Tabori of University Park and Marc Tartaro of Hyattsville; and representatives from several properties along the busy highway, including The Mall at Prince George’s, Belcrest Plaza, The Shoppes at Metro Station, Editors Park and University Town Center.
By the time portions of UTC went to auction in August, developer Prince George’s Metro Center Inc. owed more than $60 million in principal, interest and penalties, according to The Washington Post.
Wells Fargo, the lender, retained control of the property, but questions about the process remained for many.
“The meeting was to clarify what was going on with UTC properties,” said Campos.
Scott DeCain, a consultant to the developer, gave a lengthy presentation during the meeting. Publicly, he has said that his client will continue to manage the property and hopes to reacquire it in the future.
The group also began brainstorming about how to improve economic development not only at UTC, but at several retail areas along East-West Highway.
One idea was designating a business district, possibly from Queens Chapel to Toledo Terrace. Another suggestion was establishing a Community Development Corporation for that area, along the lines of the Baltimore City model. Baltimore has a dozen CDCs, many of which have secured considerable financial aid from the state, pointed out some of the attendees. “We need to come together on one page and lobby as one [entity],” said Campos.
Tartaro hopes that future meetings will focus on “figuring out how our goals intersect, and from there, developing strategies to attract resources.”



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