Invest Prince George’s – A Resource for Investors

Discover untapped potential

Prince George’s County, Maryland offers the best economic development and private investment opportunity in the robust Washington, DC region – 15 Metrorail stations with direct access to one of the nation’s leading employment centers. Employers and residents at Metrorail station communities in Prince George’s can enjoy short commutes to downtown Washington, DC, an Amtrak station on the Northeast Corridor, 30 minute rail access to National Airport, and bus and rail connections to Baltimore-Washington Airport.

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Employers and residents at Metrorail station communities in Prince George’s can enjoy short commutes to downtown Washington, DC, an Amtrak station on the Northeast Corridor, 30 minute rail access to National Airport, and bus and rail connections to Baltimore-Washington Airport.  The University of Maryland, IRS headquarters, Census Bureau, a new Department of Homeland Security headquarters on the east side of the District of Columbia, and expanded defense facilities at Joint Base Andrews are a few of the major employers at or near Prince George’s Metrorail stations.

While other regions scramble to fund new transit systems, Prince George’s County already has the system and stations in place, and the commitment of local, regional and state government to support private investment. Meanwhile, new federal sustainability programs for funding infrastructure are tailor-made for supporting transit-oriented development at the doorstep to the Nation’s Capital.

The Metrorail system connects hundreds of thousands of jobs and millions of people in Suburban Maryland, Northern Virginia, and the District of Columbia.  The region has some of the best examples of walkable, transit-oriented development in the nation with property values, occupancy rates, sales prices and rents weathering the recession far better than suburban development.   As the region and traffic congestion grow, the reliable, high speed travel connections offered by Metrorail will rise in value.

This report demonstrates the opportunities for development around each of Prince George’s County’s 15 Metrorail stations.  It offers a wealth of information for investors seeking access to the strong Washington, DC market by capitalizing on the region’s most strategic, yet undervalued sites.

Why transit-oriented development?

Transit-oriented development (TOD) is commonly defined as higher-density, mixed-use development within walking distance – usually within ½ mile – of transit stations.  A Robert Charles Lesser & Company (RCLCO) study examined the growing demand for housing in transit-oriented developments, and the economics of transit-oriented development.  The assessment found the following:

Growing demand for higher-density communities

  • Household sizes are shrinking. According to the U.S. Census, the average household sizes in the U.S. have steadily decreased from 3.29 in 1960 to 2.59 in 2000.  The average household size in 2000 in the District of Columbia Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) was 2.2 persons. RCLCO predicts greater than 85% growth in households without children by 2025.
  • Cost of living is on the rise.  The cost of living has increased substantially since 2006, with gasoline prices nearly 30% higher, and food prices nearly 20% higher.  As a result, RCLCO predicts that close-in, transit-accessible, and smaller, more affordable housing units will be in higher demand.
  • The demand for single-family homes in traditional suburban communities is decreasing. RCLCO found that 68% of consumers today prefer traditional suburban communities, but only 50% will in the future. In addition, 82% of consumers today prefer single-family detached homes, but only 68% will in the future.
  • Generations X and Y are showing a preference for walkable communities. About one-half of Generation X and Y prefer to live in an urban setting, and about two-thirds would trade lot size for the ability to walk to work.

The economics of transit-oriented development

  • Mixed-use development is more valuable than traditional suburban development. In the long term, the value (value creation/cash flow) of mixed-use development is substantially greater than traditional suburban development.
  • Proximity to transit creates value. Regardless of land use, properties in proximity to transit are more valuable than those that are not.
  • Public infrastructure costs are more expensive in suburban areas. Public infrastructure costs per dwelling unit are almost twice the cost in suburban areas ($28,000/unit) than in urban areas ($16,000/unit).
  • High-density development creates value. Property values of high-density development are greater than those of low-density development.

Prince George’s County planning

The Prince George’s County Approved General Plan provides the planning framework to guide long-term land use and development policies in Prince George’s County.  The General Plan divides Prince George’s County into three development tiers – the Developed, Developing, and Rural tiers – and establishes policy goals for different parts of the County. The General Plan also targets 26 Metropolitan, Regional, and Community Centers for mixed-use, economic development, with an emphasis on TOD.

The main priorities of the General Plan are to concentrate growth within the Developed and Developing tiers, and to encourage more intense development in Centers and Corridors within each tier in order to take advantage of public investments in transportation facilities.  All Metrorail stations are located within the Developed tier with the exception of Largo Town Center station which is located within the Developing tier, and all 15 Prince George’s County Metrorail stations are designated Metropolitan, Regional, or Community Centers.

The General Plan characterizes Metropolitan, Regional, and Community Centers as follows:

  • Metropolitan Centers have a high concentration of land uses and economic activities that attract employers, workers and customers from other parts of the metropolitan Washington area, such as large government service or major employment centers, major educational complexes, or high-intensity commercial uses. High-density residential development may also be located in or very near Metropolitan Centers.
  • Regional Centers are locations for regionally marketed commercial and retail centers, office and employment areas, some higher educational facilities, and possibly sports and recreation complexes primarily serving Prince George’s County. High-density residential development may be an option at these Centers if the needed public facilities and services, particularly schools and transit, can be provided.
  • Community Centers are concentrations of activities, services and land uses that serve the immediate community near these Centers. These typically include a variety of public facilities and services—integrated commercial, office and some residential development—and can include mixed-use and higher intensity redevelopment in some communities (p. 47-8).
Table 2 details the recommended land use mix at Metropolitan, Regional, and Community Centers:
Table 2. General Plan Recommended Land Use Mix at Centers*
Land Use Mix Metropolitan Center Regional Center Community Center
Residential 15-60% 20-70% 20-80%
Retail and Services 10-50% 10-60% 5-50%
Employment 20-60% 10-60% 5-50%
Public Uses 10-20% 10-20% 10-20%
*Numbers reflect the ideal percentage of acreage that should be devoted to each class of use or, for mixed-use sites, the percentage of floor area.

Source: General Plan, p. 49.

Table 3 details the minimum and maximum densities at Metropolitan, Regional, and Community Centers.

Table 3. General Plan Density Targets at Centers
Land Use Metropolitan Center Regional Center Community Center
Core Edge Core Edge Core Edge
Residential Density (DU/Acre)
No limit
No limit
Nonresidential Density (FAR)
No limit
No limit
Employment Density (Emp/Acre) 100 Not specified 50 Not specified 25 Not specified
DU/Acre = Dwelling Units per Acre; FAR = Floor Area Ratio; Emp/Acre = Employees per Acre

Source: General Plan, p. 49.

Master plans/sector plans/development plans

The County is divided into seven subregions, and further divided into 36 planning areas. Master Plans may be prepared for a specific planning area, group of planning areas, or subregion.  Sector Plans, Transit District Development Plans, and Mixed-Use Town Center Development Plans may be prepared for smaller, geographic areas.  A number of Sector Plans, Transit District Development Plans, and Mixed-Use Town Center Development Plans have been completed for areas of Prince George’s County in the vicinity of Metrorail stations.

Zoning tools

In most instances, properties near Prince George’s County’s Metrorail stations have been rezoned to mixed-use zones, or overlay zones (Development District Overlay (D-D-O) or Transit District Overlay (T-D-O)) have been superimposed on the underlying zones, through Sectional Map Amendments associated with Master Plans, Sector Plans, Transit District Development Plans, or Mixed-Use Town Center Development Plans.

The county approved these rezonings to facilitate and guide the development and/or redevelopment of properties near Prince George’s County’s Metrorail stations.  The Zoning Ordinance is included as Subtitle 27 of the County Code.

The County recently adopted a form-based code called the UrbanCenters & Corridor Nodes Development and Zoning Code (included as Subtitle 27A of the County Code), which is currently in the process of being implemented. The 2010 Subregion 4 Master Plan and Sectional Map Amendment provides preliminary guidance for implementation by providing conceptual regulating plans for four Metrorail station centers.