Tag: cheryl cort

Prince George’s hospital plan approved by county, awaits key state clearance

It could be at least four years before a proposed regional hospital and medical campus opens at Largo Town Center, but the central Prince George’s community is already bracing for a development that could boost health-care options as well as the overall local economy.

Officials hope it lives up to their vision of creating a more urban, pedestrian-friendly community.

The $650 million, 231-bed hospital, which is under state and county review, promises to deliver a more urban street grid with smaller blocks to encourage foot and bicycle travel around what is primarily a car-oriented Metro station just outside the Capital Beltway.

Residents and transit advocates say the project, which has a tentative 2019 opening, can’t come soon enough to an area known for its big boulevards, giant parking lots and bus stops on sidewalk-free roads. They say the proposal offers the type of transit-oriented development that they have long sought.

“We have fought this battle for more years than I care to think about. This plan brings us far closer to where we need to be,” Chuck Renninger, president of the Largo Civic Association, told county officials discussing the project last month. “We need to get phase one up and operational as quickly as possible so that phase two and three can come quick enough.”

Recently, the project received the county planning commission’s blessing to move toward construction, an important step in the county’s land-use approval process. The realization of the project, however, is still contingent on a crucial state review that has already dragged on for a year longer than the county had hoped.

Maryland’s health-care commission must sign off on a “certificate of need,” which includes design plans and financial projections. After going back and forth with the applicant for a year, the commission finally docketed the case in April and the panel is weighing the needs, benefits and competition created by building the hospital. As part of the review, the commission is considering the concerns of two hospitals protesting the project’s scale.

A step to sway statistics
For the county, however, building the medical facility is the first step in remedying pressing health-care disparities for its residents, who have long complained about having to travel outside the county for care because of the limited options.

The new facility, which would be operated by the University of Maryland Medical System, would help tackle statistics that show Prince George’s residents have higher rates of chronic diseases — including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, asthma and cancer — than people in neighboring counties. Studies also suggest that the county’s mortality rate is higher than that of Montgomery and Howard counties.

The new medical campus would replace the 100-bed Prince George’s Hospital Center in
Cheverly, which has struggled financially and requires frequent subsidies from the state and county. It would have a 10-story building at the center, housing an ambulatory care center, a cancer center, a women-and-children’s center and a resident program.

The project “represents turning a page on a chapter that has been, in a lot of ways, a drag on the county,” Brad Frome, an economic development aide to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), told the planning commission last month, citing the conditions of the existing hospital. “This is really a foundation stone for the creation of a new health-care system that we look to have in the county.”

Later phases would bring more medical offices, a nursing home, hotels and more housing around it, officials say, touting the project as a driver for economic development promising to revive the Boulevard at the Capital Centre, which has struggled for years to fill and keep storefronts open.

The hospital project could spur $3 billion in economic activity for Prince George’s, according to a recent report that suggests it could help build a mixed-use development around the Largo Town Center Metro station that includes about 3 million square feet of commercial space, nearly 1 million square feet of retail, 653 hotel rooms, a 150-bed nursing home and more than 4,000 residential units.

At build-out, that means $150 million in state and local tax revenue, 16,000 new jobs and 4,340 households with an estimated $312.5 million in income, according to the report.

Approval hurdles
The project is expected to move through the county’s approval process without delay by early fall, which leaves state approval as the main hurdle between now and its projected 2019 opening.

The state commission docketed the case in April. A commissioner is expected to review it soon and could make a recommendation by the end of the year.

As part of its review, the commission is considering comments from Doctors Community Hospital and Anne Arundel Medical Center. Both oppose the size of the project, citing its potential impact on their operations.

Doctors Community, a 218-bed facility in Lanham, about six miles from the proposed medical center, estimates that it would lose nearly 400 admissions annually. Fewer admissions could lead to a shortfall of more than $1 million annually, the hospital said.

“A new hospital is needed, but the right hospital, not this proposal,” Doctors Community attorneys Peter P. Parvis and Jennifer J. Coyne said in a May 4 letter to the state panel. The Prince George’s Regional Medical Center “did not meet its burden of proving that the need for a hospital this large and this expensive exists, or that the hospital is financially feasible.”

Anne Arundel Medical Center, the third-busiest hospital in Maryland with 384 beds and an emergency heart-attack-response center about 22 miles east of the Largo site, cites the county’s “difficulty attracting and retaining a strong medical community of physicians.” The center estimates the project will result in
420 fewer discharges and questions the proposed cardiac surgery services at the new facility.

Thomas Himler, budget director for Prince George’s, said the new facility hopes to attract county residents who seek medical care elsewhere in Maryland, the District and Northern Virginia. Despite the objections of the two competing hospitals, he said, the county expects approval by the end of the year.

The medical center is tied to about 26 acres immediately east of the Boulevard at the Capital Centre, adjacent to the Largo Town Center Metro station and just off the Capital Beltway, north of Central Avenue. It would be funded with $450 million in bond financing, including about
$200 million each from the state and the county.

Transit potential
At the center of all that growth is the Metro station, which opened in 2004 as the Blue Line’s eastern-most terminal. The new Silver Line also ends there. Although the station now ranks in the bottom half in the system in terms of performance and has nearly 5,000 daily passenger boardings, it has the capacity to handle significant ridership growth, officials say.

Largo has the potential to be an example of successful transit-oriented development in a county that has 15 vastly underdeveloped Metro stations, planners and transit officials say. The community could develop into a downtownlike area similar to Silver Spring, with a large medical community anchoring diverse business and housing options. The housing stock is already growing, with at least one multifamily complex under construction across the street from the hospital site.

Having the hospital less than a quarter-mile from the Metro platform would make it an attractive choice for workers and patients, officials say.

Margaret Bowles, 75, a retired teacher who lives about three miles from the hospital site, said she goes to Holy Cross Hospital in Montgomery County for specialty care and has friends who travel to the District for health care.

“People go down to George Washington [University Medical Center] and they never take their car. They hop on the Metro and go downtown because the Metro stop is right there. It is perfect,” she said. “Before this project, we had not had the vision that we probably should have for development around the Metro station.”

The success, she said, hinges on building it right, with pedestrians, cyclists and motorists in mind.

The county-approved plan calls for sidewalks along both sides of the Boulevard, Arena Drive and Lottsford Road. Pedestrian plazas, seating areas and bicycle pathways also are part of the design. County planners said the streets will be narrow to foster a pedestrian-friendly environment.

Advocates for transit-oriented development, including Metro and the nonprofit Coalition for Smarter Growth, have pushed for wide, well-lit pathways connecting the station to the hospital and the surrounding commercial spaces to make it as easy as possible for workers and patients to take transit.

“Having a very large employment center at the station will absolutely change that ridership at Largo,” said Stan Wall, Metro’s director of real estate and planning, noting that the project also could benefit Metro’s plans to eventually develop 12 acres of land it owns at the site.

The medical center alone could generate 650 new daily entries at the Metro station, according to the transit agency’s office of planning. That would mean $750,000 in new revenue for the transit agency. But even more riders and revenue would stem from the development that would follow the hospital construction, Wall said.

Cheryl Cort, policy director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, agrees that keeping in mind the pedestrian and bike traffic will ensure good circulation between the hospital’s front door, Metro and the shops at the Boulevard at the Capital Centre.

“We want to make sure it’s done to the full benefit,” she said.

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AS I SEE IT: In Princeton, think small for affordable housing

On Sunday, May 17, Princeton’s Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) hosted a symposium on what many residents feel is Princeton’s central issue: how to keep — or, depending on your perspective, how to make — Princeton affordable.

What are some of the barriers to affordability in Princeton? Our property taxes, for one thing. We learned, from estimates prepared by Councilman Patrick Simon, that the 2015 property tax on an average Princeton home, which is assessed at just over $800,000, will probably be just under $17,700.

Where will that money go? Some 48 percent of our property taxes will go to the schools, 22 percent to the municipality, and 30 percent to the county. Startlingly, 50 percent of the county’s budget is spent on corrections. If everyone in Mercer County behaved themselves, in other words, our taxes would drop by 15 percent.

Our taxes could drop even more depending on the outcome of a lawsuit brought by attorney Bruce Afran on behalf of local taxpayers who challenge Princeton University’s tax-exempt, nonprofit status. At the May 17 meeting, Mr. Afran stressed that the university has done nothing illegal or immoral. But the university shares profits with many of its science faculty and undertakes other commercial activities. It cannot be deemed a nonprofit according to New Jersey law. The university has agreed to non-binding mediation in the case.

Meanwhile, the May 17 meeting addressed not just legally defined affordable housing but what some Princetonians call “housing that’s affordable.” By “housing that’s affordable,” I mean me and maybe you, or anyone who’s ever wondered whether they can afford to stay in Princeton.

How can Princeton — or any town — supply enough housing that’s affordable for middle- and low-income residents? Let me discuss rental housing, but similar arguments would apply to housing for sale rather than for rent.

According to Cheryl Cort, policy director for Coalition for Smarter Growth in Washington, D.C., conservatives and liberals offer different solutions to providing rental housing that’s affordable. Republicans argue that zoning and other building regulations constrict supply and drive up costs, so we should eliminate regulations. Then the free market will build housing for both high- and low-income households.

The argument that market supply-and-demand applies to housing is partly correct, Ms. Cort writes: “If there’s not enough housing on the market to meet demand, higher-income people will bid up prices and out-compete lower-income people.” This is already happening in Princeton.

And, yes, regulations do increase development costs and risks. Projects may be denied, delayed, or decreased. Developers need to make a return for investors. Housing won’t get built if the return isn’t high enough.

Ms. Cort calculates (these figures are from March 2015) that the baseline cost of building a one-bedroom apartment in D.C. requires a rental of “$2,000 a month to meet the level of return [an investor] demands.” Your income must be about $38 per hour, or $80,000 annually, for $2,000 to be only 30 percent of monthly income, which is the generally-recommended level of spending on housing. People who earn $15 an hour, or $32,000 a year, the new minimum wage in some states, can afford only $800 apartments.

One “solution” is for lower-income people to live in older housing, and this is what usually happens — except in places like Greenwich Village, Hodge Road, or Georgetown.

Meanwhile, Democrats, who argue correctly that new development mostly provides high-end housing, may oppose any new market-rate development. Perhaps they mistakenly ignore the law of supply and demand because they remember when local governments could supply below-market-rate or public housing. Those days are largely gone — although, as Bruce Afran implied, they may come again for Princeton.

Nevertheless, another, modest way to increase rental housing that’s affordable is by means of Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs.

ADUs — sometimes called granny flats or in-law apartments — are smaller, secondary dwellings on the same lot as a primary dwelling. They offer shelter, bathrooms, and cooking facilities. ADUs may be completely new construction, like a new addition or a garden cottage. Or they might be existing garages, basements, or attics converted into living space, maybe just by adding a hotplate and a microwave.

ADUs offer new housing units while respecting the look and scale of single-dwelling neighborhoods. They can be added to cottages or mansions. They use existing housing and infrastructure more efficiently, providing smaller housing for today’s smaller households (in Princeton, think retirees or the university’s post-docs). They free up larger apartments for families with children. And — most important — in return for some amount of investment, they offer the homeowner income. That is, they let two families find housing that’s affordable.

Our zoning should not only permit but actually encourage them. In particular, zoning should relax the parking requirement for new dwelling units since many young Princeton residents rely on bicycles or buses. ADUs should be allowed to homeowners as of right, and lot-size requirements should also be relaxed.

As I’ve written in this space before, my favorite kind of ADUs are tiny houses — as in “Tiny House Movement” — structures built like houses but perhaps only 250 or even 150 square feet, the size of a very small trailer. In fact, tiny houses are often built on wheels so they’re movable. If you could build a tiny house for $15,000, you could probably recoup your cost with one year’s rental. Here’s how easily zoning could encourage housing that’s affordable: make it legal to park tiny houses in Princeton’s driveways.

But let me mention that it’s already legal in Princeton to rent as many as two rooms in your home to two people per room, without adding extra kitchens or bathrooms. Rooms with shared facilities seem to rent for $750 to 1,000 monthly in Princeton. If you’re seriously worrying whether you can continue living in Princeton, please consider this option. We don’t want to lose you! 

Read original article here.

An affordable housing crisis with no end in sight

nclusionary Zoning battled a lot of developments that were grandfathered in before the law went into effect, said Cheryl Cort, policy director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth. And much of the program’s focus has been on rentals, as it will remain until the building market falls under these new regulations. So far, they have 48 units rented under Inclusionary Zoning rules — or a dismal eight rentals a year.

Testimony at Oversight Hearing for DMPED & OP

We commend DMPED for listing affordable housing as one of its top 5 priorities. This is a welcome explicit commitment from the office. DC’s strong population growth and fiscal position enable it to respond to this crisis with policies and funding to directly address the housing needs of our moderate and low income families.

Testimony at Oversight Hearing on Dept of Housing and Community Development

We appreciate that the DC Council and Mayor Bowser have made the affordable housing crisis a top priority. The precipitous loss of low priced housing, and the significant rise in households burdened by housing costs are distressing trends, but they can be addressed.

Support for BZA Case Number 18866 – 1108 16th Street, NW

We wish to express our support for the proposed reduced parking to a total of 4 spaces to serve the redevelopment project at 1108 16th Street, NW which will provide office space and 15 residences, while preserving the historic façade of the original building. Given the awkward site and preserved historic features, the reduced parking is reasonable relief, especially for such an accessible location. 

Testimony to DC Council to Reconsider the Proposed R20-1136 – Fifth & I Streets NW Disposition Approval Resolution of 2014

We urge the council to reconsider DMPED’s selection of the TPC 5th & I LLC proposal because it does not respond to a key affordable housing provision in the Request for Expressions of Interest (REFI). Specifically, the TPC 5th & I Partners LLC proposal is not responsive to the RFEI, release date April 25,
2013 (revised), because the proposal offers off-site affordable housing, and thus in not compliant with the RFEI’s explicit request regarding affordable housing on-site: