- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2001

Prince George's County, Md. planners are expected to vote today on an $800 million proposal to build offices, apartments and fancy stores in Greenbelt.
Metroland LLC, a development group that includes longtime Washington builder John Clark, says its Greenbelt Station project will attract the upscale retailers the county craves.
The developers also say the project, which would be built next to the Greenbelt Metrorail station, will be a "transit-oriented development," an increasingly popular building style that mixes homes and businesses near transit stops.
"This is a very clear case of smart growth," said Dana B. Stebbins, an attorney for the developers.
Geoffrey Booth, director of retail development for the Urban Land Institute, a national planning group, said builders are putting projects closer to train stations and bus stations primarily to appeal to traffic-weary commuters.
Builders also favor the development style because it protects them from fluctuations in the real estate market, he said. If a project is strictly residential, for example, it could suffer when the housing market takes a dive, he said.
"It's like mixing a portfolio of investments. You want to achieve a healthy balance," Mr. Booth said.
Some opponents say Greenbelt Station would be an example of suburban sprawl. They say the apartments in the project would be built too far away from the Metro stop, which would discourage residents from using the train service.
The state's plan to build an interchange on the Capital Beltway to make it easier for motorists to reach the shops in Greenbelt Station will create additional traffic, opponents say.
"This development is auto-
mobile-oriented. We don't feel that's the kind of thing you should have to have next to a Metro station," said Patricia V. Blankenship, chairman of Citizens to Conserve and Restore Indian Creek, a local environmental group.
The Prince George's County Planning Board is scheduled to review a broad outline of the project today. Approving the outline will allow the developers to proceed with more detailed planning this summer.
The outline calls for roughly 2 million square feet each of office and retail space, and about 500 hotel rooms and 800 apartments and condominiums. The project will sit on 132 acres wedged between the Beltway and Greenbelt Road.
The board is expected to vote on the outline at the meeting, but it could delay its decision until later, a board spokesman said. The board's decision could be appealed to the Prince George's County Council, which has power to overrule the planners.
Several council members have endorsed the project. The council previously changed the zoning on the property which was once used to mine sand and gravel so houses and businesses can be built there.
Proponents say they want to help residents who complain about having to travel to Northern Virginia or Montgomery and Howard counties to shop at higher-end stores like Nordstrom.
Wendi Williams, executive vice president of the Prince George's Chamber of Commerce, said the county is ready for the upscale retailers the Greenbelt Station developers want to attract.
The typical Prince George's household spent $18,395 on retail purchases in 1999, a 9.5 percent increase from the $16,803 spent the year before, according to the most recent data from business research firm Delta Associates.
"Greenbelt Station will be in a very strategic location, and the demographics are right," Ms. Williams said.

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