- The Washington Times - Friday, March 9, 2007

The area around Andrews Air Force Base would get a $9 billion makeover under a redevelopment plan for new schools, office and retail space announced yesterday.

Local developers and Prince George’s County officials said the plan would revitalize an area of small stores and older residences at a time the Air Force is moving some of its senior staff to the base.

Much of the retail development would be focused around a Metrorail station the developers want Metro to build outside Andrews Air Force Base at the end of Suitland Parkway. The station would be a three-mile extension of the Green Line from the Branch Avenue station.

“Today is a very important first step for it,” Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said about the redevelopment plan.

Although state and county officials expressed high hopes for the project, they conceded that funding is not resolved.

“Currently, the needs exceed the resources available,” said Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown. “Right now these are very preliminary stages.”

The $2 billion in infrastructure, such as water lines and roadway expansions, needed to support the redevelopment requires approval from the Maryland General Assembly and the Prince George’s County Council. Although they approve of the project, they have not voted to fund it.

Nevertheless, Prince George’s County officials said the project would be a stroke of luck for a low- to moderate-income area that still has farmland in parts of it.

“It’s a transformation for Prince George’s County,” said David Harrington, vice chairman of the Prince George’s County Council. “This raises the tax base for Prince George’s County and diversifies the tax base.”

The plan, called the Andrews National Defense and Technology Corridor, was put together by a group of community leaders and county officials led by the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable.

It would add about five million square feet of office space for federal contractors that require secure facilities and for “non-secured” commercial tenants. The office space would be clustered closest to the Air Force base.

There also would be about two million square feet of retail space, more than 15,000 residential units and six new schools.

Developers would set aside nine neighborhood parks and 1,850 acres of open space.

However, before construction can be completed, transportation improvements such as five new and upgraded interchanges along Maryland Route 4 and 20 new roadways are needed, the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable said.

“We have assurances those issues are going to be worked on,” said M.H. Jim Estepp, Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable president and a former county council member.

Developers such as Toll Brothers, Pulte Homes and Sandler & Sons have said they will build portions of the $9 billion project. Toll Brothers already has started construction on about 1,000 houses along Ritchie Marlboro Road.

The plan also has the support of the Air Force, which is moving about 300 of its senior operations managers from Bolling Air Force Base in Washington to Andrews Air Force Base.

Andrews personnel would want to take advantage of amenities offered by the project as much as anyone else in the community, said Maj. Gen. Bob Smolen, commander of the Air Force District of Washington.

“We’re interested in seeing the community develop,” Gen. Smolen said. “We’re going to go to the schools and participate in the activities.”

The base contributes about $1.5 billion a year to the community through its payroll and annual budget, he said.

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