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Birth of a City
Photo: MorgueFile
Ask people about how communities develop and responses will vary. During a recent conversation, one person reacted negatively when the subject of “town center” developments was raised.

“I can’t stand the phoniness of those faux town centers,” he declared. Another person responded with stats about employment and positive impact on the county’s budget as a result of the increase in properties that would be taxed. “But the green space is being paved!” The conversational ball went back and forth.

An example of this type of debate about development was documented in the March 12, 2007, Washington Post. The article reported that an idea grew out of the Prince George’s County Business Roundtable. With Andrews Air Force base located in Prince George’s County and within 10 miles of the Pentagon, it makes sense to designate the area around Andrews as “a National Defense and Technology Corridor.” Many local business and government leaders are embracing the concept, in part because it is documented that 60 percent of county residents commute out of the county for work. If more employers locate in the county, there is a greater positive economic impact.

Business Corridor

The concept of a defense and technology corridor built around a military center is an extension of the idea of creating a business corridor in areas with readily available public transportation.

In support of this particular project, the commander of the Air Force District of Washington plans to establish headquarters at Andrews, adding “300 people to the 20,000 who already live and work on the base.” According to the county’s plan, “15,000 units of housing, 2 million square feet of retail, six new schools, and hotels and entertainment venues would be built” in this new corridor. Eventually, a city of thousands would develop following the town center model that combines retail outlets with residential areas and office towers.

“Robert E. Lang, co-director of the Metropolitan Institute of Virginia Tech in Alexandria, a research center on growth and development issues, said it’s ‘within the realm of reason’ that Prince George’s could create a defense corridor around Andrews. ‘There’s a lot of total air balls out there, proposals that you look and think this is just never going to happen. But that’s not the case here,’ he said. This is clearly a region where there’s plenty of defense contracting, and why should it all be on one side of the river?’ Lang said. ‘In fact there’s an imbalance in this region; way too much overload of every exit from the Beltway on the west side of the system, and with the new [Wilson] bridge, you could see a relocation to the southeast quadrant, which is Prince George’s County.’”

The debate will continue as people ponder whether it is the random or planned gathering of people and economic elements that lead to the birth of a new city.

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