GREATER LANDOVER, Md. — Economic equality is about uplifting all neighborhoods, not just a few. A $400-million investment into what’s known as the Blue Line Corridor Project could bring Prince George’s County the economic development some say is love overdue.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks believes it is a transformation that will move forward, with or without, a new Washington Commanders stadium.
“We believe that this makes it even more attractive for the Commanders to come,” Alsobrooks said. “We're kind of getting ready the soil for them to continue to plant here. And we believe that they add to the vision, they are not the sole vision that we have, but they add significantly to the vision that we already have for sports and entertainment district.”
Asked if she loses any sleep over the stadium decision Alsobrooks was quick to answer.
"No, I'm focused on the people who are here," the county leader said.
Along Central Avenue in Prince George’s County, you will see signs of promise, and promises unfulfilled.
“As a county, we are talking about a history of people who have been left behind,” Alsobrooks said.
WUSA9 rode with Alsobrooks to learn more about the plan to help close that gap: The Blue Line Corridor Redevelopment. The project is a reimagining of everything from shopping to streetscape along Central Avenue, one of the county’s most vital arteries.
The plan is modeled on a concept known as T-O-D: “Transit Oriented Development" or the creation of compact, walkable, mixed-use communities centered around public train systems. The current Morgan Boulevard Station, on Metro’s Blue Line illustrates the need for such development. Alsobrooks says the lack of restaurants and retail has hurt the people who live here and the county’s overall economic growth.
“Because we have lacked those amenities our residents have had to go elsewhere,” Alsobrooks said. "To shop, to eat, to get medical care, to work. They get on these metros and they take their resources elsewhere. We want to be able to keep all those resources here at home.”
That was supposed to start happening 25 years ago when then-owner Jack Kent Cooke built FedEx Field, pledging an economic boom to the Landover area
It never arrived.
Now, with Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder getting closer to a move to Northern Virginia, purchasing the right to buy 200 acres of land in Woodbridge where a proposed stadium complex could be built, there are questions about whether the economic divide could widen even more if the team leaves Prince George’s County.
Alsobrooks said she is determined not to let that happen.
“We are not going to be held hostage by any one particular entity,” she said.
WUSA9 spoke with Alsobrooks before the Commanders potential land deal in Woodbridge went public. She focused on the plan she and Gov. Larry Hogan announced in April, funding $400 million in tax dollars directed to the Blue Line Corridor redevelopment project around the Commanders current home. That money will help pay for a new library, cultural center and a 10-15,000 seat amphitheater similar to one built in Nashville.
Alsobrooks said there are also plans for a “sports and entertainment district,” a concept she maintains will move forward with, or without, the Commanders.
Prince Georges County has also set aside $66 million of its own for infrastructure improvements, including clearing out trees and re-grading publicly owned, unused land to make them usable retail lots.
Alsobrooks said she understands that Prince Georgians have been let down by stadiums in the past, but said FedEx Field was built during a different era, and she hoped any new stadium built as part of the Blue Line Corridor redevelopment would be a year-round, multi-use facility, not just a host to a dozen games and concerts a year, like its predecessor.
“The way the stadiums are built, the way that they operate in communities, it's changed over the years," she said. "It's no longer the case that a football stadium or venue is just about football."
Construction on the Blue Line Corridor amphitheater and cultural center remains years away. But the county will move quickly to start work on smaller projects like the creation of a civic plaza here at the county office building.
“It’s important for residents to trust change is finally coming,” Alsobrooks said. “And that more is on the way.”
A plan working its way through the Virginia legislature to offer Snyder up to $300 million in tax revenues to help him pay for a new stadium in the Commonwealth has stalled making its passage far from certain.
Maryland says it will not offer direct public money to Synder to try and keep his new mecca in Prince George’s County.