As housing department moves, some employees may not go along

Prince George’s County officials were thrilled.  Anne Arundel County officials, not. In the official announcement last week of the relocation of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development from Crownsville to New Carrollton, there were winners and losers, and it wasn’t difficult to figure out who was who.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s announcement came as no surprise. Last January, MarylandReporter.com reported about the sale of the building. Since then, Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold and union officials have been criticizing the move to no avail.

An architect’s rendering of Metroview

However, questions still remain. One is how many of the 350 employees at the current DHCD headquarters will go with their jobs to the new site, a mixed-use development to be built in New Carrollton. The development, to be called Metroview, will be built near the Purple Line light rail, part of O’Malley’s push for transit-oriented development.

The majority of unionized workers at DHCD belong to the Maryland Professional Employees Council, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, said MPEC President George Myers.

Survey: some would go, some would stay

“When we did a survey of workers a while ago, the response was mixed. Some would go, some would not,” said Myers. At that time, the location of the new DHCD headquarters hadn’t been officially announced.

While Myers gets the impression now that employees in general are upset and not keen on the move, he has not done a new survey. The fact that the distance between Crownsville and New Carrollton is about 10 miles “might make a difference,” he said. On the other hand, he added, “people who work in the state tend to have long-time careers – 20, 25 years – and they may not want to relocate at this point.”

Michael Gaines, assistant secretary for real estate at the Department of General Services, had a different perspective. “My assumption is that the DCHD people will move with jobs. I haven’t heard otherwise,” Gaines said.

Grand Central Development is developing Metroview, whose projected opening date is 2013.  It had the highest score of the 16 qualified proposals submitted.

Plans call for a first floor of about 30,000 square feet of retail space. The next four floors will be offices, leased primarily by DHCD, with a small portion going to the city of New Carrollton. The upper 22 floors will be 400-plus rental units. The entire project amounts to 700,000 square feet.

Gaines said that 20% of the 400-plus units will be affordable housing. They will be financed by a combination of state and federal funding, but the exact mix is still to be determined.

“I haven’t seen the final financing package, but I do know we are looking at federal financing as well,” he said of the affordable housing.

Constraints on capital budget

Gaines said the state chose to rent rather than build its own facility because of constraints on the capital budget. “There’s a lot of competition for state capital funds. We are finding that working with the private sector enables us to get access to financing for space we’d not normally get through the capital budget,” he said. “Also, we recognize that the private sector does a good job of facility management.”

Gaines could not give a figure for rent, saying that the subject is still being discussed.

Prince George’s County officials couldn’t be happier about the move. Scott Peterson, spokesman for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III, pointed out that the future DHCD headquarters is “the first state-level government agency” in the county. “This is a really big deal for us and the future growth of the region,” he said.

(The governor and other officials do not count the headquarters of the University System of Maryland and the flagship campus of the University of Maryland College Park.)

Peterson noted that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority, which runs the DC Metro, owns and is now developing land around New Carrollton. “Being on the Metro line is going to be advantageous for the entire state,” he said. “New Carrollton is a great TOD station. It’s a hot property.”

David Iannucci, Prince George’s County assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development, projected the 350 jobs in Metroview to have economic impact to the county of $12 million over 15 years.

Moreover, that’s just the beginning. Iannucci expects Metroview to have a major effect on the area to trigger more mixed-use development Metroview is using only 100,000 square feet of a 1 million square foot area. “That leaves lots of space for development,” said Iannucci, who expects most of it to be housing.

Indeed, according to Gaines, Metroview’s developer is planning additional and not-yet-announced buildings at the site. One will be a performing arts center, said Gaines. “Those are the plans we know about.”

Leopold still opposed

Crownsville headquarters of Department of Housing and Community Development

In Anne Arundel, County Executive Leopold reiterated his opposition to the DHCD relocation. “In this time of financial stress for the state, the move is nonsensical,” said Leopold. “It will cost the state $48 million over the 15-year lease period to rent the new facility when they have a building that’s not that old.”

Pointing out that at least one-third of the DHCD workers live in Anne Arundel County, Leopold called the relocation “an obvious political move by the governor.”

The current DHCD headquarters was built on about 64 acres of state-owned land in 1990. Gaines said disposal of the approximately 160,000-square-foot building is in the planning process. “We expect to put it on the market in a couple of years,” said Gaines, “although we have no idea right now of its worth.”

By Barbara Pash
Barbara@MarylandReporter.com 

Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

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