Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker made the smart growth choice early this week, selecting the Largo Town Center Metro Station for a new $650 million, 259-bed regional medical center.
The decision caps a year-long campaign by the Coalition for Smarter Growth and community smart growth advocates to demonstrate the benefits of putting the new hospital at a Metro station. It will replace the existing Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly.
Operator Dimensions Healthcare will announce its official decision tomorrow. The organization’s full board will vote on the recommendation for a new hospital site after its executive committee meets today.
With a projected influx of over 2000 workers each day, the new hospital will spur mixed-use development at one of Prince George’s 15 mostly-underutilized Metro stations. Thousands of workers and visitors in this transit-accessible location presents a prime opportunity to create a walkable, mixed-use facility that could ultimately anchor a vibrant new downtown for Prince George’s.
During the selection process, officials seriously considered rival site Landover Mall, which is over a mile away from any Metro station. From the beginning, placing the hospital at the shuttered mall seemed to be a given, especially considering that the University of Maryland Medical Systems Corporation was rumored to seek a site with 120 acres. In the end, a much smaller site with Metro access emerged as an important component for the winning site.
There are major economic, environmental, and social justice advantages to putting the hospital at a Metro station. While much hospital construction of the last 50 years has been increasingly spread out on large campuses, many new successful hospital centers take advantage of leading urban designs, compact footprints, access to transit, and mixed-use environments.
Smart growth advocates have pushed hard to encourage Prince George’s officials to choose such a location for the medical center. Together with leading hospital design and construction experts, the Coalition for Smarter Growth released a series of case studies to encourage officials to choose the Largo site in February.
Building on the momentum of those case studies, the Coalition for Smarter Growth delivered a petition with over 1000 signatures and sent hundreds of emails to county officials asking that the hospital be placed at a Metro station. In February, a community meeting drew over 300 Prince George’s residents in overwhelming support for a Metro-accessible medical center.
The path to a smart growth hospital is not over yet. Many decisions can happen during the design and construction phase that will advance or diminish the positive impact the medical center can have on the county. The IRS and Census Bureau headquarters at the New Carrollton and Suitland Metro stations are prime examples of “what not to do” when locating a major employer at a Metro station.
Despite future hurdles and a history of sprawl projects like Konterra and Westphalia, this decision shows the Baker administration’s and state’s commitment to smart growth and transit-oriented development. Putting the new regional medical center at Largo Town Center pursues the promise of real transit-oriented economic development with a more than half-billion dollar investment.
The effort offers Prince George’s the opportunity to take advantage of existing transit connections not only to provide better access to quality healthcare, but to build the kind of mixed-use district that study after study shows is where people want to live, work, and play. This regional medical center can be a true catalyst for that kind of healthy smart growth development.
If you live in Prince George’s and think this is a good decision, you can take a moment to thank County Executive Baker for his leadership and smart choice here.