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  • Writer's pictureBradley Heard

County’s Planned Homeless Shelter Could Stifle Development Around Addison Road Metro

A local nonprofit group focused on revitalizing and redeveloping the Capitol Heights and Addison Road Metro station areas is urging Prince George’s County officials to be more strategic, transparent, and equitable as it considers where to locate a new homeless shelter for men. In a newly published issue brief, Greater Capitol Heights Improvement Corporation (GCHIC) says the new facility does not belong at the current shelter’s location on Addison Road South.

“You have to balance the County’s moral responsibility to provide human services to its neediest residents with the market reality that placing such facilities in the wrong locations could stifle the revitalization and economic development progress that has taken so long to come to this area,” says attorney and transit-oriented development advocate Bradley Heard, GCHIC’s president and founder.

The current facility—housed in an old prefabricated steel building at the back of a 2.6-acre undeveloped lot on Addison Road South—is small and not visible from the street. It sits next to two of the neighborhood’s newest and priciest residential developments, the Park at Addison Metro and Brighton Place. Many of the homebuyers did not even know what the building was when they were evaluating whether to purchase there.

Entry vs. Street View of Current Men's Shelter at 603 Addison Road South

But the new facility the county proposes to build there would be different: a long, unadorned one-story suburban industrial-style building, fronting directly onto, but inaccessible from, Addison Road South.

One Addison United (OAU), a group of residents in nearby subdivisions who oppose the shelter, argues that type of building and use are inappropriate for a residential community—particularly one like theirs, in a low-income/low-access food desert, with a dearth of job opportunities in walking distance and a federal designation as a medically underserved area.

OAU also worries that placing a large shelter facility on Addison Road South would further reduce home values in an area that is already below county and regional averages. Worse, they fear a new homeless shelter would scare away developers who are already skittish about investing in this community.

Lloyd Blackwell, a longtime county resident and minority developer who lives in one of the impacted subdivisions along Addison Road South, agrees. As head of Harambe Development, he is currently working with nonprofit The Community Builders on a multi-family mixed-use project called The Epiphany, directly across Central Avenue from the Addison Road Metro Station. It will have 112 affordable housing units and 4,000 square feet of retail space.

“As a Black developer and someone with deep ties to this area, I am uniquely invested in this community’s improvement and committed to seeing my project through,” Blackwell says. “But other developers—particularly of market-rate projects—typically do not have that degree of commitment. It is hard under the best of circumstances to develop in Prince George’s County, and having an architecturally underwhelming homeless shelter pop up close to one of the most marketable parts of the Metro station area may be just the kind of straw that breaks the camel’s back and stops a project in its tracks.”

Even so, homeless shelters and other human services facilities must go somewhere. And that’s where the need for strategizing comes in, Heard says. “We desperately need more services for unhoused people in this county, and every part of the county should share in that responsibility—not just the less affluent parts.” GCHIC’s issue brief suggests several sites in other council districts that could accommodate a homeless shelter.

Street View of 3111 Branch Ave
Street View of 3111 Branch Ave

One site in council district 7 that GCHIC thinks might be suitable is a boarded-up former seafood market on Branch Avenue (pictured above), adjacent to the Naylor Road Metro Station on Metro’s Green Line. Placing an architecturally appealing multi-story mixed-use building there would help to activate that blighted site and could encourage the development of more vertical mixed-use buildings around the Naylor Road station.

As for the Addison Road South site, GCHIC has asked the County to ground-lease the land to it, so that it can help to procure a dense mixed-use development with market-rate and affordable housing units, along with retail and office space, that can benefit from the existing customer base that the surrounding residential subdivisions provide. “That really would be a win-win for everyone,” Heard notes.

Click Below to Download Issue Brief

20230615 Leveraging County-Owned Sites in the CHARM District_FINAL
Download PDF • 697KB

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1 Comment

Jun 20, 2023

This is an excellent, well-thought out article. And 100% true. This is bad policy. The homeless, county, and neighbors could all have a win-win-win if only the County would sit down and actually discuss site selection. I encourage everyone to sign this petition:

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