Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, September 09, 2016

When the one over neighborhood is in the county next door, and housing prices have been in the tank: Mount Rainer, Maryland

"One-over neighborhood" is a concept put forth by the Live Baltimore residential recruitment initiative, where people who can't afford to live in the neighborhood they really want to, say Federal Hill, Canton, or Bolton Hill, choose other neighborhoods nearby, that have similar housing stock, but limited commercial and other amenities, and therefore, much lower housing prices, with the aim that the neighborhood will improve and they can still "consume" the amenities already present in the neighborhood next door.

In DC, examples would be Capitol Hill to Hill East or H Street; H Street NE to Trinidad; Brightwood or Petworth to Manor Park; Brookland to Woodridge, etc.

Another example of a "one-over" neighborhood in another county is how Arlington County markets both Rosslyn and Crystal City as one over communities, "just over the DC line."

Awhile back I wrote about how the housing market in Prince George's County continues to lag significantly compared to pre-crash values, even in the Rte. 1 Corridor immediately northeast of DC.

-- "Washington Post series on "Dashed Dreams: The Plight of the Black Middle Class," January 2015
-- "The five components of housing value," February 2016 (note that this was updated into six components as part of the omnibus piece, "Housing Roundup," May 2016)

We lived in Mt. Rainer, across the DC line in Prince George's County, for a brief period, just before the crash, and the housing prices then were in the $300,000 to $400,000 range. After the crash, real estate values cratered, and even today a fair number of houses in the Mount Rainier zip code are bank owned/in foreclosure.

-- Trulia Real Estate listings, Mount Rainier, Maryland zip code

But we are on the e-list for Menkiti Residential, a real estate firm, and they are the listing agent for some houses in Mount Rainier, which have been recently renovated and are on the market in the high $300s to high $400s, significantly higher than today's market even so.

I figured that even though Mount Rainier is not in DC, but Prince George's County Maryland, they are aiming to make it the one-over neighborhood to Brookland and Woodridge, where housing prices range from the high $400s to the mid-$800s now.

-- Trulia Real Estate listings, Brookland, DC zip code

One drawback, but people might not notice is that Mount Rainier property taxes are significantly higher than DC's, because they include both the town and a county property tax.

Even though PG County has a general real estate problem, the Rte. 1 Corridor has the University of Maryland and other attractive communities like Hyattsville and College Park, and an improving set of retail amenities--Arts District Hyattsville and a soon to open Whole Foods anchored shopping center in Riverdale Park, plus the Glut Food Co-op and some other local retail on 34th Street and on Rhode Island Avenue in Mount Rainier.

Rendering for redevelopment on the 3300 block of Rhode Island Avenue, Mount Rainier, Maryland.

Mount Rainier is finally moving some development projects forward on Rhode Island Avenue which will help them a lot, and they are one of the member communities of both the Gateway Arts District and the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area ("Neighborhood profile: Mount Rainier, a haven for artists, and now redevelopment," Washington Post, 2014).

It occurs to me that as an economic development strategy, Mount Rainier could systematically leverage its proximity to DC to boost demand for residential property, by better integrating the community into DC's mobility system:

1. Car2Go car sharing.  Offer the car2go carsharing service, which operates in DC and Arlington County, the opportunity to extend their service area to include Mt. Rainier at no charge for a trial period of at least two to three years.

By contrast, DC and Arlington charge Car2Go a great deal of money per car for registration and parking privileges.

2.  Bike share. Comparable to what Takoma Park, Maryland also on the border with DC, has done, figure out how to include the town in the Capital Bikeshare bicycle sharing system irrespective of planning by Prince George's County ("Prince George's considers connecting with Capital Bikeshare," Washington Post).

A bike sharing station at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park.

Another comparable example is how Jersey City decided to join up with New York City's CitiBike bike share system instead of a system with other cities in Hudson County, New Jersey ("Three Cities in New Jersey Alter Bike Sharing Plans," New York Times), because they see their city as more integrated with New York City.

From the article:
Mr. Fulop, meanwhile, began to rethink the bicycle needs of his city of 254,000. He decided that Jersey City residents would be better served by the system already in place in New York.“What’s most important for me is that folks in the Heights or Greenville,” two of the city’s neighborhoods “where there’s not great access to the PATH, can get to the train, get out on the other side and then get on a bike,” he said. The mayor said he also viewed joining the Citi Bike system as a way of attracting New Yorkers to jobs, restaurants and cultural offerings in Jersey City. “With Citi Bike,” he said, “the benefits go both ways.”
Route 1 Ride bus, Hyattsville, Maryland
Route 1 Ride bus, Rhode Island Avenue, in Hyattsville, Prince George's County, Maryland.

3. A bus line to Dupont Circle.  Try to get the Rte. 1/Rhode Avenue Island bus service in PG County extended to DC, at a minimum to the Rhode Island Metro Station but ideally to Dupont Circle (as I suggested in the past).

Currently, there is Metrobus service from Rhode Island Metro Station up Rhode Island Avenue to College Park now, and other Metrobus lines serve other parts of Mount Rainier along with DC, but on more circuitous routes.

Reiterating how suburban communities may focus their transit connections with the center city, the PATH subway system, which connects riverfront cities in Hudson County, NJ to Manhattan, with service to the World Trade Center, Penn Station, and other stations, accepts the New York City Transit MetroCard fare card, but the NJ Transit system does not.

4.  MARC service?  This might not make total sense, given how few people use the Riverdale station on the MARC Camden Line, but a Mount Rainier MARC Commuter Rail station would offer a five minute trip to and from Union Station.  In the very old days, there was a railroad station in the Langdon neighborhood of DC, which is about one mile west of Mount Rainier.

5.  Rhode Island Avenue Streetcar service.  In the past I've suggested a streetcar service along Rhode Island Avenue.  It wouldn't necessarily be a DC priority, but such a service from Dupont Circle could be quite useful.  To make it happen, Prince George's County would have to be committed.  Many years ago Maryland MTA did a streetcar study for the Maryland side of the corridor in association with the creation of the Gateway Arts District.

Route 1 Ride current route map

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At 9:15 AM, Blogger lemur said...

I'd be curious in more information about / a source where I can find information on that streetcar study?

I'd have guessed that parts of US-1 in Maryland are too steep for rail. And it would probably be difficult, at this point, to convert the old streetcar private ROW, since it's currently a bike path and much of it goes through neighborhoods of single-family homes whose owners would probably object loudly.

At 9:41 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I saw a copy at the ATHA office about 10 years ago. MNCPPC probably has copies. I was able to request one (don't know where it is, I am in the process of a very slow reorganization of all my "information") from someone I knew at MTA. They sent me a copy on CD. So MTA has copies, surely. There might even be a copy with the Purple Line project...

At 11:06 AM, Blogger Dan Reed said...

Mount Rainier might be one of the most exciting places in the DC area right now, just because it's still affordable enough that "people who make things" (artists, musicians, etc) can live and work there. It's funny to see it called the "one-over" neighborhood for Brookland, because as much as Prince George's County schools have struggled, I imagine many families would take them over DC schools in a heartbeat. Perhaps that's not the case anymore.

Here in Silver Spring and Takoma Park I've felt like they functioned as neighborhoods for people who wanted to be IN DC but wanted a higher quality of services (particularly schools) than DC could provide. That's one theory I've heard for why there's such a large Ethiopian population there. It's funny because, as the Georgia Avenue corridor has boomed over the past 10 years, some of that market demand has shifted away from Silver Spring. I wonder if, in a few years, we might be the "one-over" neighborhood for a fully gentrified Brightwood or Petworth.

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Dan Reed said...

on that note, I'd also add that Mount Rainier and Hyattsville are arguably one-over neighborhoods for Silver Spring and Takoma Park. Takoma Park has a long-standing reputation for liberal politics, but everyone knows the hippies have long since left for Mount Rainier. The building stock in Mount Rainier (Victorians, bungalows, etc) is also really similar to Takoma Park, but often at half the price.

At 12:18 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

1. The one problem both communities have is not quite enough density, in the 21st century economy you need more residents to support "local" retail and amenities.

I didn't mention that, but it's a big issue, especially for Mt. Rainier. E.g., it's "bad enough in my neighborhood" in terms of density, and we have 32 (SFH) to 72 (rowhouses) houses to the block. It's not quite enough to support great retail and great schools.

2. I thought about mentioning Hyattsville, but it complicated my thesis--not from the standpoint of challenge, just that it would require the article to be longer.

I did check the housing prices while I was writing the piece and they have recovered much more than Mt. Rainier's. That wasn't the case when I wrote the original piece. Probably the new retail on Rte. 1, supported by the arts district development, has contributed to that.

3. It happens that the schools in the Mt. Rainier/Hyattsville area are decent, comparatively speaking, but I don't think that the average person would prefer them to DC schools (or MoCo!), especially because the kind of people choosing one over the other are likely to be able to get into charter schools, better public schools, etc.

But I can't be for certain.

I do know that developers, if they can, prefer to develop in MoCo over PGC because of the schools, and they see this as a long term problem that will take a long time to correct. Hence the persistent price difference in property.

4. YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT that Mt. Rainier/Hyattsville are one over communities for Silver Spring and Takoma Park, BUT they don't have the same value as MoCo. It's not like H St. vs. Trinidad or Brookland vs. Woodridge, all of which are still in the city.

Were it not for that swimming pool "club" in Mt. Rainier, there'd probably be less demand...

HOWEVER, that's not so relevant to the thesis here. Menkiti markets primarily DC properties. So for them to tiptoe over the border to Mt. Rainier is very significant and it's part of that kind of realtor-driven flip phenomenon that pushes neighborhoods up in terms of awareness and demand, like what J.T. Powell was doing north of H Street around 2000-2004.

I don't think there is that kind of comparable realtor/flipper driven flow deriving from SIlver Spring and Takoma Park.

A few months back we did notice a House Hunters episode where they ended up moving out of DC to Mt. Rainier.

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

... in my neighborhood we don't have the density, but Old Town Takoma is 3/4 mile walk.

Mt. Rainier will have a hard time developing that kind of town center, and in the same say 1 mile radius compared to Old Town Takoma, there's probably 50% of the number of houses/population.

That puts a big brake on its ability to develop the same kind of place value as DC neighborhoods, or TP or Silver Spring.

Kensington has a similar issue, except that since the people who live there like the "house value" but have no problem with driving around ("location value") it's not so much an issue. They have great community value and neighborhood value in Kensington because they are in Montgomery County, have the legacy community center, etc.

At 12:24 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

it's not politically correct to say but my joke about Rte. 1 is that it is the skunk stripe in PG County. But for them to truly reap redevelopment opportunity, they need to figure that out and develop a really strong strategy differentiated from other areas of the County. I think that's politically fraught.

note also my many posts on the opportunity PGC has to reposition its land use and transportation development planning framework based on the addition of the Purple Line as a second "transit-oriented" chance.

Similarly, my piece on New Carrollton.

At 9:17 PM, Blogger Dan Reed said...

So much potential in Kensington—the neighborhoods are gorgeous, but you'd never guess if you were on Connecticut and University. It's a self-perpetuating cycle: residents are okay driving elsewhere for things and fought (unsuccessfully) the sector plan which allows higher density and mixed use, but without the demand for walkability (and with developers confident that any proposal will get met with a fight) ensures that nothing happens there.

At 12:52 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

you know I have written a lot about how I think Maryland doesn't understand what TOD means, that they think any train station (heavy or light rail or traditional rail) has the potential for great intensification.

E.g., my writings on Halethorpe, or even about PGC's second chance to reposition the county/its land use paradigm, because of the Purple Line.

What needs to be done is the creation of a framework outlining what works, what doesn't, how to reshape the potential.

Kensington is a great example. It needs two things. First, more service and bi-directional service throughout the day on the Brunswick Line. Second, more intense development in response.

Were I better off economically and less inclined to live in the city, I'd gladly live there if there were more and different rail service.

an example. Suzanne's doctor used to be out there. She had an appointment later in the work day. To get out there, it worked for her to take the train, then I went with a Zipcar to pick her up. But with a different complement of service, she could have come back via train too.

.... this is good because for a month I've been meaning to write about Pawtucket and Central Falls, expanded commuter rail, and the ability to foster downtown revitalization and attract new residents.

Kensington could be a counter example. And New Brunswick too, towards the development of a master framework (which I have discussed too, in the context of Amtrak Virginia).


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