Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Planners approve $3 billion Konterra Town Center in Laurel

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The Prince George’s County Planning Board has unanimously approved the concept plan for the massive, mixed-use Konterra Town Center East development, which will be built in Laurel along the county line next to the Intercounty Connector.

The four-member board approved the plan, submitted in September 2007, on June 12.

‘‘When you bring good stuff, you don’t have to fight,” said Planning Board Vice Chairman Sylvester Vaughns.

As proposed, the about $3 billion project will have townhouses, outdoor plazas, high-end retailers and office buildings on 488-acres.

‘‘It’s a big step,” said Caleb Gould, Konterra’s co-developer, whose family owns the site. ‘‘It’s a start and we’re very happy to be rolling along.”

The developers will return to the Planning Board in July with a preliminary plan, which will provide some specifics about how the development will be arranged, and in the fall with a detailed site plan, which will go to the County Council for final approval before construction can begin.

Konterra Town Center East, which will consist of 4,500 residential units and 5.9 million square feet of commercial, retail and office space, will sit between Interstate 95 and Virginia Manor Road in Laurel. The ICC will run along the property’s southern end.

Construction has already started on the $2.4 billion ICC, a toll road that will link Interstate 270 in Gaithersburg with Interstate 95 and Route 1 in Laurel.

Many of the details, including design standards, will be decided during the site plan approval.

The planning staff recommended developers build a hotel in the project’s downtown area. The developers’ plan is to build the hotel outside the downtown area.

Planning staff also said building permits cannot be issued until certain road improvements such as an I-95 interchange at Contee Road are funded, approved and have a timetable for construction.

Konterra attorney Andre Gingles said the developers are working with the Prince George’s County Public Works Department and the State Highway Administration on road improvements.

Many of the projects will add additional turn lanes to Contee Road, Route 1, Old Gunpowder Road and other roads.

The 132-acre downtown area will be built during the first phase of the project. It will include 1.4 million square feet of retail space, 300 to 600 multifamily homes and townhouses, and office space.

Developers are expecting an 18-month approval process before breaking ground in late 2009 or early 2010 and a 30-month construction schedule for the downtown portion. The entire town center will be built out over 12 to 20 years.

Despite concerns expressed in the past by many community members, residents at the public hearing all spoke in favor of the project.

Beltsville Civic Association President Karen Coakley said her group supports the conceptual site plan, which is very similar to the plan presented to the greater Laurel and Beltsville community during a 2006 charrette.

‘‘It’s about time to see it go forward, and trust me, we will be watching the details,” she said.