County leaders sign agreement to protect communities along Purple Line

Purple Line RenderingCOLLEGE PARK – A new agreement signed by county, community and business leaders aims to protect the estimated 10,000 low-income families who live along the route of the future Purple Line.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, III, Montgomery County Executive Ike Legget and University of Maryland President Wallace Loh joined other local and community leaders to sign and launch “Pathways to Opportunity: A Community Development Agreement for the Purple Line Corridor” on Nov. 28.

“This is an important project for the state,” Baker said, adding that the purpose of the agreement is “to make sure as this community grows around this transit, as we see mixed-use development come, that we also see affordable workforce housing, that we also see job opportunities for those communities, that we see businesses that have suffered through not having the transit there actually participate.”

The Purple Line is a 16-mile light rail intended to link Bethesda to New Carrollton. The line is scheduled to open in 2022.

The Purple Line Corridor Coalition (PLCC) spent three years engaging with more than 300 residents, business owners, property owners, nonprofit leaders and public officials to establish this agreement.

The four goals of the agreement, which is not legally binding, are that “diverse, locally established businesses prosper both during and after the construction period; workers in the corridor are well-trained, grow in number, and are well-matched with employers in skills and location; housing opportunities are available for people of all incomes in communities throughout the corridor, especially current low, middle-income, and transit-dependent residents; (and) vibrant and sustainable communities enhance health, culture, and a sense of place.”

Four working groups will address these goals, and the eight signatories will review the progress made toward them every year.

Officials from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, the University of Maryland, the Maryland National-Capital Park and Planning Commission, CASA de Maryland and Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. signed the pact.

The agreement was also endorsed by College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn, the City of Takoma Park, the Town of University Park and 14 organizations, including the Maryland Center on Economic Policy and Prince George’s Advocates for Community-Based Transit.

Gerrit Knaap, executive director of the National Center for Smart Growth, said this pact is the second of its kind in the country.

The idea for the Purple Line agreement came about several years ago when CASA approached the PLCC about protecting communities along the International Corridor, a two-mile commercial and residential strip that bridges the Long Branch and Langley Park neighborhoods.

“We realized something needed to be done to protect these folks from unjust displacement,” said Renato Mendozal, an advocacy specialist with CASA.

The PLCC decided to extend the agreement to include the whole Purple Line area.

“We realized that a community benefits agreement needed to be drafted, where the redevelopment of the areas along the proposed Purple Line corridor would not only provide a new mode of transportation and redevelopment, but would yield benefits for the current residents,” Mendozal said.

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