The University of Maryland, along with government and community stakeholders, nonprofit organizations, small businesses, and local residents, joined together to launch a landmark agreement to create pathways to opportunity for all who live, work and invest along the Purple Line corridor. Pathways to Opportunity: A Community Development Agreement for the Purple Line Corridor, developed and led by the Purple Line Corridor Coalition (PLCC), articulates a collective vision for equitable economic and community development along the 16.2-mile Purple Line light-rail corridor, and advances strategies to achieve that vision through the pursuit of four shared goals: support and grow local businesses; build a thriving labor market; ensure housing choices for all; and support vibrant, sustainable communities. It is the largest collaborative effort by regional leaders and public and private community stakeholders to shape development along the corridor.
“What this event really signals is the true beginning of this project— to ensure that the Purple Line light-rail creates a place of opportunity for all who live, work and invest in the corridor, and to sustain and support vibrant, healthy communities,” said Gerrit Knaap, director of the University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth and architect of the PLCC. “We are at the cusp of an unprecedented opportunity for economic growth and expansion—not just along this corridor, but for the entire metropolitan region. And we have a shot to shape that growth sustainably, equitably and in ways that create new pathways to opportunity, particularly for the culturally rich but economically fragile communities that dot the corridor.”
The community agreement is the result of a four-year process spearheaded by the University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth and several community stakeholders, who together, form PLCC. The launch event, which was held on Tuesday, November 29, attracted over 200 stakeholders from throughout the state, including UMD President Wallace D. Loh, Congressman Jamie Raskin (D), Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, and representatives from PLCC partners— Enterprise Community Partners, CASA, Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, and Purple Line NOW.
The event helped further conversations around the opportunities and challenges surrounding the four goals, as well as the next steps needed to move the vision forward. A key strength of Pathways to Opportunity: A Community Development Agreement for the Purple Line Corridor is the full range of expertise available within the coalition. Coalition members are experienced in areas such as housing, transportation, job creation and community development. In addition to individual expertise, data analytics developed through the National Center for Smart Growth, which pinpoint areas of opportunity and vulnerability, will be used to inform policy recommendations and fortify efforts to pursue support and funding.
The Purple Line Corridor Community Development Agreement was created over several years through an open, inclusive stakeholder process led by PLCC, which engaged more than 300 residents, business owners, nonprofit leaders and public officials. The Purple Line light-rail project broke ground in August. Running from New Carrolton, MD to Bethesda, MD, the light-rail project is 16.2 miles and comprises 21 stations. It is the first transit line to connect the Washington Metropolitan Transit System and represents one of the region’s largest transit investments in the 21st century. Inspired by successful and sustainable transit projects in Denver, Seattle and Minneapolis–Saint Paul, the PLCC plans to leverage this major transit investment to benefit both current and future residents, employees, and property owners throughout the region.
“Considerable research and experience suggests that communities are better able to capitalize on major public investments when they work together, think corridor-wide, and plan ahead,” said Knaap. “The community development agreement was an important first step.”