ULI Investigates the Potential to Revitalize Indian Head, MD

News Item: ULI Investigates the Potential to Revitalize Indian Head, MD

There are many hidden jewels around Washington, DC that have the potential to attract business, residents, and tourists through their cultural, entertainment, historic, or natural attractions. Leveraging those attractions, however, is rarely straightforward and typically requires a unique approach in each town.  ULI recently convened a Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) to study one such potential jewel, Indian Head, MD in Charles County, and offered several recommendations in their report: “Economic Development Opportunities in Indian Head”.

Several points stand out that will be helpful to anyone considering the area for redevelopment. First, there are numerous constraints:

  • The adjacent Naval Service Facility Indian Head (NSFIH) has only limited impact on growth due to security issues
  • The town (an independent municipality) has limited financial resources and no pertinent “brand”
  • Current property owners actually undervalue their assets, which creates a disconnect in perceived value leading to inactivity
  • The town is on a peninsula resulting in low visibility and no potential to lure passers-by

Figure 1: Indian Head, MD (from Google Maps)

Indian Head’s unique location and history, however, also provides several opportunities.

  • Day-trippers to Chapman State Park (just east) and Mattawoman State Natural Environmental Area (just south) may take advantage of the town as a base and turn their day trip into a weekend, thus spurring lodging, dining, and potential entertainment/retail redevelopment
  • The town has frontage on Mattawoman Creek and the Potomac River offering chances for ecotourism and the supporting services
  • Proximity to the NISFH may be leveraged to add innovative businesses related to the activities on the base
  • Indian Head Highway (MD 210) runs directly through town to the Capital Beltway (I-495), which is only 22 miles away
  • Both the NISFH and the Indian Head – White Plains Railroad are on the MD Inventory of Historic Properties offering potential tie-ins to museums, interpretive sites, and educational resources

To tackle these constraints and make the most of the opportunities, the TAP recommends a three-pronged approach: catalyze growth of the innovation economy through public-private partnerships; focus the town’s identity on recreation and eco-tourism; target spending on pedestrian and main street infrastructure. Many of these solutions will require more flexible zoning and increased density and heights, but the plan is careful to focus such infill.  In sum, the report is a smart take on the problems facing many communities, but crafts the standard “smart growth” solutions to Indian Head’s unique context.

For our partners in redevelopment that focus on such smart growth infill creating vibrant, mixed-use, sustainable communities, Indian Head may be worth a closer look. And if you do, please contact VIKA MD to help explore its potential.