There was no shortage of opinions on where a new medical center in Prince George's County should be located.
More than 350 people attended a forum on Feb. 28 at the Prince George's County Sports and Learning Complex in Landover with 70 of them sharing their views on the best site as well as related issues such as traffic, the sites' proximity to mass transit, the economic impact of the project and more.
Mark L. Wasserman, senior vice president of external affairs for the University of Maryland Medical System, said that while the project was "enormously complex," all parties share a common agenda "building something that could be a national leader."
Four possible sites for the proposed new Regional Medical Center were presented at the meeting: Landover Mall, Largo Town Center, Morgan Boulevard and Woodmore Towne Centre. Site selection criteria included being centrally located in the county, accessible to transportation (I-495/Metro stations and bus routes/pedestrian access), cost of acquisition and development, size, timing of site control and future development potential, according to officials.
The meeting was hosted by officials representing Dimensions Healthcare System, the University of Maryland Medical System, the state of Maryland and Prince George's County government.
Before the public comment portion of the meeting began, Bradford L. Seamon, chief administrative officer for Prince George's County, emphasized that a decision on the site has not been reached although he said he had heard from people who thought officials had already made up their minds.
Lee Walker, mayor of Landover Hills, said he favored the Landover Mall site because of transportation routes and it wouldn't cause a large displacement of residents.
"We have been waiting 25 years for major use there," said another speaker who supported the Largo Town Center site. "We taxpayers already have spent a great deal on this location." He added that the University of Maryland University College campus in Largo is nearby and could possibly be a site for cross-training.
Dan Smith of Cheverly said he was "thrilled" about the opportunity the new hospital presents and that it would be "a catalyst for quality, long-term development."
Angela Heath, who identified herself as the owner of a physical therapy business, stressed that transportation is key and talked about clients who take Metro, a bus and then walk three blocks to get to her office.
"I hope and pray that transportation remains foremost in your consideration," said Heath, who suggested having shuttle service to get patients from Metro stations to the new hospital.
John Anderson, a retiree, said he hoped that mental health services would be part of the new facility and that it wouldn't provide "just a few specialties."
Several speakers called Landover Mall an eyesore including Stephanie Anderson of the Royale Gardens Civic Association in Landover. She criticized the Woodmore site due to traffic congestion.
"You need to have roads that allow you to get around," said Anderson.
Bill Orleans said the Largo Town Center was the best location because of its proximity to heavy rail. He suggested that the medical center not be one large facility and that residents would be better served if services were dispersed throughout the county.
Many of those who spoke at the meeting said they were in favor of Largo Town Center.
"Largo Town Center is ready for the hospital. Landover Mall is a non-start," said Margaret Boles, who questioned if Landover Mall's owner would be willing to sell.
The Regional Medical Center is anticipated to be a 259-bed, 720-square-foot facility initially treating 16,000-17,000 patients annually and increasing to 21,000 by 2019, according to one official.
Several speakers addressed the issue of traffic, especially on game days at the FedEx Field.
"If you don't have a flashing light, you suffer," said Courtney Johnson, a 25-year resident of Prince George's County, about traffic congestion on game days. "I know we can work things out." He suggested building a bridge from Landover Mall over I-495 and having shuttle service to a Metro station.
Jamal Miller of District Heights said all four proposed sites were within the traffic pattern for the stadium, which he called a "nightmare."
"What is the plan going to be for traffic going into any of the four sites," he asked.
Miller also stressed that having shops and restaurants nearby for the families of patients is also important.
"Hearing from the community we serve is an important part of the location review process...," said Neil J. Moore, president and chief executive officer of Dimensions Healthcare System. "We share our partners' commitment to enhance health care in the region and appreciate the community's interest and participation."