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New Largo project offers hope for blighted site

Steve Sandler, an owner of L.M. Sandler & Sons LLC, speaks during the groundbreaking for the Capital Courts development project in Largo. The developer purchased the land in February for $11.5 million and plans to build 500 residential units on the property.

Steve Sandler, an owner of L.M. Sandler & Sons LLC, speaks during the groundbreaking for the Capital Courts development project in Largo. The developer purchased the land in February for $11.5 million and plans to build 500 residential units on the property. (Adam Bednar)

LARGO — A long-unfinished eyesore in Prince George’s County is set to become a new residential development dubbed Capital Courts.

The project’s developer, Virginia Beach-based L.M. Sandler & Sons LLC, joined elected officials and county employees in celebrating the site’s groundbreaking on Wednesday.

The developer paid $11.5 million for the roughly 34-acre tract that was supposed to have been the home of Metropolitan Baptist Church. The property, which also has a partially completed church building on it, was initially listed at $17.9 million. L.M. Sandler intends to redevelop the property with 500 residential units, including townhouses and apartments.

The development will include a mix of workforce and residential housing plus a community center with a think tank via a collaboration between Leadership Prince George’s and Prince George’s Community College.

“This is a great thing for my company. It’s a better thing for Prince George’s County … It’s a great opportunity and will be a great development,” said Steve Sandler, an owner of L.M. Sandler & Sons.

The site at 100 Capital Court started being developed about a decade ago, but the project eventually ran out of money, went into foreclosure and left a partially completed 145,000-square-foot church building — a $35 million investment — sitting on valuable real estate.

For years brokers tried to find a buyer for the property in an attempt to get the church’s bond buyers some financial relief and put the valuable land back to use.

Monique Anderson Walker, principal of Fleur De Lis LLC, who handled the sale of the property, said there were as many as six letters of intent for the project that fell through for one reason or another during a roughly five-year period.

Eventually the building’s selling points, such as the in-place infrastructure, proximity to the Largo Metro Station and the development of the new Regional Medical Center, helped land a buyer in February.

“I wish I could say there was elation (when a new buyer emerged) but there were so many stops and starts. Until it was really done we kind of kept all our emotions in check because we didn’t know what might happen at the end,” Anderson Walker.

Marva Jo Camp, attorney for developer and the chairwoman of Leadership Prince George’s, called the deal very complex, in large part because it involved zoning amendments. But she described the development as a win for the county because it will now transform what had become a public safety hazard.

“People were really tired. There were drugs going on here, there was sex going on. There was just a lot of blight, and the community wanted to see something else,” Camp said.

David S. Iannucci, the county’s assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development, said having the property back on the county’s tax role is a big win, and he credited the private sector for solving the issue.

“This is a very meaningful residential project for the Largo area, there are projects … that are much, much larger to be honest, but you might also consider this an infill property, and it will be significant because of its access to Metro and (Interstate 495),” Iannucci said.

The deal won’t repay the church’s bondholders everything they invested in the project, but it will also provide some relief to primarily elderly bondholders, said Mark Young, president of TMI Trust Co., the fiduciary trustee for the 600 bondholders who invested in the project.

“They’re not going to get all of their money back, a lot of them are elderly … surprisingly they are so thrilled to get any money back, and this has been a great thing for our bondholders,” Young said. “They’re not upset about this. They just want to get some money back. When you’re 80 years old you’re not interested in what happens eight years from now.”


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