District Heights, Maryland – Prince George’s County

June 27, 2024

District Heights, Maryland

A Quiet Gem in Prince George’s County

 

Rooted in history and looking to the future with a resident focus

Incorporated in 1936, the city of District Heights has a history that is rooted in the postwar era, particularly around the influx of veterans seeking homes under the GI Bill. Today, District Heights stands as a diverse and welcoming city, with easy access to the vibrancy of Washington DC, but offering the quaint community charm that makes it feel like home.

Mayor Cynthia Miller touts, “I always say that we’re like a boutique-type city because we have qualities and ways that make us feel warm and fuzzy.” District Heights’ City Manager David Street adds, “We are a very quiet, safe pocket, within the bustling and active Washington DC beltway. We are within 15 minutes of major metro stations, but we have maintained that quiet residential character that is attractive to both people who live here and prospective residents as well.”

Enhancing the Community

Street outlines a series of recent infrastructure developments that underscore District Heights’ commitment to improving the quality of life for its residents. These initiatives include the construction of several new public playgrounds in the community, as well as the introduction of a senior center. “That’s going to be a hub of services for the 55-plus population, but also a hub for active aging and intergenerational programming in the city,” he shares.

Also underway is the expansion of the City’s community garden, “Fiesta Garden,” which will include educational opportunities to learn about nutrition and gardening. Street says, “That is a $325,000 project that is also underway. It gets the name Fiesta Garden, because it is on land that the city owns that at one point in time was supposed to be the continuation of a street – Fiesta Place. So, it’s kind of fun to reuse public property back into recreational and public benefit.”

The recent completion of a $700,000 repaving project saw improvements to a number of the main thoroughfares in the community, and Street notes that a biannual paving project will be discussed as part of the proposed 2025 budget. “Investing in infrastructure and preserving our capital assets has been a big focus of this particular commission,” he maintains.

In addition, the city has purchased a one-and-a-half-acre lot on Marlboro Pike, the main commercial thoroughfare, which will eventually be the site of a Community Services Center.

“We thought it was important that we move to a main street. We want to have a great presence there with community policing, small businesses, and wraparound services.” Says Mayor Miller, “We just felt that it was time to expand who we are and why we are so unique.”

Mayor Miller envisions the area as a thriving hub with quality restaurants and essential services, complemented by offerings to meet the diverse needs of the community. About these ongoing efforts, Street says, “We recognize that any improvements that we do in the commercial corridor are only going to broaden our tax base and allow us to continue to provide services to residents at a more effective cost. We’re also very interested in having a leading role and revitalizing our piece of that corridor, such that it takes the next step in placemaking for District Heights.”

 

A Residential Landscape

Mayor Miller points to the affordable housing in District Heights, noting its role in attracting residents to the city. “We want to have open arms for our families, professionals, seniors that are here,” she conveys. In terms of the availability, Street admits that it is a blessing and a curse.

“The blessing is that we are built out with naturally occurring affordable housing, which is housing that was built in the 40s, 50s, 60s, that typically have a smaller footprint, think Cape Cod styles. And in the current market, these homes still command $400,000 prices.”

Drawing attention to the neighboring areas where townhomes and condos are selling for almost twice that amount, he says, “So, that Cape Cod starts to look a lot more appealing for families that are looking to age in their communities, as well as people who are coming into the home-buying market for the first time.” On the cursed side, he admits that the options for future development are minimal.

“We have a couple of redevelopment opportunities that we’re looking at now, particularly as it pertains to senior living and mixed-income. But one of the detriments of being in the inner beltway is that we are built and are more or less a modern urban environment.”

However, Mayor Miller highlights the appealing character of District Heights’ neighborhoods, with its diverse array of styles and personalization. She describes, “If you find a house here, you can pretty much tailor it to the way you want it. What’s most impressive for our neighborhoods is that there are so many different types of housing, and people take pride in their landscaping. It makes it very attractive to people that come through our city or come to visit, they see that creativity.”

Economic Development: A Collaborative Approach

The city’s focus on economic development is evident through partnerships with organizations like Employ Prince George’s Career Lab, which helps to connect workers and employers in the region. District Heights has also distinguished itself as representing the first city in Maryland to move financial management to the cloud. The city is investing in switching from paper-based documents to storing documents electronically in the cloud. This has opened the door to greater efficiency and transparency as the city switches from QuickBooks to OpenGov Financial which is widely considered by local governments to be the leading ERP.

“We want to be that hub, where if someone wanted to come live here we would have those wraparound services,” Miller recounts. “Prince George’s County is focused on transit-oriented development. So, we are focused on building out the business part and the resource center to make sure that we are at the hub of whatever it is you want to do when you come to District Heights.”

An initiative is also underway to make the city more approachable at an administration level, creating what Street calls “a better business owner, taxpayer, experience, when you’re coming in to transact business with the city.” Additionally, an economic development plan is in the works, which includes a partnership with Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to identify business attraction targets and strategies. “Healthcare, for example, is appealing to us,” Street describes. Other parts of the plan include placemaking initiatives along Marlboro Pike and continued support for small businesses.

Celebrating the Community

The city is proud of its vibrant community events, including District Heights Day, an annual gathering that celebrated 25 years in 2023. “We bring the largest crowd out from all over to be a part of our District Heights Day: elected officials, business owners, vendors, food, and fun. That is our biggest event,” Mayor Miller depicts. “We just added Juneteenth as one of our events. And the second biggest is the Fourth of July. Since COVID this is the first July 4 that we’re going to have fireworks. So, we’re all so excited. And of course, we’ll have some activities and food trucks leading up to the fireworks program.”

Memorial Day brings the community together at the new Veteran’s Memorial Park, a new city park funded by a bond bill. “The Veterans’ Park came about because we realized we have over 100 veterans that lived or are living in the incorporated city. So, we were able to receive funding. It is steadily growing, but we feel that it brings people together who have served us. We honor that.” District Heights also hosts a variety of community events throughout the year, which showcase the high levels of engagement in the city.

Giving back is a priority in District Heights, evident by the various community partnerships and initiatives. Miller elaborates, “We have partnered with a food bank, a nonprofit, Food for Thought, where they are always a part of our events, where they are giving away boxes of food or hot meals, which is very helpful for our residents. And that also encourages them to come out and be a part of the activities knowing that they will leave with some food.” A partnership with District Heights Elementary School has also been forged, and the city assists in providing essential support to its students, including school supplies, backpacks, clothing, and other essential items.

A Vision for the Future

Looking ahead, Mayor Miller says the focus will be on the Main Street Marlboro Pike project, including an initiative to bring community policing to the area, before the new municipal building is ready. According to Street, the city commission has recently approved a long-term growth and annexation plan.

“That is exciting because that plan is tied very tightly to our delivery of municipal services, and our city-wide events and our city-specific services, which we are agile enough to offer with more flexibility than perhaps some others could,” he suggests. In summary, Mayor Miller conveys, “We want to make it so that if you want to be a part of us, it will be a privilege because we feel that we offer so much.”

AT A GLANCE

District Heights

What: A charming urban city, with easy access to Washington DC

Where: Prince George’s County, Maryland

Website: www.districtheights.org

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