New Carrollton, Maryland
New Carrollton thriving in heart of Maryland
Washington, D.C. suburb has much to offer
Situated on what was once the sprawling estate of horse-racing mogul Edward Mahoney, the modern city of New Carrollton is taking off like a thoroughbred at the Maryland Jockey Club. One of the many vibrant communities of Prince George’s County, New Carrollton is just 10 miles northeast of the nation’s capital, and it’s just 32 miles southwest of Baltimore.
We recently spoke with Mayor Katrina R. Dodro and New Carrollton City Councilmember David Lai. They told us more about what makes their community of some 14,000 residents so special. Lai pointed out that the city just turned 70, earlier this year.
“New Carrollton is a wonderful bedroom community for Washington, D.C. and Baltimore,” says Dodro, “as we are easily accessible to both cities. We are a multi-modal transportation hub. There’s Metro, Amtrak and MARC (Maryland-Area Rail Commuter), as well as easy access to I-95 and the Baltimore/Washington Parkway (also known as the B/W Parkway). Our community is comprised of blue and white-collar workers, government and private corporate employees and entrepreneurs. We are diverse in every way you can think of.”
She adds that New Carrollton boasts a growing population of people from Hispanic and African countries. Plus, there is a significant growth of young families with toddlers and elementary school-aged children.
Dodro also spoke of her community’s infrastructural improvements.
“Our city has realized its need to modernize and create an executable plan for the future,” she says. “Most of our infrastructure was built from the 1950’s through the early 1980’s. We are making a concerted effort to improve our overall infrastructure, with an eye towards sustainable development and practices.”
In the heart of the city, a bridge recently failed engineering tests. Dodro emphasizes that the City of New Carrollton is working right now toward finding an immediate solution, and staffers are also actively testing and planning funding for the other bridges within the municipality.
At the same time, City staffers are also improving parks in order to make them accessible to all, including adding public wi-fi, permeable pavement paths and parking spaces and providing multi-ability inclusive access. “We’re also making improvements so that New Carrollton is more bicycle and walker-friendly,” the mayor adds.
“My administration knows that I am extremely interested in the ‘reduce and reuse’ part of the circle of three. I redid the mayor’s office with 95 percent re-purposed items! My goal is to reduce and reuse throughout the city by renovating existing structures when possible, creating more aggressive recycling and composting efforts and working with community partners to use surplus materials from new construction in nearby areas. We’re trying to respond to the requests and needs of our residents, and we’re including them in the process.”
Dodro continues that New Carrollton has a great history of being a tight-knit community with loads of community volunteers and popular clubs and programs. That changed quite a bit throughout the 2000’s, but City staffers and the New Carrollton City Council are working hard to bring back that feeling of unity within the local community, as the mayor points out.
“I’m really excited to see what we create over the next few years!” she enthuses.
Plus, Dodro says that she is also excited that her community has been recognized with a Tree City, USA award for 11 years now.
“I love our beautiful landscaping,” she adds. “(“Thanks, Public Works“) We have won numerous county beautification awards. Our city’s residents also have some amazingly beautiful gardens, and quite a few folks are planting yards with less grass, as well as installing rain gardens and planting native flowers. Maybe we should have some landscaping and garden contests!”
A renaissance for a beloved community
Dodro continues that the area around the New Carrollton Metro Station has seen a huge boom in multi-family housing and retail utilizing the transit-oriented development strategy.
“This is bringing a new opportunity for revitalizing our business district,” she says. “The city plans to meet with retail stakeholders to revitalize our two largest shopping centers. We really want to work with the developers and landowners to recruit new businesses and create community uses, providing shoppers with an engaging experience. We have an economic development fund, and we want to invest in the future of development in the city.”
Talking of which, Dodro cites the business networks of which New Carrollton makes much positive use.
“Our biggest networks are with Prince George’s County,” she notes. “One County entity is Employ Prince George’s (or EPG), an organization that helps residents prepare for 21st-century jobs and helps businesses hire staffers who are ready to work and have the necessary skills. New Carrollton recently began a partnership with Employ Prince George’s to act as a satellite office, helping both businesses and future employees. This partnership includes résumé-writing and building, job-searching tools, life-skills development, skilled training for more specialized fields and apprenticeships in the trades.”
At the same time, she adds, it gives businesses the opportunity to earn incentives for hiring residents of the county. Dodro states that she is very happy to work in such a positive partnership with EPG so New Carrollton residents may be hired locally.
Easy access and a commitment to progress
Lai notes that amongst a host of big advantages for New Carrollton is its proximity to Washington, D.C. The councilmember adds that he works in the capital, and it’s an easy commute.
“I think the beauty of New Carrollton is that we are on the Metro,” says Lai. “It’s extremely accessible, so we do have a lot of back-and-forth between D.C. and New Carrollton but also other municipalities in the area as well.”
A Baltimore native and a graduate of the University of Maryland who works in education, Lai adds that access to his hometown is just as easy. He also lauds New Carrollton for its commitment to progress and for being a very forward-thinking place.
“I would say it’s an evolving community,” he observes. “It’s a very diverse community that is diversifying even more, and you can see that through the census.”
As an example of this, Lai notes that nearly half of all New Carrollton residents—some 45 percent—speak another language at home. This diversity, he adds, will be a major asset as the community moves on into the future.
“I’m a son of immigrants,” he informs. “My parents, they came here in the late 1980’s. They were and still are small-business owners. We never had that much, but we always had food on the table and a strong support system. I was the first to graduate high school and go to college and get a grad degree. Being in elected office is not something they ever thought about, and in fact, something I didn’t think about either.
“There is a lot of potential here,” he adds of his city. “Looking forward, I see New Carrollton as a place of opportunity, as a place that people can come to because they know it’s welcoming. It’s a community that—no matter where you’re from—you’re going to be accepted and find the support and opportunities in order to realize a path for yourself.”
When he was a student at the University of Maryland in nearby College Park (located at a distance of just more than four miles away), as Lai admits, he didn’t venture into New Carrollton, as there was no need. Yet today, things have changed, and they’re very different. A new generation of college students is likewise discovering New Carrollton’s advantages as well.
“We’re so close to the university, and there’s a campus shuttle that runs to the city,” he says of his alma mater, adding that New Carrollton “has developed a lot more since then.”
Lai cites the nearby four-year institutions of Catholic University and Howard University, both of which are located in Washington, D.C. With housing in the capital being so expensive, many students opt to live in New Carrollton and simply commute to class, as Lai points out.
“We might be able to maximize and encourage young people who are studying to perhaps stay here—to invest their talents in developing New Carrollton after they graduate from their university studies,” he speculates.
Lai says being connected is so important, especially these days. That kind of connectivity—being able to bike, walk, run or otherwise commute from New Carrollton to these other nearby cities—will only serve to make it even more attractive as a brighter economic future beckons, and the community well and truly takes off.
“There’s a lot of ideas on the table, being discussed,” says Lai, “and a lot of developments also happening.”
New Carrollton, he adds, has a bright tomorrow ahead.
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AT A GLANCE
New Carrollton, Md.
What: a thriving city in the heart of Maryland
Where: just 10 miles east of Washington, D.C.
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