HABS NO. MD-1216 Page 7
By the 1950s, a federal planning movement broadened the concept of the capital into a regional city that, because of emerging transportation choices, had a profound impact on Greenbelt. In 1951, planners and legislators reinvigorated the concept of a “circumferential highway” first considered during the war.9 Encircling the District of Columbia and distributing federal jobs outside the national capital, the planned highway was an effort to reduce congestion in the national capital as well as to redevelop blight within the district. From an original White House request to move jobs from the district’s crowded northwest quadrant, the idea was taken up by the U.S. Senate, who asked for a plan to facilitate the commuting and traveling of federal workers dispersed throughout Maryland, Virginia, and the District.10 By the end of 1952, a rough plan was in place for the proposed highway and talk had turned to land acquisition. The initial plan routed the circumferential highway through Greenbelt to offer automobility to employees of the Department of Agriculture station in Beltsville. 11
Gaining a continuous right-of-way around the capital proved difficult because the D.C. area population was already deep into the process of moving out to and working in the Washington suburbs.12 Several alterations to the planned route occurred during subsequent negotiations, however, because the expressway’s construction involved so many jurisdictions and funding sources.13 However, the project was eventually rolled into President Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway system and funded through federal transportation revenues. In addition, surrounding counties partnered by making local road improvements that would anticipate the importance and capacity of what came to be known as the Capital Beltway. 14
In 1956, the MNCPPC undertook a revision of the regional plan that governed land use within its jurisdiction. The proposed zoning maps included significant upzoning to accommodate the anticipated growth of the national capital, and the new population that the proposed Capital Beltway would bring to Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. Greenbelt residents opposed this effort to bring density and new development to their community, claiming that the character of Greenbelt would be lost. Despite the opposition to the 1956 plan, the county implemented it with minor alterations. The zoning plan included several industrial zones to the west of the original Greenbelt developments and anticipated routing of the Capital Beltway between the new and old developments.
Several Maryland and DC-area developers formed a consortium to take advantage of this opportunity. Herman Greenberg, Ralph Ochsman, Albert Small, and Myron Funger formed Community Builders, Inc., and Community Realty Company to build a residential community west of Old Greenbelt. Edward Perkins, another local developer, purchased a tract of open land west of the existing town. He had been considering continuing his previous work developing single family residences, but was convinced by his lawyer that a zoning change to multi-family residential, enabling apartments, would be easier to achieve. Because the market for single
9 Betty McDevitt, “Express Highway System Plans Revealed for Md.-Capital Area.” Washington Post. 21 Nov 1944: 1. _____ “Senators Ask Plan for D.C. Belt Highway.” Washington Post. 8 Mar 1951: 2. Matt McDade, “$328 Million Roads Plan Is Proposed In D.C. Area.” Washington Post. 14 Dec 1952: M1. Editorial. “Modernizing Highways.” Washington Post. 21 Dec 1952: B4. Wes Barthelmes, “Proposed Prince George’s Relocation Would Put Belt Road Closer to D.C.” Washington Post. 19 Nov 1954: 29. 14 _____ “Belt Road For Silver Spring Gets Council Nod.” Washington Post. 5 Sep 1956: 25. 10 11 12 13