by admin

ST. CHARLES, MD. — Soon to enter its fourth decade of development, the St. Charles master-planned community is already an expansive project. Approximately half of its 9,100 acres are built out with 12,000 single-family and apartment homes; 5 million square feet of commercial space, including a 1.1 million-square-foot Simon mall; eight schools; and seven neighborhood retail centers. Recently, American Community Properties Trust (ACPT), the project's master-developer, announced plans to turn St. Charles into a “green city.” The project starts with the remaining undeveloped land at St. Charles.

“This is really a reinvention, in a sense,” says Steve Griessel, CEO of ACPT. “We are dedicating the balance of 4,000 acres [at St. Charles] to being a smarter and greener community.”

All new construction will be built to achieve sustainable certification. Additionally, ACPT has created a Green Jobs Opportunity Zone, which gives companies tax incentives to bring green jobs to St. Charles. A business incubation park will also be developed to help new businesses get off the ground. Several sustainable energy projects are also under development. These include a 640 megawatt natural gas plant with a 75-acre solar wind farm next door to it. A biomass gasification plant is also in the works that would utilize methane gas from the community's landfill.

The green construction is not limited to new construction, though. ACPT has partnered with the Southern Maryland Electrical Cooperative to develop a green retrofitting campaign for all existing buildings within St. Charles, with a focus on energy and water efficiency. Included in the plan are several incentives for homeowners within the community to make their residences more efficient.

“The good news about this is if we pull it off — and I think we can — we will double in size over the next 20 years, but use less energy and less water than we use now,” Griessel says.

ACPT is planning to have St. Charles completely built out in the next two decades. Though specific plans are not under way, the company has lofty ambitions for the community. It is testing out a geothermal heating and cooling system at its new St. Charles headquarters building, which is currently under construction, with the hopes that one day the city may be climate controlled via geothermal power. It is also is trying to attract a college or university to the city, with the intention of building a green campus. Already, St. Charles is home to a College of Southern Maryland satellite campus that focuses on green jobs training.

“Most people have the erroneous idea that green development is a fringe concept — that it is too expensive for most people. Our entire mission and our vision is to show and to absolutely prove that we are able to build, in a sustainable way, homes and buildings at a lower cost that perform better,” Griessel says.

— Coleman Wood

You may also like