Fairmont Heights High School was vacated in September 2017, when the school operations moved to a new facility. Concerns have been raised by the community that such an underutilized property could become an economic burden and its deterioration a threat to the stability of the surrounding neighborhoods. To prevent the structure from becoming an economic burden or a nuisance, and considering the community’s interest in heritage preservation, planners recommended adaptive reuse/re-purposing of the site in the Greater Cheverly Sector Plan. Although incremental planning policies have been formulated in the Greater Cheverly Sector Plan: “Adaptively reuse Fairmont Heights High School as a financially sustainable community resource” (The Preliminary Greater Cheverly Sector Plan, Land Use Element, Policy 3, pg. 44), the future of the site remains unclear, and pragmatic steps must be defined to determine the property’s long-term permanent use.
The site is recognized for its distinguished history and was designated a Prince George’s County Historic Site in 2010 (2010 Historic Sites and Districts Plan - Historic Site 72-064). Fairmont Heights High School is situated in the middle of a residential neighborhood, east of the District of Columbia, south of Sheriff Road, and northwest of the Martin Luther King Jr. Highway, on a 14.90-acre campus in Capitol Heights, Maryland. The campus is in the western part of the Prince George’s County, and its proximity to major highways and Washington D.C. makes it conveniently accessible. It is half a mile from both Baltimore Washington Parkway to the east and Route 50 to the south. The Cheverly Metro Station further improves its accessibility, located within half a mile of the school (see Vicinity Map). The parcel is surrounded by single-family dwellings on three sides; the parcels on the north, south, and east of the lot are zoned as low-density residential. A 15.06-acre parcel to the west of the school property was rezoned as mixed-use and is owned by Jemals Fairfield Farms LLC. for which multifamily housing, office space, and commercial use were proposed as part of the future development (see Neighborhood Map).
One of the strategies specified in the Greater Cheverly Sector Plan is to “conduct a feasibility study that examines financially sustainable adaptive reuse and rehabilitation opportunities of the site, including analysis of potential uses such as affordable housing, senior housing, housing for special needs populations, community education and recreation, and performing arts and cultural uses” (The Preliminary Greater Cheverly Sector Plan, Land Use Element, Policy 3, pg. 44).
The Planning Assistance to Municipalities and Communities (PAMC) project involves the retention of consultant services to conduct an economic study related to transit-oriented development (TOD) in the area around the Fairmont Heights High School and the Cheverly Metro Station. The consultant study will inform economics of the area and market needs surrounding Fairmont Heights High School to identify programmatic use options for the site, taking into consideration the existing transportation infrastructure. The consultant study will address vacant and built land, infrastructure, circulation, development constraints, livability, and overall character of the subject site and surrounding neighborhood. This information will be incorporated into a feasibility study for the adaptive reuse/re-purposing of the historic Fairmont Heights High School and associated campus.