Purple Line Gains Momentum

The purple line appears to be gaining political support according to the Washington Post and Washington Times. The project, that would likely provide a direct link from the College Park Metro to campus and on to Silver Spring and Bethesda, had dropped off the map in recent years. Now, more than 120 elected officials and candidates have signed onto the transitway; building a bipartisan consensus and making it a critical election year issue in PG and Mongomery county. Both Maryland Gubernatorial candidates support the project as polls show approval for the project topping 78% in Mongomery County.

“A massive number of us are seeing purple,” said Delegate William Bronrott, Montgomery Democrat. “After two decades of controversy, a strong consensus is finally forming that the time has come to build the Inner Purple Line.”

This Week in the Gazette: Paperworks Closes, Vendor Restrictions Proposed

This week’s College Park Gazette has several articles of note. The city has restricted on-street parking to residents only on a portion of Narragansett Parkway where commuters were parking for the Greenbelt Metro station. The City Council will decide in their September meeting whether to adopt a number of restrictions on solicitors and vendors, including requiring ice cream trucks use bells instead of recorded music.

Finally, College Park business Paperworks Balloons and Gifts is closing after 21 years of operation. The Gazette profiles owner Lisa Holt, who was forced to close the business when her landlord increased her rent form $4,500 a month to $7,000 a month. According to the state’s real property database, the property was assessed at $479,600 in 2004 and is owned by “College Park Center, LLC” with an address listed at “3701 SAINT BARNABAS RD, SUITLAND MD 20746-3211.”

Also, the state will be modifying signs directing motorists to the university campus in an effort to reduce traffic on Route 1, the Diamondback reports. The article also mentions Sen. John Giannetti’s “Terrapin Trails” project to install signs decorated with Testudo to direct fans to sporting events.

UMD to Build its Own Downtown District

The University has begun courting developers (website) for an ambitous public-private partenership to redevelop its landholdings between Paintbranch Parkway, Route 1, and Frat Row. The project has been left relatively open-ended, but it will certainly be mixed use (both retail and student housing) and cause a dramatic shift northwards of College Park’s commercial core. It is the “single largest private development opportunity on Route 1.” The site’s central location to many parts of campus as well as its proximity to the north campus high rises, the new research park, and the proposed purple line make it an ideal location for such a massive project.

East Campus Map

The University will conduct a developer information session on September 14th and choose between competing proposals in the coming months. The selected developer’s final architectural plans will be available May 2007. We’re encouraged by the University’s continued commitment to invigorate downtown College Park and we look forward to a public and open process as the project moves forward.

Local Business Blog Launched

A bad experience with a tax preparation business has inspired a Beltsville man to launch the Beltsville Vicinity Shoppers blog where he plans to post reviews of businesses in Beltsville, Hyattsville, College Park, Greenbelt, and Laurel. The Gazette newspaper reported that site founder Hector Blackwell has said he’ll publish any review contributed by readers. “‘I see it as an avenue to contribute to the community so we can spend our money more wisely,” Blackwell told the Gazette, ‘‘I want to let the businesses know that just because they’re local we don’t have to patronize them. They’re going to have to step up their game and treat [customers] right.” The site features reviews of RJ Bentley Restaurant and the Home Depot in College Park.

> Beltsville Vicinity Shoppers blog

CityPaper Profiles College Perk

This week’s Young and Hungry column in the Washington CityPaper profiles College Perk, describing the owner, former Army Ranger Chris Gordon, the coffeehouse’s eclectic atmosphere, and the food: “The Fruitbat is a bitch to eat, given that its chunky ingredients tend to flee from their crescent-shaped hideaway. But if you manage to cram everything in your mouth at once, the result is a richly layered sandwich that begins to blow College Perk’s cover: The place, you realize, is not just a simple, trippy coffeehouse after all.” College Perk is located at 9087 Baltimore Ave.

> CityPaper: “Young and Hungry: Cuppa G.I. Joe

The photo above was uploaded to Flickr by user artfulaction.

How Do You Build a College Town?

That’s the question towns from Columbia, Ohio to Mansfield, Connecticut are pondering as they construct new city plans — and multi-million dollar projects – to build vibrant towns for their Universities. While we’re skeptical huge projects alone can build a great college town, we applaud these cities for their vision. How will College Park measure up?

After the state committed to spend more than $2 billion for improvements to all its campuses, the University of Connecticut decided on a sweeping project at its main campus in this hamlet in the still-rural town of Mansfield. Working with local officials, it plans to demolish the meager downtown, which looks more like a makeshift set for a Hollywood western than a New England college center, and build a town from scratch.

Construction of the development, called Storrs Center, is scheduled to begin next year. The project will include up to 300 market-rate rental housing units, up to 500 residential units for purchase, about 200,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 40,000 to 75,000 square feet of office space and 5,000 to 25,000 square feet of civic and community space. A town square will be at its core, mimicking the greens at the center of hundreds of New England villages.

New York Times: “UConn Decides to Build Its Own College Town