More College Park Hating

This week’s Washington City Paper’s cover story – “Shell of a Town”- which was just released today, mounts a blistering assault on College Park. The article, at some points abrasive and combative and others startlingly insightful and well-informed, leaves anyone familiar with College Park unsure whether to laugh or cry. While it isn’t our role to debate the finer social points presented by the author, David Morton, this article is truly one of the most comprehensive accounts of the physical development of College Park that we have ever come by. He characterizes College Park as having the “locational charm of a highway rest stop” despite the university’s stately campus. Comparing College Park to America’s perennially great College Towns, the author cites “an ugly shopping strip, a scarcity of choice, an air of lurking danger, and the promise of thoughtless mayhem” as what the town has going for it. He goes on later to bemoan the city’s lack of small business, chronicles College Parks seemingly endless violent crime log, and recommends a new and innovative riot policy to school administrators – “Make College Park worth not destroying.”

Of course it really isn’t all as hopeless as Morton portrays it to be – indeed the Testudo statue on the front page is looking ahead, or rather, onward – towards East Campus.

Bethesda Park???

While doing some research for our presentation to the SGA last night, we came across some shocking data. Even though we are one of the most outspoken organizations constantly exclaiming College Park’s ‘ripeness for redevelopment’ and are on record talking about CP’s imminent “massive development campaign” several times, putting these numbers in one place really took our breath away (italics indicate our confidence that the project will be built):

-> East Campus Development Initiative (extensive housing – 1000 units?, office, retail)
-> M-Square Research Park (extensive office, 490 condos)
-> Private Investments in the pipeline

  • Mosaic at Turtle Creek (8 stories, 300 condos behind Hillel)
  • City Hall deal (9 stories, 165 condos, 350 space downtown garage, retail)
  • Northgate Condominiums (17 stories 204 condos, retail)
  • Starview Plaza (110 units, office, retail)
  • University View Overlook (office, retail in front of University View)
  • Berwyn House Apartments (additional 72 units)
  • CP Metro Station (400 condos)
  • Hillcrest Heights (140-160 condos, retail – now considering combining with Lasicks and providing student housing)
  • Mazza Grandmarc Apartments (211 unit student housing – North CP)
  • Knox Redevelopment???
  • Universal Barber Site – Condos???
  • North Gate Luxury Hotel???

We got most of this information from the College Park Development Update. Although some of these projects are still in the conceptual stage and have a rigorous approval process ahead of them, they represent literally billions in potential investment for the area. Even if only half of these projects come to fruition in the next 10-15 years, College Park will be forever changed by the influx of both diverse buyers/renters and retail. Alas, the condo market, politics, and planning are notoriously fickle – potentially thwarting plans from year to year and changing the nature of projects.

visioning.JPG

Where Will the Purple Line Go?

No doubt you’ve heard about the Bi-County Transitway, or so-called Purple Line. Currently state officials are considering either “bus rapid transit” or “light rail” (modern streetcars) for the route. Based on the information available on the project website, our technology director Eric Fidler created this map showing the currently proposed route and stations in College Park:

Much more information on the project including this map is availabe on our “Purple Line” library page. Would you like to see the line built? Your elected officials need to hear from you.

Got Crabs?

n2210235193_33547.jpgAlthough it may be a bit of a stretch from our usual subject matter, we thought we would note that tickets are on sale for the first-ever Maryland Crab Fest, scheduled for October 12 in Cole Field House. For $12.50 you get a hearty crab dinner followed by a screening of Wedding Crashers on the big screen on McKeldin Mall.

Today’s Diamondback has a story with more details about the difficulties SGA president Emma Simpson ran into trying to plan the event. Scandal aside, we think the event sounds fun and applaud the SGA for their efforts putting it together. Tickets are on sale at the North Campus Diner, South Campus Dining Hall, and the Union Shop. The event also has its own page on the Facebook.

‘U’ Releases East Campus RFP

The University has released the first of two formal request for proposal documents on the East Campus development website, and also posted an interesting list of the individuals present at the East Campus developer forum held earlier this month. This “Part A” of the RFP requests a statement of qualifications and some legal paperwork, designed to narrow the pool of developers to only the firms with experience and financial backing for the project. This smaller pool of companies will complete a more detailed “Part B” which will be released in November and due in early January 2007. The university also added this page to the east campus website to help visitors keep track of additions and changes.

>> RFP No. 82465-W – East Campus Redevelopment Initiative Technical/Qualification (PDF)
>> 9/14 Developer Session Attendees (PDF)

Details Emerge About ‘Mosaic’ Project

Mosaic at Turtle Creek - South ElevationMosaic at Turtle Creek - Ilustrative Site Plan

The Mosaic at Turtle Creek project is a 300-unit luxury condominium project proposed for an undeveloped lot located roughly behind the Hillel building on Mowatt Lane, near the Business School. The city voted last week to approve the re-zoning required for the lot, and if the Prince George’s County Planning Board (PGCPB) approves the re-zoning the developer will return to both bodies for final project approval. Although relatively early in the approval process, a variety of documents are available about plans for this site.

Mosaic at Turtle Creek - East ElevationWe just uploaded two documents related to the project submitted to the PGCPB in PDF format. The first is a letter from University Vice President for Administrative Affairs John Porcari (PDF) officially endorsing the project as consistent with the university’s facilities master plan. The second is from the developer Thomas Farasy (PDF) explaining the concept for “intergenerational housing” at the site. He notes the building will provide an opportunity to own a residence near the university for “alumni of all ages,” and “For faculty, current and retired, it provides a price alternative to live near the University in new housing for under $1,000,000.” Mosaic at Turtle Creek - Site Vicinity MapHe adds that “this is not an age-restricted community.” He describes the amenities offered as including a “sauna, a resistance pool, wine cellar, and virtual concierge services.”

Two additional items are linked from the PGCPB agenda, the staff reccomendation for the re-zoning and a PDF of the submitted images. Click any of the illustrations here for a larger view. What do you think of the project?

North Gate Park downsized, groundbreaking expected soon

Northgate ParkUniversity officials are in the final planning stages of the long awaited North Gate Park: a combination pedestrian bridge and environmental restoration project – all on a 5 acre lot between the university’s North Gate and Jerry’s Sub on the Paint Branch Stream. The university is waiting for final approval from the Maryland Department of Environment and FEMA since the project is located within the 100-year floodplain. The final price tag is still unknown according to Richard Poley of Facilities Management, but the state couldNorthgate Park potentially contribute $830,000 once the final bids from contractors come in. The university would pay any price difference.

Although the new project is less ambitious than originally planned, with just one bridge and a ‘less elaborate’ entrance, Poley told us he felt that it still held true to the plan that emerged from an undergraduate landscape architecture design competition in 2004.

John Porcari, Vice President of Administrative Affairs, speculated to us earlier this month that the second bridge and other additions to the park may not be pursued until plans for a luxury hotel just north of the park are confirmed. Two condominium projects north of University View, including the approved North Gate Condos, along with the East Campus Development Initiative will inevitably make this now underused parcel a vital pedestrian link and public space for students and city residents alike. North Gate Park is a great example of how different levels of government combined with some student idealism can go a long way towards improving College Park.

Porcari Initiates East Campus Market Study

Today, vice president of administrative affairs John Porcari sent an email to the campus community asking for input on the proposed East Campus Development initiative. This planned retail services study comes after a poorly advertised and poorly attended public information meeting about the initiative on the 11th. The full letter is below.

We encourage everyone to complete the short survey

East Campus 1999 Arch Studio

We got the following message after completing the survey:

Sorry

If you get the same thing just comment to this post and tell us what you think East Campus should be. We’ll listen to you! (Update 9/23: The survey has been fixed, please take it!)

Dear Members of the University of Maryland Community:

The University’s plan to redevelop the East Campus District, located at US Route 1 and Paint Branch Parkway, as a lively, mixed-use environment is the greatest opportunity we have to enhance the physical campus and add the kinds of amenities (such as a specialty grocer, nice restaurants and quality housing) that our outstanding students, faculty

Continue reading Porcari Initiates East Campus Market Study

Students Launch Parking Petition

Citing expensive parking ticket fines, confusing signs, and poor communication by the Department of Transportation Services, a group have students have launched a “Fair Parking Petition” demanding changes to university parking policies. The students complain no warning tickets are issued and the fine for a first offense is $75, as opposed to an average of $35 at other ACC schools they surveyed. They created this graph of the survey results:

Fair Parking Initiative Graph

The petition also calls for wider distribution of parking information to students. In order to build support group founder Alex Josephs has started a group on the Facebook. For more information about the petition or to add your name, contact him at josephsa at umd.edu. Do you think the parking system is fair?

(Click continue to read the full petition text.) Continue reading Students Launch Parking Petition

Mote Tells All

CD MoteUniversity president CD Mote weighed in on development in College Park and the proposed Campus Connector Road in an unusual appearance at tonight’s weekly SGA meeting. He noted that, around the country, College Park should be, “as good as it gets for a great college town” and that “you would be hard pressed to find a better place for a college town.” A main obstacle, he claimed, is that the City of College Park just “doesn’t want to change Route 1.” When asked by SGA President Emma Simson for clarification on the university’s connector road position, Mote responded, “all we are asking for is a study” and essentially argued that the study could come up with alternatives other than the proposed limited access highway. He later pointed out that no one has proposed a viable alternative to the new roadway and thus reiterated his previous “only option” assertions. He jokingly referred to College Park Mayor Stephen Brayman’s suggestion (also a joke) that the university should rope off everything within 1.5 miles of campus from cars and force people to walk or take buses. Anyone have what president Mote dubbed a ‘sizzle’ alternative to this road?

If any of our readers knows the study where administrators are getting this ‘11,000 cars off Route 1 and onto the connector road’ number please email it to us – we’d love to have a look.