Get Active This Week

If you want to get more involved in the community this fall, there’s plenty of ways to do it this week.
First Look FairFirst, today and tomorrow (Wednesday and Thursday) the First Look Fair will take over much of McKeldin Mall. Over 400 groups will have tables set up from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. both days. If you are on campus you can’t miss it. Representatives from Rethink College Park will be sharing a table with our friends at The Terrapin and The College Park Site. Stop by to say hello, learn more about what we’re trying to do, or see how you can help.

Also Wednesday there is the transportation forum at 9:30 a.m. in the Student Union, and we have heard President Mote will be making a presentation to the SGA at 6 p.m., also in the Union. If that weren’t enough, on Thursday the 21st the city is holding an important informational meeting about their tentative agreement to construct a 9-story, 165-unit condo building where City Hall is now, build a new 340-space downtown parking garage, and reconstruct the Friends School building for a new city hall.

The Paint Branch Wild Card

University ViewThe Diamondback reported last week, in a bizarrely similar pair of articles, that the Michael Company (with many development projects in the area) donated nearly $250,000 to the Anacostia Watershed Society to repair and prevent further erosion on Paint Branch Creek. The creek begins north of College Park in the Beltsville Agricultural Research Station and runs directly behind the west side of Route 1 starting at Jiffy Lube and continuing on until it passes under the road at UMD’s North Gate. The stream and its constantly eroding banks make for narrow lots and uncertain conditions for developers seeking the build multistory condos and office buildings on the streamside of Route 1. State Sen. Giannetti estimated the total effort would take $1.5 million and is asking for $250,000 from the university to install rocks, retention ponds, and retaining walls to slow the flow of the water. Similar efforts are already underway around campus.

Paint BranchThe erosion is a natural process but it is hastened by impermeable, unforested surfaces (like agriculture and parking lots) that quickly channel storm water into the creek. You may have noticed this around the University View after a major storm.

>9/7/06 Diamondback “Paint Branch Creek to get funds

>9/5/06 Diamondback “Developer contributes to stream restoration

Monthly Transportation Forum Tomorrow

Got a suggestion or complaint about campus transportation? The Department of Transportation will be holding the first of a series of monthly community forums tomorrow, Wednesday, September 20 at 9:30 a.m. in the Thurgood Marshall room in the student union.

We also noticed on the DOTS website that the new University Town Center route now runs from 12:00 noon until 1 a.m. Saturday with service roughly every hour.

J-School Announces Major Gift, Names New Building

The Philip Merrill College of Journalism has announced a $4.4 million gift from the Knight Foundation (founded by what is now Night Ridder). $2.4 million of the gift will go towards establishing a new journalism institute and bolstering funding for existing Knight-initiatives. The remaining money will be added to $3 million previously donated by the foundation to meet the $5 million required to name the J-School’s new building John S. and James L. Knight Hall. The building will have a prominent location on the university’s planned west mall adjacent to the Art-Soc building and the nearby traffic circle. Expected completion: 2009.

New J-School

Thirsty Turtle Fever

Thirsty TurtleIn the last few weeks, this website has received over a hundred hits from people searching for information about the Thirsty Turtle, a new bar opening on Route 1 in downtown College Park. Owner Alan Wanuck has not yet announced an opening date but we’ve noticed construction is ongoing at the bar, and the bottom level appears to be nearing completion. Wanuck told the Gazette newspaper last week he would like to open in the “very near future.” He also told the paper he hoped the new restaurant will also appeal to university faculty and College Park residents in addition to students. As soon as we hear we’ll post an opening date, and if you know anything more about the bar feel free to comment.

> Gazette: “The Thirsty Turtle quick to fill vacancy

The logo is from another Thirsty Turtle — in Aurora, Indiana.

City Hall Site Deal Moves Forward

The City Council agreed at their Wednesday meeting to proceed with a Preliminary Site Agreement (PDF) for the redevelopment on the existing city hall site just behind Smoothie King. The site will be transformed by Capstone Development Corp into a no more than 9 story building with roughly 165 condos plus retail and/or commercial space. The parking garage we reported on yesterday and also part of the deal, would be located directly across Knox Rd. If the current plans go through, City Hall will be relocated at the (to be reconstructed) Friends School Building near campus. An informational meeting will be held September 21st at 7pm in City Hall.

City Approves Zoning Change for Condos

The College Park City Council voted unanimously yesterday to approve a zoning change to accommodate a new 300-unit apartment complex planned for across Mowatt Lane near the Business School we reported about last week. The complex deal involves the university selling the land to the developer, when it will become annexed to be part of College Park. The city’s long list of requirements for the developer included the 300 unit maximum, the stream located behind the site be protected as much as possible, and a requirement that 95% of the parking be in a parking structure. We will be posting preliminary site plan and elevation drawings when we receive them from the developer. At this point the county Planning Board and County Council must approve the re-zoning, and then the developer must go through the entire process again with his precise plans.

The city also voted to approve sending a letter supporting a bid to construct a National Bio-Agro Defense Facility (The lab would be rated to handle the most dangerous agents – a BSL 4 rating) at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, and moved forward on city plans to construct a 340-space, $9 million parking garage near Knox Road downtown. The meeting also included a number of congratulations for the two members who will be moving on to higher office, councilmembers Eric Olson and Joseline Peña-Melnyk. The two vacancies will be replaced through a special election.

Developers Pack East Campus Forum

East Campus Developer Information Session

Over 120 people representing real estate development companies packed Richie Coliseum this morning to hear about the university’s plans for the East Campus Redevelopment Initiative. The presentation, covering a variety of information contained on the university’s East Campus project website, was similar in content to the poorly promoted public meeting held Monday which drew about a dozen community members. (Pictured below)

East Campus Public MeetingUniversity officials told the developers they were interested in designs creating a “urban district of streets and blocks” as envisioned by a student architecture studio conducted in 1999 that included at least 1.4 million square feet of construction. Officials said they hoped to see proposals including graduate student housing and “some undergraduate housing” not because they desired it, but because they thought it might be necessary to reduce costs for graduate students. John Porcari, the vice president of administrative affairs, told the group they desired retail as being a “small jewel” of the project. Under plans currently discussed Old Leonardtown would be demolished but it would be up to the developer selected to decide whether to preserve the 400-bed New Leonardtown complex.

The university plans to release the first of two Requests for Proposals to developers on September 25 with more details about their requirments for the project. They also said they would post the results of a market study on the East Campus website within the next two weeks. We think housing and a large amount of retail including a supermarket are both important to students. What would you like to see on the site?

East Campus Dreamin’

I think the Rethink CP readership will be interested to read my column published in today’s Diamondback. While the views in my bi-weekly column don’t always represent those of this site and its other authors, this one is pretty much right on the mark. I encourage responses below.

–>Diamondback- 9/14 – “East campus excitement

Continue reading East Campus Dreamin’

Senators Obama, Mikulski Speaking Tues.

Sen. Barack ObamaAlthough this is a nonpartisan website, we thought our readers would be interested to hear that according to the U-M College Democrats Senators Barack Obama and Barbara Mikulski will be speaking at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 19 at the Nyumburu Cultural Center next to the student union. Event organizers are promoting the event on the Facebook, where users can RSVP.

Update, 9/15: The event organizers just sent out a message saying this event has been delayed one week and will be held Monday, September 26th. We suggest checking the Facebook event page for last minute details.