Route One ‘Northgate’ Highrise Planned

Northgate Elevation

Another residential highrise similar in size and design to the University View is planned for a Route One site located just north of campus. The Northgate project won final approval from city and county officials in June, and the 17-story project will contain 204 condominium units and is estimated to cost $68 million to construct. We hear the project was subject to lengthy debate by the City Council over the size, design, and amount of parking provided. Under approved plans the building will be connected by a trail to the pedestrian bridge located behind the University View. Other specific details are included in the Planning Board’s resolution (PDF) approving the detailed site plan. Click on the images below for a closer look at what is planned.

Northgate AerialNorthgate Project Elevations

Announcing the Community Housing Forum

Housing Forum FlyerWe’re happy to announce that Rethink College Park is sponsoring a Community Housing Forum with the undergraduate and graduate student governments (both organizations have representatives on the East Campus Steering Commitee). SGA president Emma Simson has been working closely with us over the last several weeks to make the event a reality. The goal is to open up a wider community dialogue on student housing in and around the university. This topic is critically important given the ongoing East Campus Initiative and several private projects in the area.

Here’s a blurb from some of our materials:

The University’s continued transition from a commuter campus to a residential campus has put enormous pressure on the housing stock in College Park. Despite the recent openings of South Campus Commons, University Courtyards, University View and University Towers there are still about 875 students on UMD’s Department of Resident Life waitlist. Market research shows a latent demand for over 2700 University-affiliated beds near campus units including, but not limited to, housing units that are amenable to graduate students. Continually low rental vacancy rates (2.8%) in College Park and associated high rental prices have lead to student encroachment into traditionally family-oriented neighborhoods; causing conflict and discontent among city residents. Students fear that rent stabilization policies, enacted by the City Council last year, will only exacerbate the student housing shortage.

We’ve invited several area developers (including all developers who have expressed interest in East Campus) along with city and university officials so students can share their ideas on the type, cost, size and quality of new housing.

The event will be held on October 30th in the Atrium of the Stamp Student Union at 5:30pm. We hope you decide to join in!

> Students should RSVP on Facebook
> Developers, university, and government officials should RSVP to Rethink College Park Editor David Daddio
> Download the Event Flyer (PDF)

Transportation, Real Estate Events Upcoming

We wanted to note a couple of upcoming events. First, today is one of the DOTS regular Transportation Forum for the campus community. The forum will be held at 1:00 p.m. in the Thurgood Marshall Room in the student union.

University ViewSecond, we received a notice of the inaugural meeting of a new Real Estate Development Club that is being organized in connection with the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation’s new masters in real estate development. Although based in the new program the notice says the club is “open and invites participation from all undergraduate and graduate programs” and points out the East Campus Redevelopment Initiative “is one of the most exciting opportunities for students to be engaged in development close at hand.” Furthermore, the club will: “… be bringing entrepreneurs from the development community to campus, arranging for field trips to sites being developed, as well as provide a student advisory role to the new Master’s degree program in Real Estate Development.” The kick-off meeting will be 6:30 p.m. on Monday, October 30 in the Architecture Building Auditorium.

I Respectfully Recline

We’ve always noticed something peculiar about the benches that line the ΟΔΚ fountain on McKeldin Mall. Though they are indeed benches, we have spotted more people reclining on them than sitting up straight. We doubt the bench designers intended this.

Had these benches been installed in a less serene and open location (beside a street, for instance) they would not have become the favorite of blanket-poor sunbathers. Still, the low, backless design and quiet placement make these benches among the better designed elements of public streetscape we’ve ever seen.

When the university puts the finishing touches on the East Campus development, we know that a few chic, well-placed benches will enhance the intended urban atmosphere.

Below: These new benches—chairs, actually—on the District side of Friendship Heights recently caught our eye.


Beer, Crime, and Urban Design

Student Government leaders lead university and government officials around campus last night during their annual safety walk. They considered lighting, camera coverage, and overgrown shrubbery that could aid criminals (all topics that we explored briefly a couple weeks ago). Officials repeatedly swayed the conversation on crime to one of its root causes – drinking. A brief jaunt through CP’s crime alerts will confirm their arguments in case you have any reservations about them.

Still, we think a more vibrant and dynamic College Park, with new economic and residential diversity, can vastly alleviate the dire crime situation we find ourselves in. More activity, more people, more eyes on the street can, does, and will stop crime. A police officer on every corner is not a feasible nor a desireable goal.

We’ll defer to the Diamondback opinion staff’s brilliant editorial on “Fixing College Park’s afflictions” through development. Here’s our favorite part:

Until the city and developers can get on the same page, College Park will continue to hemorrhage opportunity with each passing day. And as a result, the city will continue to suffer from heightened levels of crime, underappreciated businesses and worrisome housing conditions – all negative effects of a downtown nowhere near its potential.

Bike Advocacy Workshop Wednesday

TrikeDo you bike in College Park? Have ideas about what could be done to make the city more bike-friendly? Local bike advocates will discuss that topic, as well as brainstorm ways to “get more people on their bikes and … encourage local governments to recognize that bikers need more lanes, more racks, and better protection laws” at a free, “no-commitment” bike activism workshop on campus this Wednesday.

The event will feature Dave Snyder from the group the Thunderhead Alliance, and is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. this Wednesday evening in the in the Outdoor Rec Center in the back of the Campus Recreation Center Building. The Thunderhead Alliance is a 127-organization large alliance of groups dedicated to “create, strengthen and unite state and local bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations.” The event was organized by Eitan Freedenberg, a Maryland student and program assistant for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. Eitan described the interest at his table during the First Look Fair as “phenomenal” in an email promoting the event.

In Prince George’s County, the Bicycle and Trails Advisory Group collaborates with a variety of County agencies on bicycle trails and routes, and this county website on the Anacostia Tributary Trail System contains on and off-road bike routes. What would you change to make the campus and city more bike friendly?

How do I cross thee? Let me count the ways

Countdownpedestriansignal.jpgIt’s not often that one can hold up the District government as an exemplar of innovation, but we’ve become fond of the crosswalk timers the city started installing several years ago. Initially these timers only adorned traffic poles downtown, but they now appear all over DC even at barely-trodden intersections.

Good ideas, much like commuter students who drive, typically arrive in College Park rather late. Though there are some recent pedestrian improvements installed in the vicinity of the View, we’re anxiously counting down the seconds until the presence of timers becomes, well, pedestrian.

The Connector Road Non-debate

The proposed campus connector road (our update library page) has been lingering in the background since we launched this site, but we finally have something to bring to the table. After weeks of waiting and a lot of persistence, the folks at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center were kind enough to send us a copy of a Preliminary Feasibility Study for the highway. The study was conducted in 1999 and, although fairly small, is one of the few primary sources we can find on the project. It explores 4 proposed alternatives and notes considerations for each: environmental (wetland, superfund sites, endangered species), social & cultural (historic, community impacts), and costs.

We’ll continue to vigorously pursue more information and documentation on this project and post everything just as soon as we can. Indeed it’s difficult for anyone to even have a meaningful debate on the connector road because there is more speculation than information about it.

Preliminary Connector Road Study – Examines highway alternatives to campus.
Transit Corridor Study– Examines a garage at the interchange linked to campus by a bus.

Connector Road drawing

A Call for Smart Growth

Although it strays slightly from this site’s focus on College Park, I thought our readers might be interested to read my column in yesterday’s Diamondback and one in August that call for strengthened ‘smart growth‘ legislation in Maryland. In them, I draw on events that precipitated in Dorchester County involving the proposed ‘Blackwater Resort’ just upstream from the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. The views in these columns don’t necessarily represent the views of this site or its other authors.

>> Diamondback – Blackwater Triumph (10/13/06)

>> Diamondback – Blackwater Boondoggle (8/31/06)

Insisting on East Campus Quality

Developers once again descended on east campus last week to examine the site officially for the second time. The Diamondback’s only adequate coverage ever of the East Campus Development initiative (just about a month late) had some interesting quotes that we hope you didn’t miss. John Porcari, vice president of administrative affairs, stated that there is “a very high level of interest in a first-class hotel” on east campus and that the demographics of the area are “a great base for some kind of town center development.”

The continued pursuit of a luxury hotel on east campus is interesting considering that the market study conducted for the university questioned the viability of a such a hotel – given the highly seasonal nature of room demand around the university. That same report speculated that as more complementary projects like office buildings and M-Square come online, a hotel might be in order, and they cited a number of case studies at other universities to support that opinion. The proposed 250 room North Gate Hotel (next to University View) and several other new hotels in the area all threaten to throw administrators hotel dreams off track.