New Additions

Charrette_randomIf you’ve been following us for awhile you probably know that this site is about two things: informing people about the going ons in College Park and showing really cool development pictures. The information comes in both as blogs every day or so and in our library – static pages that let you know more than you ever wanted to about College Park (browse using the map to the right or below under ‘Contents’).

Since Rethink CP’s authors continue to transition the site into a long term sustainable project, we decided to invest in a unified Flickr photo account. If you’re new to the site, we’d definitely encourage you to browse not only our archives, but our new photo sets that contain the only comprehensive collection of new development schematics for College Park. Lots of big things are in the works.

Also, be sure to check out the recently uploaded images from the 2006 Student Architectural Charrette – an event that largely inspired the creation of this site. If you’d like to get involved, please come out to our information session at 6:30 on February 7th (sign up for the Facebook event). Anyone is encouraged to come!

2006 Student Charrette Images Online

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Although it has taken a bit longer than we expected, we finally completed locating and uploading digital copies of many of the plans and drawings produced during the 2006 SGA College Park Charrette. We have created a library page for the event spearheaded by former SGA president Andrew Rose and containing a presentation he created summarizing the outcome of the forum and charrette events. That page contains one image from each team, all of the images are viewable through our Flickr account.

Many of the drawings contain ideas about how to better connect the College Park Metro Station to campus for pedestrians, ideas that could be threatened or complicated by the College Park Historic District now under consideration. Some of the teams also tackled East Campus – a project we expect the University to announce a development partner for this semester.

RTCP in the News, a little Facebook love please

RTCP editors Rob Goodspeed and I have a published article today on the website CampusProgress.org about this website/project. Campus Progress is run by the liberal think tank Center For American Progress and organizes on college and university campuses to support “young advocates, activists, journalists, and artists as they develop fresh ideas and perspectives and seek to communicate in new ways.”

Check out our article:

>>> From Parking Lot to College Town

On a seperate note, please join our Facebook group and/or subscribe to our google group (enter your email address in the right hand column). Thanks!

A Council Member’s Perspective on Owner Occupancy

The following is a guest contribution from CP District 2 Councilman Robert Catlin. We encourage all members of the community to either send in material for us to publish or comment on individual posts. Here it is:

Two issues seem to emerge with some regularity about why College Park is not moving more swiftly to becoming the College Park people want to see.

One issue we are told is that the University and the City are not working together on development issues.  As an insider, I do not see that to be a significant issue at this time.  I am not aware of any revitalization opportunities which have been missed because of City-University discord.  While the City and the University have some differences, as one would expect they would, various University committees have City staff members and University staff take part in many of the City’s planning activities.

The City–University Partnership, established about 1999, meets regularly to discuss common concerns, discusses development proposals and looks to formulate positions that both parties can support.  I have been a member of this committee for the past four years, as a University appointee!  The Mayor and various City residents are also voting members of the Partnership, along with high level University officials. Various City and University planning staff also take part in the meetings. The City’s attorney and a banker are also on the Partnership. For a brief time we had a high level representative from the County on the Partnership Board.  In recent years the Partnership has developed Guiding Principals for Redevelopment of the Knox Boxes and Guiding Principals for Redevelopment of the Northgate Area.  Recently the Partnership lost John Porcari, Peter Shapiro (a former County Councilmember from Hyattsville) and had Jim Rosapepe elected to the State Senate, so some changes will need to be made in the organization.

A second issue which has surfaced more recently is that development is being hindered in a major way by modest owner occupancy requirements for condominium projects and conditions designed to ensure that luxury apartment projects do not evolve to be student dominated.  No developer has ever expressed a serious concern with our attempts to achieve some standards here.  So far developers have told us that our conditions are legal and will not impact their ability to finance their projects.  Since these conditions do not cost the developers any money, while the myriad of other conditions requested by the City and required by the County (and often County Council members) do have a significant cost, it is curious why some think that such conditions are hindering development.   The force behind obtaining these conditions is primarily residents.  The various projects would not get community support without some assurance that the projects will house the groups the developers say that they are primarily meant for.  Without these assurances, the projects would be fiercely opposed and not be built (JPI and the City Hall proposal, for example), so it is with great irony that some claim they impede development.

When the developer of The Mosaic at Turtle Creek, situated south of the Knox Box area, was asked why a condominium project called intergenerational housing had no place for students, we quickly learned from the developer and the University that the project would not proceed if the City did not halt such talk!

The luxury housing, both apartments and condominiums, proposed for the area, I don’t believe will attract significant student interest, because the price points for such housing are far above what most students are paying.  Many of my council colleagues and residents do not agree with me on this point.  Owner occupancy requirements (75 percent minimum requirement for owner occupied units) for condominiums have a necessary place, if only to assure potential buyers, that spending $400,000 to $700,000 for a condominium will not turn out to be a bad investment, because otherwise investors may target the development as a way to get rich from student renters.  Sometimes it is claimed that parents will buy up the units for their children to live in and therefore comply with ownership requirements.  Surely that will happen on occasion.  Not having ownership requirements do nothing to stop if from happening either.  The only way to avoid it from occurring would not to build any more housing that was not 100 percent for students.  I could say a lot more, but I will retain some thoughts for my response to the neigh sayers out there.

Mary Cook Letter Surfaces

We’ve gotten our hands on a letter apparently sent from former CP Mayor (Owens) to registered voters of District 4, which endorses Mary Cook for the January 16th election. We’ll keep it short to risk beating this election to death any more…

It’s impossible to say whether this letter had any effect on the outcome of the election. Mary Cook’s long participation in city politics most likely put her ahead of student Nick Aragon in this not so closely watched race. Nevertheless, we find it to be a concerning town-gown development that deserves attention. The letter certainly pushes the right buttons, conveniently overlooks the facts (every District 4 candidate was staunchly against the Connector Road), and leaves no scare tactic unexploited. It also shows EXPERT use of caps lock and the Microsoft Word bold functionality!

 
>>> Read Anna Owen’s letter

A low voter turn out (or a widely split vote) can throw the election to the candidate with the generous campaign fund and the strong backing of student voters.

Stullich, Cook Crush opponents in special election, Aragon vows return in November

Election Results: Total (# of absentee ballots in parenthesis)

District 3

Hagner: 6 (0)
Massey: 89 (6)
Stullich: 203 (6)

District 4

Argon: 62 (12)
Cook: 141 (4)
Lynch: 24 (3)
Scarato: 21

Stephanie Stullich and Mary Cook are the confirmed winners of Tuesday’s election – marking the end of a surprisingly eventful special election. Long time resident Mary Cook, 50, prevailed over 3-year resident and student Nick Aragon. This even with the Mayor’s surprise last minute endorsement of him and his far superior financing (reportedly $2000 to Cook’s $150). Aragon, 24, was constantly and inaccurately labeled as a “student candidate” and his campaign was dogged by questionable reporting in the city paper (1,2) and even childish and “vicious” campaign tricks.

What began with the ascension of two longtime CP politicians to higher office ended with little fanfare, 2 new city residents on the council, and most of the city either gone or unaware any election had taken place at all. Between the primaries way back in September, when the special election was ensured, all the way to last Tuesday, we witnessed: a city council which (whether by design or by accident) waited until they had no choice but to hold the special election with half the city’s population out of town (the student half), student leadership which failed to put up even the smallest fight over the election date, an impressive but apparently futile student absentee ballot initiative (Aragon got 12 absentee votes), an unprecedented endorsement of a student by the Mayor, and even my own short-lived bid for the District 3 seat.

While it’s difficult to hide our distaste for the circumstances surrounding the election, we’re looking forward to an eventful year in College Park. We’ll be particularly interested to see the winning candidates live up to their promises of building a vibrant college town and ensuring greater ties to the university community. November, after all, isn’t that far off .

Camden College Park Project Overview

Camden at College Park

Anyone who has visited the Ikea in College Park recently has no doubt noticed that the Camden College Park project is under construction. When it is completed the project will include 11,545 square feet of restaurant space, a 3,891 square feet drive-in bank, 23,564 square feet retail, 21,180 square feet office, 508 apartment units, and 12 townhouse units, according to county documents. For the County approval documents look for “Ikea Centre” on this website.

Camden College ParkAlthough we were unable to locate the detailed architecural renderings and site plans from when the project was approved in February 2005, the project’s general contractor has posted the rendering above to their website and has this gallery of construction photos, including this view from the IKEA parking lot from December. The developer’s website says the project is expected to open Fall 2007.

Points on the Square (Part III)

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(Third in a series of three)

To conclude our discussions (Part I & Part II) from before on what features would make a successful square on East Campus, we have these final points to add:

  • Make the square “performance-enabled”. Small orchestras have performed for free in Washington’s public spaces. The square could encourage this by pre-installing a sound system for the park. The sound system should be used only for these occasional performances, not to “enhance the ambiance” with contrived white noise; urban spaces provide their own endless soundtrack.
  • Provide a space for outdoor, interactive art. College Park benefits from a young, energetic population. The square could serve as a platform for the occasional outdoor art exhibit, thus bringing both variety and intrigue to the city. For three weeks in February 2005, New York artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude displayed “The Gates” (above) in Central Park to much acclaim, fanfare, and mystery.
  • Maintain the square with a Business Improvement District. Many cities employ these quasi-governmental organizations to maintain sidewalks, sweep streets, and even plant flowers. The ideal square is self-sustaining, with commercial lessees paying a fee to support the maintenance not only of the square but of the sidewalks as well.
  • Mandate public ownership. Public spaces, by definition, are open the public and are not privately owned. Whereas a private mall has the right to limit access, ban political expression, and constrain artistic exercises, public spaces are subject to the laws of free expression that democracies enjoy. It is absolutely paramount that the University reserve all future East Campus public spaces under its own jurisdiction. The construction of the square should be the responsibility of the selected developer, but constructing the square should not entitle any private entity to its ownership.