CP’s ‘Labyrinth’ and Route One Traffic

Berwyn Maze2.jpgAs anyone familiar with College Park’s neighborhoods knows, in some neighborhoods officials gone to great lengths to limit traffic on residential streets. Although most were developed with interconnected, gridiron street networks, over the years many streets have been cut off totally or made one way.

The result is what one local resident calls a “traffic labyrinth” where visitors are often bewildered and ask for directions to find a house or even to find the exit. Ironically, the parochial interest in reducing traffic on residential streets may be causing larger traffic headaches on Route 1. Hierarcheal street systems designed around collector roads are notorious for their congestion, since the collector road must carry high volumes of traffic and the entire system is highly sensitive to any problems with the connector roads. In plain English, grid systems like Washington, D.C., allow more drivers to get to more places with fewer back-ups. Urbanists have long argued that grid street designs encourage walking, since the many connections allow walkers to take the shortest routes.

How can College Park get more connected? The boldest plan might involve opening many streets at once for a test period to measure the impact. Because this approach would likely prove politically and financially unfeasible, a more selective approach could work. Although open only to pedestrian and bicycle traffic, the city’s Trolly Trail we discussed yesterday connects the various segments along the old route of Rhode Island Avenue, enhancing access to many neighborhoods. We hope the city better marks and promotes this recently developed trail.

We also strongly support introducing a grid street system in the East Campus development connecting both to Route 1, Paint Branch Parkway, and the Old Town neighborhood. (Indeed, many early proposals used in university documents show such a design) We think additional intersections on Paint Branch Parkway in particular could slow traffic in the area, enhance walkability, and ease traffic congestion on Route 1.

CP Boasts Extensive and Expanding Trail Network

Paint Branch Trail

If there’s one thing that other College Towns could stand to learn from College Park, it might very well be its lengthy trail network – both within and just outside the city limits. What PG county lacks in natural amenities (beleaguered Anacostia River and unappealing topography) is partially made up for by its extensive trail/greenway network. College Park sits dead center on the Anacostia Tributary Trail System, which not only gives pedestrians safe access within the city, but to local favorites like Lake Artemesia and Greenbelt park. Bike riders can even make it to Silver Spring and DC with little on-road time and lots of winding, lightly traveled pathways.

If you’ve happened upon the local trail system, you may not realize that it is actually a small segment of what some call the ‘Urban Appalachian Trail‘ – a nearly 25% complete trail facilitated by the East Coast Greenway Alliance which will eventually provide an offroad route from Florida to Maine. This tremendous effort may only be rivaled by the American Discovery Trail – a complete (paved/unpaved) offroad 6,800+ mile trail from Delaware to California. Guess what? It intersects the East Coast Greenway near the College Park Airport.

Trolley Trail

Okay, so maybe you aren’t going to hop on the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon and be in College Park by 9am via the Great Plains. But local trails in College Park are going to be a big part of the daily grind soon if they aren’t already. Two major trails parallel Route 1. The first is the Trolley Trail to the east (pictured to the right) and runs along what was once a streetcar line into DC. The second – the Paint Branch Trail – runs to the west of Route 1 from UMD’s north gate to the Beltway. Nearly every major development on the west side of Route 1 is required by the Sector Plan to have some sort of access to the trail (i.e. University View bridge, Mazza Grandmarc, Northgate Condos).

Local officials weren’t messing around when they had these trails built nor are they now. Several spoke of extending the Paint Branch Trail north under the beltway and the Trolley Trail south to Hyattsville during January’s Transportation Hearing.

>> Download local trail maps

Anacostia Tributary Trails and the Mid-Maryland Bike Map (Huge File)

-Also of interest – The proposed Anacostia Riverwalk from Bladensburg Waterfront Park to the new Nationals Stadium

Terminus of the Trolley Trail at Albion Rd.

Green Urbanism Lecture March 5th

tbeatley.jpgOn Monday, March 5 the Urban Studies and Planning program will host Dr. Timothy Beatley for a symposium and lecture on the topic of Green Urbanism.

Dr. Beatley is the Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities at the University of Virginia, and has written widely in the areas of environmental planning, sustainability, and biodiversity conservation. Dr. Beatley’s 1997 book The Ecology of Place examined creative ways cities and towns can reduce their environmental impact while also becoming more livable and equitable. His 2000 book, Green Urbanism, drew upon research in 30 European cities.

His visit includes two public events: an afternoon seminar titled “Native to Nowhere? Sustaining Home and Community in a Global World,” at 2 p.m. in the Dean’s Conference Room in the Architecture Building, and a public lecture on “Green Urbanism: The Move towards Sustainable Cities in Europe and North America” at 8:00 p.m. in the lecture hall (room 0204) in the Architecture Building.

Purple Line Derailed by at Least 1 Year

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The 2013 scheduled completion of the Purple Line will be pushed back at least a year as state officials try to shore up ridership estimates (Baltimore Sun story). The move, according to acting transportation Secretary John Porcari, is in anticipation of a high level of scrutiny from the Federal Transit Administration when the state eventually seeks federal fundingThe big for the $1.3 billion (light rail) project. Federal funding is always a major factor in infrastructure projects, but it is particularly important now given Maryland’s grim state budget projections.

We were looking forward to public meetings this spring/summer on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, but those will certainly be delayed as well. From our view, the Purple Line is a central linchpin of the East Campus Development project. In meetings we’ve had with university administrators, it has been clear that space will be alloted for the transitway since it will inevitably be built after much of the construction on East Campus has already commenced. In the past we’ve supported the rail alignment directly through the project (as pictured above). From a very good source, it appears that that alignment will be pursued as opposed to the Paint Branch Parkway on-street alignment.

East Campus Decision Imminent

The University’s interim V.P. of Administrative Affairs, Frank Brewer, spoke about the East Campus Development Initiative today at the Graduate Student Government meeting. So far, the university has received several proposals from numerous developers on how to redevelop the thirty-eight acre site. If all goes well, he expects the evaluation committee to recommend a development partner next week. Following the assent of the university administration and the Board of Regents, the University will spend three to four months negotiating a terms sheet with the developer specifying the financial details of the project. Then after all this, the university will open a public review and input process, the form of which has yet to be determined .

Though state procurement laws prevented Brewer from divulging too many details, he assured the audience that final East Campus product would have activity 24/7 and would be “a great place, a place we don’t have right now.”

Non-student housing and graduate student housing continue to be the major focus of the project. When asked about undergraduate housing, Brewer responded that some space may be available for undergraduates to rent, but repeated earlier university sentiment that it is not their “goal to create undergraduate housing in that location.”

Brewer did reveal a few details about the submitted proposals in general:

  • Proposals include a range between 1.8 million and 2.6 million square feet of floor space (UMD currently has 13 million square feet of floor space campus-wide).
  • Of that total space, proposals include a range between 225,000 and 400,000 square feet of retail space. (For comparison, the McKeldin Library’s seven floors and basement add up to about 200,000 sq. ft. total).
  • All proposals include more graduate housing than is provided in both Graduate Hills and Graduate Gardens combined. Proposed rents for graduate housing range from $600 to $650 per month (in current dollars) for one room in a four-bedroom apartment, as required by the university’s request for proposals.

In case you’re ready to reserve an apartment on East Campus, just know that Brewer estimates the earliest possible move-in date will be in four years (an optimistic target, he admitted).

Site Improvements

Regular visitors to this website will notice a couple major improvements we have made to the site this week.

First, we have re-designed the overall look of the site. Each time the page loads a random selection of images from our image library on Flickr loads at the top of the page. We also hope the new site will display better on different browsers. If there are any problems you notice or have suggestions please let us know.

Second, today we are launching our interactive College Park development map developed by our Technology Director and Contributor Eric Fidler. Not only does the map contain a point identifying the location of each project we have written about, but it also allows visitors to view all the posts on any given project with a single click. Try it out!

Mazza Grandmarc Gains Press Attention, Renderings Surface

The Diamondback picked up today on the Mazza Grandmarc graduate housing story that we posted last Wednesday. We’re glad to see this project gaining some attention after languishing since last May. The Graduate Student Government is also poised to act. Apparently the developer, TDL Multifamily Developers of South Carolina, navigated 5 years of approvals before the project got sidelined.

The Diamondback article repeats county Councilman Dernoga’s issue with the Mazza developer’s eligibility for the public school impact fee waiver. They did get one important thing wrong about the fee waiver – it already exists and it is perfectly within the law for this project to receive it (the Mazza site is within 1.5 miles of the university).

In addition to the 630-beds, the developer was quoted as saying that he hopes the retail planned to front Route 1 will include a bank and restaurant (not represented in the site plan below).

Parking lot in the bottom of this image fronts Route 1 here:

Mazza 11x17 Site PlanMazza Front Elevation

From an accompanying Diamondback staff editorial:

The Prince George’s County Council is holding back approval for the construction of a 630-bed apartment complex at a ransom of nearly $1.7 million.

Given the circumstances, we find it difficult to disagree.

Slippery Slope

Slipery Slope Argument

After being forced to walk in the street due to the lack of cleared sidewalks, we were pleasantly surprised today to spot a City code enforcement officer documenting the violations. According to College Park City Code § 141-5,

It shall be the duty of every owner or occupant of any property within the City of College Park to remove and clear away any accumulation of ice, sleet or snow impeding safe pedestrian traffic from the portion of the public sidewalk which abuts on said building or parcel of land within 24 hours after the ceasing to fall of any such snow, sleet or ice.

Though quite a few property owners dutifully cleared their sidewalks, many did not and may soon face a $50 fine.

‘Greenbelt Station’ Proposal Now Includes Four 18-Story Towers

Observing the Balloons

A small group of city officials and citizens gathered at the Greenbelt Metro station this morning to observe a balloon demonstration intended to provide residents with a way to gauge the potential impact of the Greenbelt Towne Center project. According to the latest plans provided to demonstration attendees, the current proposal includes over a dozen buildings ranging up to 18 stories. The demonstration included 6 balloons, designed to provide a sense of size to neighborhood residents. The entire complex will include over 2 million square feet of retail and office space, two 150 room hotels, over 1,200 residential units, and a whopping 14,000 parking spaces. The project also includes a section containing townhomes now under construction south of the station along the railroad tracks.

In the photo above, city staff and residents stand in the backyard of city Councilmember John Krouse, who is concerned about the increased density of the project. The view from his backyard (seen below) directly overlooks the Metro and project site. Krouse and other neighborhood residents object to recent changes to the plan that has introduced two 12-story buildings immediately at the Metro Station, instead of making those buildings four stories and “stepping up” to the taller buildings farther into the site.

Balloon Demonstration

As we have previously reported the plans we have obtained show the project will contain a one acre park at the exit of the station, and will involve reconfiguring the ramps connecting it to the beltway. Click here for a closer look at the open space site plan shown below.

Greenbelt Station Open Space Plan

More images from the balloon demonstration and related to the project are available here.

Visualize 12-18 Stories at Greenbelt

The developer for the Greenbelt Station project will be conducting an exercise using balloons this Saturday at 8:00 a.m. to demonstrate the height of the buildings planned. The project, which we described last week, includes 2,000 townhomes now under construction and a mixed-use complex of offices and shops located at the Greenbelt Metro Station. The demonstration was planned after local citizens expressed concern about the height of the project. Joe from the the College Park Observer has reprinted a letter from College Park City Councilmember John Krouse, where the councilmember explains his concerns with the project, which has been approved by County officials. Join us at this demonstration to learn more about the project.

Update: We just heard the developer will give a presentation at 8:00 a.m. outside the Metro’s East entrance