University View Part II – “Raymond Towers” Rendering Uncovered

Early Proposal for 8400 Baltimore Ave

We stumbled across this early rendering of the 8400 Baltimore Avenue project directly north of the 16-story University View that we first reported on in early December. As proposed it would be a 12-story (4 parking, 8 residential) condominium tower with 301 units and 14,000 square feet of retail fronting Route 1. Koons Ford would remain at its current location in the middle of the “L” shaped building. According to county documents, it will be named “Raymond Towers”. The City Council gave the project a lukewarm reception in December and again earlier this month. Their opinion counts strongly, but is not the final word. If built, it will likely carry a substantial owner occupancy requirement (interesting discussion on this) and be marketed as luxury condominums. More to come on this project as details and new renderings become available.

“Mazza Grandmarc” Student Housing Project Languishes

After significant digging this is the information we have come up with:

The Mazza Grandmarc is a proposed four to five story 231-unit (630 bedroom) student housing project (here) that received preliminary approval in November 2004 and final approval from the PG County Planning Commission in May 2006. It would have been exclusively reserved for UMD graduate students with undergrads filling any vacant beds. County Councilman Dernoga (in who’s district the project would reside) exercised his right (in late May 2006) to have the project reviewed before the County Council and as yet the case has gone unheard. The project would be located in North College Park, provide a bike path to the Paint Branch Trail, convey 6.5 acres of parkland to the county, and would contract with Shuttle UM to bring students to the university. It also contains retail that fronts Route 1.

Mazza Property Mr. Dernoga is barred by a county rule from talking with us, since he may eventually hear/vote on the case. From what we can surmise, Mr. Dernoga disagrees that the developer should be eligible for a $1.7 million fee waiver ($7,000 per unit) that student housing within 3 1.5 miles of the university is legally eligible for. The principle behind the impact fee waiver is that since student housing (for university students) doesn’t burden the local public school system (few student have children), student renters shouldn’t have to foot the bill for local public school construction. This fee waiver is apparently essential for the financing of the project.

The City of College Park, the North College Park Citizens Association, and the university are all in support of the project. As we’ve reported in the past, UMD lags far behind its peer institutions in terms of graduate housing and the City of College Park has had real difficultly in holding on to graduate students. UMD maintains a private partnership with Southern Management Company that guarantees 476 units (740 bedrooms) in Graduate Gardens and Graduate Hills for Graduate students and their families. While the Mazza Grandmarc project will not be “University-Provided Housing” it will nearly double the amount of beds guaranteed to UMD grad students.

The following is from an extensive report that examines the dearth of guaranteed graduate student housing in College Park:

Grad Student Housing Provision among UMD Peers

Rarely will we take a strong editorial stance on a project. In this instance we must: Any further delay of this project by the County Council is absolutely unacceptable and completely at odds with College Park’s aspirations to be a vibrant, dynamic city.

Read the Mazza Grandmarc:

>>Preliminary Plan

>>Detailed Site Plan

UMD Closed Today

Thanks to the wintery weather outside, the University of Maryland will be closed today, Wednesday, Feb. 14th. Prince George’s County Public Schools are also closed, and most Washington-area schools and other institutions are either closed or operating under a delay. For the latest weather-related announcements from the university, bookmark the weather alert page.

Rising From the Mud

M-Square Building rising from the mud

We often use one word to describe the amount of development coming to College Park – “staggering“. Yet while driving down Route 1, not one crane can be seen nor construction project underway. Even on campus, the recent building frenzy seems to have trickled to a halt among higher bond prices and tightening state purse strings.

We were able to find one project physically underway at the university’s M-Square (our recently updated library page) Research park next to the CP Metro Station. The building is one of 3 planned and approved that will look similar to the rendering below. A fourth building, NOAA’s beautiful Center for Climate and Weather Prediction, is scheduled to open in February 2008, but has not begun construction despite several “ground breakings.”Rendering of M-Square office building

We also uncovered a aggressive proposed phasing plan for the university’s landholding around the Metro Station (below). Much of it is planned to be office space with a decidedly suburban office park character. This massive amount of office space is sure to sap up a lot of the market for office space in College Park (over the next 15 years?). At the same time, it’s important to remember that many of the tenants of these offices wouldn’t be here in the first place had it not been for the draw of the research park and the need for some firms to locate next to firms in the same (or closely related industries). Put more simply – the private market doesn’t build research parks by itself.

There is some housing proposed at the far southwest in addition to a major condo project planned for the WMATA parking lot (seen in yellow). We like the connection to the Anacostia Tributary Trail system, but eventually it will be necessary to have a meaningful pedestrian link under the Metro tracks towards campus.
Detailed Phasing Plan for M-Square

All Aboard for the Purpe Line, Will Annapolis Pony up?

Purple Line over the chapel field?

Yesterday, the Graduate Student Government joined with the undergraduate SGA in support of the Purple Line in recognition of the enormous benefit the project will bring for students. The GSG’s resolution also recognized that “light rail technology has a strong record of promoting compact, pedestrian-oriented revitalization” and stated the tremendous importance of the project for the East Campus Development. Students organizations are just one of an expanding list of groups that support the project – including the UMD administration, the City of College Park, and the unanimous backing of all Prince George’s and Mongomery County councilmen.

Support for the Purple Line seems to be at an all time high, yet last year’s election frenzy over the project seems to have quickly dissipating among the realities of the state budget. The project (formerly know as the Bi-County Transitway) has an estimated price tag upwards of $1.3 billion. This in the face of of a $0.9 billion state transportation shortfall over the next 5 years and $13.5 billion over the next 20. Not only is the Purple Line competing against several mLight Rail in the Trastevere Neighborhood of Rome, Italyajor transportation projects statewide, but federal assistance will be awarded competitively on a nationwide basis. According to acting state Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari, “We have a very ambitious transportation program, and we know, given the current revenues, that we can’t fund it.”

How can such a funding gap be bridged? The Gazzette published some state number crunching that could conceivably make the project a reality.

Note: The picture above is from a real light rail in Shaker Heights, OH. No Purple Line alignment proposes track across the UMD Chapel field nor in any location that will significantly impact exisitng CP neighborhoods. See the CP alignment here.

2/6 City Council Development Coverage

Wednesday night’s City Council Meeting was choc full of development issues. Briefly, here’s what you missed if you didn’t want to brave the cold (or turn on your TV).

–> The council indicated their initial satisfaction of the proposed 220 unit College Park West Development on the Lasik’s site. JPI, the developer, had the blessings of a community group who appreciated JPI’s improved community cooperation since their last project (Jefferson Square) across the street.

Hollywood Station–> The council approved, with some minor conditions, a 4-5 story office building at 9909 Baltimore Ave. The site tucked in an odd place, but we still think it’s a shame it turned out to be such a standard office park and won’t be prominent from Route 1. (kind of like the M-Square project which the city is so quick to criticize). Granted M-Square is adjacent to the metro and the 9909 site is on the beltway.
–> District 1 councilman Krouse (see his letter to the community) tussled with the developers of the massive (we covered it yesterday) Greenbelt Town Centre project at Greenbelt metro station. Many were outraged to hear the potential of a 18 story building and the developer now plans “balloon tests” in the coming weeks to demonstrate the scale of the project to nearby North CP neighborhoods. This new revelation comes after over 7 years of planning. The developers were challenged to find another example in the DC area where a single family home community was subjected to such high density by a WMATA redevelopment.
University View Original Proposal
–>Otis Warren of the University View came in for a chat over a number of things. He repeated his intention to complete the project as originally proposed (see image to the right) although he’s holding out the possibility that the building proposed for the grassy area in front of the University View may end up being more student housing or a hotel instead of the originally proposed office building. He guessed about 350 student beds could fit in the project should it go forward. Retail would still front Route 1 on the ground floor.
Warren expressed surprise that the council had reservations about his proposed 12-story condo at 8400 Baltimore Ave given their friendly reception to it in December. He also disclosed a failed deal with the university to build a garage and grad school housing on campus on lot 11 directly behind the View. While not binding, the campus master plan envisions that lot for a mega parking garage.
We’ll defer to the Diamonback’s article about a number of interesting quotes on this and other topics, which some at the meeting probably didn’t want reprinted.

Projects To Transform Greenbelt

Greenbelt Station Towne Centre

Just up the road from College Park, work has begun on the first of two projects in Greenbelt that could add roughly 8,000 homes and millions of square feet of office and retail space to the town, founded during the Great Depression as a federally-sponsored model city. Years in the planning, the projects continue to elicit mixed emotions from residents of the close-knit community and the surrounding neighborhoods worried about traffic, crime, and other impacts of development.

Work has begun on the massive Greenbelt Station Towne Centre, a large multi-use project planned for 240 acres of land adjacent the Greenbelt Metro station. The project is being developed by Petrie Ross Ventures. As it is currently planned, the finished project will feature approximately 2,200 “luxury” residential units, over 1 million square feet of retail, and 1 million square feet of office space in a complex of rowhomes and towers up to 12 stories tall, however the developer told the College Park City Council they are considering even taller buildings – up to 18 stories. The developer estimates the project could result in over 7,000 jobs when complete. Interested buyers can register with Pulte homes to be added to a list for more information. Detailed information about the project’s conceptual site plan approval from the county is available on this website.

The Diamondback reported in August of 2005 that the developer and the College Park City Council negotiated an agreement where the project’s builder would pay the city $2.5 million and construct a pedestrian walkway to connect the project with the city of College Park. An open space concept plan we obtained from December includes over three acres of plazas and parks, including a 1-acre plaza at the entrance of the metro station, shown below:

Greenbelt Station Towne Centre

We will examine the controversial second major project, Springhill Lake, and a proposal by the owners of Beltway Plaza for residential construction on their property in a subsequent post. The New York Times recently examined the projects in the article, “Merging the Old With the New In a Washington Suburb.”

Campus Redevelopment in Conway, Arkansas

As we have reported before, the University of Maryland isn’t the only university redeveloping its own land to make its campus more livable. Today the New York Times reports on central Arkansas’s Hendrix College, which plans to develop 130 acres into an urban, mixed-use village. Their reasons for developing the land are similar to Maryland’s motivation for the 38-acre East Campus site: there just isn’t much to do in town.

Other similarities between the two college towns, though, are actually more interesting. First, both Maryland and Hendrix propose new urban developments that are located just a short distance from their respective downtowns rather than aiming redevelopment for the existing downtowns. Second, though the downtowns of both College Park and Conway, Arkansas, have sizable commercial districts, the amenities they both provide are considered woefully inadequate. Like the official plans for East Campus, Hendrix expects its new village (named “The Village at Hendrix”, in fact) to attract not just students, but other people who seek an urban lifestyle and the quirkiness of traditional college towns.

Though half of all Americans and probably more than half of the college-bound live in suburbs, today’s students, says Hendrix president J. Timothy Cloyd, want a change of scenery. As Cloyd frankly puts it, “You can’t market yourself as bucolic.”

City Council Covers Development Tonight at 8pm

Tonight, the city council will mull over 3 major projects (of the 20 or so that are coming) to College Park. We haven’t previously covered any of these, so here is a brief preview:

  • Presentation by developer on College Park West Detailed Site Plan
    • Proposed 220 multifamily housing units & 25,00 S.F. of retail (Map) on the former site of Lasik’s Restaurant and Hillcrest Hotel. The lot is a huge 4 acres. Lasik’s was a locally run restaurant and liquor store which fell victim to arson in December 2004. Hillcrest Hotel reportedly rented rooms by the hour before it was closed by the State Attorney in July 2003 and torn down in October 2005.
  • Review of Preliminary Plan of Subdivision for Branchville Road (PDC Campfire)
    • 300 Condominiums and 7800 S.F. of retail (here)

On a seperate note, we’d like to commend the city on vast improvements to their website. If information is public, but isn’t online, it basically doesn’t exist. If information is online but inaccessible, it basically doesn’t exist. This much more logical layout will hopefully help the city government be more responsive to its citizens. Also, it doesn’t hurt so much to look at it anymore.

Round and Round

The intersection of Paint Branch Parkway, Campus Drive and Baltimore Avenue (Route 1) is notorious for its long backups and massive breadth. In just a few years the State Highway Administration will hopefully reconstruct Route 1 from downtown College Park all the way to just beyond the Beltway. One solution the state could implement at this massive intersection is a traffic circle. Compared to traditional intersections they are prettier, eliminate the need for traffic lights, and in College Park’s case would create a visual focal point for a road littered with rundown architecture.

Though such circles are largely foreign to Americans outside DC, the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) has shown that circles reduce the number and severity of accidents (even those involving pedestrians, bikes, and mopeds) at the traditional crossroads they replace. The FHA suspects the reduction in accidents is a result of the fact that drivers must slow down as they approach the circle. Others suspect that the relative rarity of such traffic devices forces drivers to pay closer attention.

Building a circle at this location has some additional advantages. First, it maintains the historic Founders’ Gate, which is located in the only grassy median at the intersection. A grassy circle would thus reflect the setting of the historic gateway. Second, the circle would eliminate nine turn-lanes currently at the intersection, thus ameliorating what is now a asphalt field. Third, the circle could include an entry road to East Campus thus providing a prominent view into the development. However, if an East Campus entrance is unsuitable, the circle would also provide more street-fronting space for a landmark work of architecture at the corner of the East Campus development.

Aesthetic skeptics might want to compare the status quo with other local examples such as downtown’s Logan Circle or the DC line-straddling Chevy Chase Circle, which successfully accommodates the heavy commuter traffic of Connecticut Avenue.