‘Preferred’ Route to Metro Identified

The University of Maryland’s Department of Public Safety has recently established the ‘preferred’ route from the University of Maryland Campus to the College Park Metro stop through a partnership between the University of Maryland and the City of College Park. This route has been given increased lighting, additional emergency phones and landscaping improvements in order to improve public safety and eventually clarify a walking route from the Metro station to the university.

The Department of Public Safety recommends (for your safety):

  • Avoid walking alone
  • Avoid using electronic devices that impair your senses
  • Use police escorts
  • Keep your eye on the blue-light phones
  • Stay away from suspicious vehicles and persons

Hopefully this first preferred path is only the start to a network of ‘safe’ roads in College Park. While we’re glad that there is interest in clarifying the pedestrian-heavy route between the campus and the metro, there are plenty of other well-traveled roads to the metro that are not included in this plan. Knox and Hartwick Roads in particular, both connect to major student housing (students are likely the most at risk group) areas on the west side of Route 1, angle towards the metro on the east side, and are some of the most recognizable street names in the city. Neither of them are part of this preferred path. Knox Road would be the most logical path for late nighttime bargoers. We also question the rational for identifying the west half of Calvert Road as a preferred route from campus. Calvert Road does not come within several blocks of campus and also fails to connect with most of the major student developments closest to campus.

Hopefully the future plans of the Department of Public Safety include programs that would increase the amount of foot traffic along these pedestrian routes. Lighting and new landscaping is great, but more ‘eyes on the street’ in sparsely populated Old Town would help reduce crime over the long term.

Trolley Trail Extension Widely Supported

Extended Trolley trail ProposalLast month we reported on the extensive interconnected trail system within College Park, in the region, and even nationally. We mentioned the College Park Trolley Trail and its potential extension southward to Riverdale Park and Hyattsville, but we didn’t fully realize the momentum behind the project. Apparently local politicians and dozens of citizens turned out early last month to discuss the project and both cities have taken steps to investigate acquiring the properties along the old Trolley right-of-way.

The DC Transit #82 trolley line originally ran from Washington, D.C. to Laurel via College Park and the City of College Park has gone to great lengths in recent years to acquire their portion of the right-of-way and make it a convenient, paved trail/bike lane. The southern extension (displayed to the left) would provide an offroad route from Hyattsville to Beltsville with relatively few at-grade street crossings. EYA has agreed to pave its portion of the Trolley Trail in the Hyattsville Arts District’s East Village (picture below).EYA Trolley Trail

College Park’s final portion of the trail between Paint Branch Parkway and Calvert Road is set for eventual completion and passes directly next to the East Campus development. The Trolley Trail is just one of hundreds nationwide rails-to-trails (non-profit not involved in this particular project) projects which takes advantage of old rail right-of-ways.

View this great video produced by Hyattsville “H4X” Hacks which documents the February community meeting and has several video segments of the old trolley line:

—> VIDEO!

Rethinking the Agenda – Diamondback gets some things right (and many others wrong)

The Diamondback gave so thorough and so nuanced an analysis of Doug Duncan’s selection for university VP of Administrative Affairs that we will deffer to them on the issue. We can’t help but recognize the irony of the selection given the general shuffling of positions statewide. Duncan’s involvement in and audacity during the Downtown Silver Spring project (FP-Argo did Downtown Silver Spring and is now in talks with the university to develop East Campus) gives us hope that East Campus will proceed swiftly and efficiently.

Duncan to assume top university post, The Diamondback 3/26 – Ben Slivnick
–Diamondback Analysis of the pick and Staff Editorial (“Thinking Bigger“)

We’d be remiss if we didn’t take this opportunity to point out the Diamondback’s second botching of the Impact Fee Waiver controversy. Their first article (3/14) was completely off base in it’s assertion that student leaders (namely the SGA and GSG) had done nothing to fight the proposed narrowing of incentive zone for student housing and that the student stakeholders were upset with the compromise reached at the time (we, the SGA, and the GSG were extremely happy with it). Today’s article, asserts that a second “compromise” was reached last week (3/19) when in reality the City Council further limited the zone from the actual compromise we reached at their 3/12 worksession.

The 3/19 “compromise”, which most notably takes away housing incentives for the Koon’s Ford Property cannot be deemed a “compromise” since the issue was taken up outside of a City Council work session, there was no opportunity to respond to comments, and no Rethink College Park representatives were present or consulted on the new boundaries. Real compromise remains elusive on this issue and we (RTCP and whomever else is willing) will vigorously fight any legislation that does not provide adequate space for 5,000-7,000 beds of student housing.

Doug Duncan Appointed V.P. of Administrative Affairs

The University announced yesterday its appointment of Douglas M. Duncan, former Maryland gubernatorial candidate (2006) and former Montgomery County Executive (1994-2006), as the Vice President of Administrative Affairs. He replaces John D. Porcari, who left the post in December to join the incoming O’Malley administration as the Secretary of Transportation.

Among other things, Duncan will oversee the East Campus development project, for which the University recently selected a prospective development partner. Having survived as County Executive of neighboring Montgomery County, where transit projects (Purple Line), highway building (ICC), and growth (sprawl) perennially emerge as hot-button issues, Duncan will be well prepared to handle the development concerns facing the East Campus project.

We wish Mr. Duncan the best of luck.

Could Nearby “Arts District” Benefit CP?

EYA Hyattsville Arts District Project
About five miles south of College Park on Route 1, construction of an “Arts District” in Hyattsville is well under way. Guided by years of planning by county officials to develop a Gateway Arts District in the area, a large development by the EYA company is now under construction.

EYA Arts District Hyattsville ProjectThis new development includes 350 rowhomes, at least 100 condominiums. The project includes 13 “live-work” units, which are expected to be habited by mostly local artists who will run businesses on the ground floor with their dwelling units above. In addition to the residential community, new restaurants and retail are expected to find a place as well. Currently on the drafting board for the town is a new Art Gallery bordering Route 1, bike trails, swimming facilities, and fitness center. The Arts District is designed to take advantage of vacant land and closed auto dealerships, long the target of local leaders unhappy with their existence on Route 1. The expectation is that the project will improve conditions along Route 1 in Hyattsville. The Washington Post reported on development in the Arts District in December.

Do not some of these same conditions exist along the Route 1 sector next to campus in College Park? An empty furniture store lies across from Plato’s Diner; an old administration building behind Kinko’s is abandoned. Further North, the condition of Route 1 worsens. However, what exists in Hyattsville that will hopefully be contagious to its neighboring towns along Route 1 is the cooperative excitement of residents and businesses. College Park has potential to integrate its downtown with its community of permanent residents and university students. Hopefully the Arts District to our south will spark positive development in College Park.

Tenant’s Rights Forum

The Off-Campus Student Association is hosting a forum on tenants’ rights in College Park (off campus). The forum will be Wednesday, March 28, from 4:00 to 5:30 pm in the Margaret Brent Room in the Union. Both Legal Aid lawyer Jim Jones and College Park code enforcement officer Jeanne Ripley will be in attendance to give advice.

The forum’s own event description reads:

Students living off-campus have reported concerns about their landlords, housing and leases and often end up in a jam which is why by letting students know about what to look out for, the OCSA hopes to decrease the number of students who end up dealing with legal issues during the school year.

Student Legal Aid lawyer Jim Jones will lead the discussion, and talk about some of the common concerns, questions and scenarios that he sees everyday. Jones has helped a lot of students solve problems with their landlords in the past and sees the number of student complaints rising. College Park’s code enforcement officer Jeanne Ripley will also be present.

East Campus Details Released, Potential Development Partner Chosen

The university announced today that it is partnering with Foulger-Pratt Companies and Argo Investment Company of Rockville, MD to redevelop East Campus. The announcement comes exactly 6 months after dozens of developers packed Ritchie Colosseum to hear about the massive 2 million square foot expansion of campus. FP-Argo is best known for their work on Downtown Silver Spring, which is widely credited with transforming that city’s downtrodden core. In a small press meeting, Interim Vice President for Administrative Affairs Frank Brewer explained to us that the university will be working with FP-Argo over the next 4-8 months to come to specific terms on the proposed 75 year ground lease. When questioned about the selection process Brewer stated that FP-Argo simply had the “most interesting concept”, most attractive combination of uses, and proposed the best financial arrangement.

Brewer also oulined a set of preliminary plans (and we emphasize preliminary):

-2300-2400 graduate student beds

-1500 market rate units

-a “large” retail center

-“Class A” office building (10 stories)

-Hotel (10 stories)

-3800 parking spaces

The project is expected to come in two phases with the first being the non-residential portion (2011 build-out) and the second being residential (2015-2016). The residential units are expected to be 4-5 stories and located on present day Old and New Leonardtown. The long time frame is primarily a result of the need to relocate existing facilities on east campus to other areas. The developer has proposed to build a 500 bed dormitory on north campus to replace the lost undergraduate beds (and some). You can be sure we’ll have more on this in the weeks and months to come. Brewer emphasized that East Campus will be a reiterative process with dozens upon dozens of meetings and ample opportunity for public input and stakeholder analysis.

Purple Line Community Meeting Today

The Maryland Transit Administration is sponsoring a Purple Line Community Focus Group meeting tomorrow (Thursday, 3/15) at 7:00 p.m. at the College Park Municipal Center (4500 Knox Road). It was postponed last week due to inclement weather.

From our announcement last week:

“Although the project was recently delayed at least a year, the MTA continues to plan the project and is holding community meetings to take into consideration resident’s opinions. The event invitation says the event will include information about planning that has taken place since the last meeting, held in Spring of 2006. This event will be a good opportunity to learn more about the project and ensure state planners hear from a broad spectrum of the community.”

> Purple Line library page
> Previous Purple Line articles

Know Your Plans: Route 1 Sector Plan

Rt 1 SectorPlan MapIn addition to writing about proposed projects and policy debates, we occasionally describe some of the planning documents that regulate and direct growth in College Park. Today, we take a look at one of the most important documents to city development.

The Route 1 Sector Plan is a formal planning document adopted by the county in 2002 that officially re-zoned much of the land along Route 1 from downtown College Park to the beltway for dense, mixed-use projects designed to allow for development and encourage bicycling and walking.

It also includes detailed design information intended to help guide developers and architects creating projects in the area. Although the University is not legally required to seek county approval, they have specifically suggested the East Campus design should be in accordance with the plan.

We recently created a permanent library page showing the boundaries and describing goals of the plan in more detail.

> Library: Route 1 Corridor Sector Plan