UMD Purple Line Controversy Hits the Washington Post

Check out the article

In an April 25 letter, eight students urged university President C.D. Mote Jr. to “become an outright champion” of the proposed Purple Line, saying the school’s “relative silence on the project is casting an unneeded shadow of uncertainty on the planning process.” Tunneling a train beneath the College Park campus, as administration officials have urged, could make it prohibitively expensive, the students said.

Two Dback Articles of Interest

As if we couldn’t be more pleased with the Diamondback’s Finals Edition, two major pieces of our agenda made the front page in the last paper of the school year:

HOUSING: The paper reports on what we’ve all been expecting for weeks – major planned student housing public-private partnerships on-campus and tremendous (private) off-campus projects in the works. We don’t put too much credence in the numbers and the specifics at this point. We know a lot more than what’s been made public, but we’ll hold our guns out of respect for the process. Suffice it to say that students made their point to the Board of Regents last month and the real need for student housing (via every means possible) is the new hot button issue in College Park. It won’t be going away any time soon.

PURPLE LINE: The letter we drafted for student leaders and sent to President Mote also made the front page. While the tone of the article is a little more incendiary than the situation warrants (the University’s position on an at-grade alignment will not kill the project), our point was conveyed and subsequently reinforced by not-so-nuanced responses from administrators quoted in the article. Doug Duncan has been at the University for one month and a handful of days. We don’t blame him for the University’s 7 year neglect/disregard of the project.

RTCP a Diamondback “Winner”

After Martin O’Malley and Doug Duncan, but before the College Park bar oligopolists, the Diamondback dubs us a “winner” for the 2006-2007 school year. Priceless:

David Daddio and Rob Goodspeed, RethinkCollegePark.com: In the course of two semesters and through the use of an online blog, David Daddio and Rob Goodspeed have become major players in waking up area officials to what the area needs by ranting and raving on local development and disaster. Their direct, prescient style has won them seats at the table in influencing local legislation and guiding local development toward a bold but insightful completion. What did your LiveJournal do this year?

Talking Seriously About the Purple Line

Trastevere #8 Light Rail LineOn March 30th, 2007 Interim University Vice President of Administrative Affairs Frank Brewer sent a letter to the Maryland Transit Administrations stating the University’s opposition to an “at-grade” light rail crossing of campus:

“we stress that the University does not see “at-grade” LRT as an option in the center of our campus.”

On April 25th, RTCP joined with every major student leader in writing a letter to President Mote voicing our strong opposition to this new (and until now not public) position. Simply put: UMD needs to support the Purple Line unconditionally:

“we urge that your administration reconsider its position on the potential for an at-grade alignment and make every effort to assist MTA in the development of the best possible options for the Purple Line. “

For more details on our position read the original University letter and the student response:

—> Student Letter to Dr. Mote

—> Original Frank Brewer Letter

GSG Resolution in Support of the Purple Line

SGA Resolution in Support of the Purple Line


Purple Line in front of UMD Student Union

Airport Regulations Stall Northgate Project

College Park Aviation Policy Area

Northgate CondominiumsThe Northgate Condominum project, a proposed 17-story condo building to be located just north of the University View on Route One, has been stalled thanks to restrictions relating to one of College Park’s proudest attractions – the oldest operating airport in the world.

The city’s April Economic Development Update reported that “Certification of the Detailed Site Plan has been stalled by a finding of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of a presumed hazard to air navigation based on the height of the building” and that “The Mark Vogel Companies, the project applicant, recently sold the property to ‘Mr. Northgate I LLC’ for $4.2 million in December 2006.” We got some additional information directly from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Obstruction Evaluation/Airport Airspace Analysis division. They told us that Monument Reality, the owner of the project, requested termination of the study, and that they expected the application may be resubmitted.

The FAA officials were adamant to assure us their determination alone couldn’t stop a project from being built. However, a quick review of county law indicates it may complicate the project considerably. After conducting a detailed study, in 2002 the county adopted specific regulations around general aviation airports in the county. The law created a host of regulations for property contained within zones around each airports known as “Aviation Policy Areas.” As can be seen in the illustration above, the entire northgate area is contained within an APA-4 or APA-6. The law specifies specific height restrictions for these zones:

Sec. 27-548.42. Height requirements.
(a) Except as necessary and incidental to airport operations, no building, structure, or natural feature shall be constructed, altered, maintained, or allowed to grow so as to project or otherwise penetrate the airspace surfaces defined by Federal Aviation Regulations Part 77 or the Code of Maryland, COMAR 11.03.05, Obstructions to Air Navigation.
(b) In APA-4 and APA-6, no building permit may be approved for a structure higher than 50 feet unless the applicant demonstrates compliance with FAR Part 77.

Airplane Flying Over UMD campusThe Northgate building as proposed would be roughly 180 feet tall. What is “FAR Part 77,” you ask? Well, it is nothing more than the FAA’s airspace obstruction analysis process, which determined the building to be a hazard to begin with. As the law is written,the developer may be able to keep the existing proposed height of the building and enact mitigation measures (like the flashing red lights on University View) even if the FAA determines the project is a hazard. In correspondence between RTCP and Monument Realty, they indicated they were “confident the project would go forward” by the end of May.

On a side note, as we perused the FAA website we came across another application for Mark Vogel’s Hilton Hotel proposal, which has been put out for public comment (“circularized,” in FAA lingo) with an attached memo reporting it has been decided it was a “presumed hazard.” If you know more, post a comment, but we’ll make some inquiries and report back what we find.

> For more details, see: Prince George’s County Planning Board Airport Legislation and Regulations

Campus Sustainability Website Launched

The University of Maryland recently launched a new website detailing environmental stewardship efforts on campus. The website, www.sustainability.umd.edu, outlines Maryland’s approach to sustainability, offers ways to get involved with preserving the local environment, and provides a medium for students to be engaged with sustainable efforts. In addition, the website details a snapshot of eco-friendly events and sustainable initiatives that have occurred on campus. Although some of the links have yet to be completed on the website, we hope is to be a new resource on sustainability for students, faculty, alumni, and others in the university family.

Although this is a positive step, colleges and have long been leading examples of sustainable communities. Schools such as Harvard University, Cornell University, Michigan State University, and the University of British Columbia are all leading successful sustainable initiatives. With any hope, the University of Maryland’s Campus Sustainability website can follow in the footsteps of these precedents and help to foster a local sustainable environment.

At a time when the campus is growing rapidly, talks of sustainability should be at the forefront of new construction and design. According to websites dealing with sustainable architecture, such as www.architecture2030.org, almost 50% of greenhouse gas emissions are emitted from built construction. Although Maryland’s website is a positive step in “talk” of sustainability, the University now has to take action in continuing to make eco-friendly decisions. One of our contributors, Sam Snelling, evaluated some of the claims made by President Mote and offered his own opinion of past University efforts as well as suggestions for the future in a Diamondback column published yesterday.

> Campus Sustainability at UMD
> Diamondback – Sam Snelling Op-Ed: “Focus on the Future”
> Read more about “Student Action on Clean Energy

Thanks to everyone for believing in this idea

Northgate District (looking towards campus)

(Image of the upcoming Northgate Development district produced by Evan Hauptman)Volunteer Firehouse

Tuesday marks exactly one year since my concept for Rethink College Park first appeared on the Diamondback opinion page. Ever since then, a small but growing group of people have participated in the development of this website. They all had one simple goal in mind – Help transform College Park into a great college town through access to information, public dialogue, and creative ideas.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this time to thank all of those who played an integral role in seeing this concept come to fruition:

First and foremost, of course, I’d like to thank RTCP’s co-editor Rob Goodspeed. Without Rob’s friendship, urban planning background, blogging knowhow, and steadfast dedication to the basic concept of this site, I’m confident RTCP would never have made it off the pages of the DW Team 1Diamondback. Everytime I post on this site, I do it knowing that this would never have been possible had Rob not stumbled across my harebrained idea on a chance reading of the school paper.

Next, I’d like to thank Eric Fidler who is not only one of RTCP’s most proficient contributors, but also in large part responsible for much of the site’s design, several mind-bending/thoughtful posts, and nearly all of our cool tech gadgets.

I’d also like to thank City Councilmen Bob Catlin and student-city liaison Jesse Blitzstein, both of whom have been invaluable resources in conveying and decoding what goes on inside city hall and in Upper Marlborough.

A special thanks goes out to GSG President Laura Moore and SGA President Emma Simson for their willingness to work with us on complex issues and to have faith enough in our analysis to put their credibility on the line and ask the tough questions that needed to be asked of University and local officials. And thanks to Devin Ellis for his keen political insights in times when we didn’t really know what we were doing.

Also, thanks go out to Chris Warren, Sam Snellings, Evan Hauptman, Sadia Siddiqui, Andrea Longini, Sarah Stein, and Sara Durfee for their contributions to the site and helpful insights.

Thank you to various local politicians who will remain nameless here, but who have sat down with us over coffee during these many months to talk about College Park development. You know who you are.

Most of all, thanks to the dozens of folks who have sent us encouraging emails and the hundreds of thoughtful commentors who have thrown in their opinion and made this a true community project.

As those close to RTCP know, I’ll be graduating come May 21st and my plans beyond the summer remain uncertain. Regardless, we are working vigorously to ensure that RTCP continues indefinitely the work that we set out to do just a few months ago. Please don’t hesitate in contacting us (students or residents) should you be interested in being part of this project.

David Daddio

Editor and Co-founder

RTCP

East Campus Plans Presented

Faculty/Staff East Campus Presentation

The last of a series of three preliminary public information meetings for the East Campus project will be held Monday, May 7 at 7:00 p.m. at Ritchie Coliseum

The audiences at two public meetings held Thursday and Friday gasped as Foulger Pratt/Argo Investments presented their preliminary concept plans for the East Campus Redevelopment Project in a dramatic and detailed presentation which featured a 3-D flyover of the possible project and digital illustrations of the proposed plans. At two well-attended meetings, students, faculty, staff, and community members watched the development team’s detailed presentation explaining their ideas for a project that would contain in its first phase a hotel, gym, 96,000 square feet of office, 384,000 square feet of retail, and over 1,000 housing units.

The faculty presentation was delayed for thirty minutes while fire crews searched for the source of the smell of smoldering rubber that filled Tydings briefly. Once the meeting began, attendees representing a variety of university departments glimpsed at lists of potential retail tenants, and queried the company’s principals on issues as varied as green architecture (they are looking into details), bike facilities (it will definitely include them) and the project’s relationship to Old Town (there will be housing as a buffer. The project proposal re-introduces a street grid lined with street-level retail focused around an urban plaza located behind the power plant. They also include a 10 story office building on the corner of Rossborough Dr. and Route 1 as well as a monumental 10 story hotel on the corner of Route 1 and Paint Branch Parkway (as pictured previously). The proposed designs envision architecture that would contrast with the homogeneity of the campus’s Georgian architecture.

Vice President for Administrative Affairs Doug Duncan also announced a public input committee would be created to involve the community in the project on an ongoing basis. We expect this committee will contain several student members in addition to the wide variety of other stakeholders.

We encourage interested community members to attend the final meeting Monday.

EAST CAMPUS MEETINGS THURSDAY, FRIDAY, AND MONDAY (Update – New Pictures)

The East Campus Developer (Foulger-Pratt) will be on hand for questions and comments in the following places:

Student Forum:

—> Thursday, May 3, 3:00 p.m.—5:00 p.m., Visitor’s Center Auditorium, Turner Hall

Faculty/Staff Forum:

—> Friday, May 4, Noon—1:00 p.m., Room 0117, Tydings Hall

General Public Forum:

—> Monday, May 7, 7:00 p.m.—9:00 p.m., Ritchie Coliseum (on Route 1)

As we’ve been reporting for months, the University’s redevelopment of their East Campus site represents a profound change to the campus and College Park community. We highly encourage all who are interested to attend the first (BUT NOT THE LAST) public meetings regarding this $500 million redevelopment. The project will be built within the next 5 years on the corner of Route 1 and Paint Branch Parkway. Please forward this information to anyone you think may be interested.

Preliminarily, the East Campus Project is expected to:

– increase the size of campus (in terms of building square footage) by 15-20%

– add 2,000 residential units to downtown

– add 400,000 sq. ft. of retail space (For comparison, the McKeldin Library’s seven floors and basement add up to about 200,000 sq. ft. total)

– add a “Class A” office building (10 stories)

– add a high end Hotel (10 stories)

The project will be about double the size of the Downtown Silver Spring redevelopment.

Proposed East Campus Hotel Proposed East Campus Office adjacent to Ritchie Coliseum

(Photos courtesy of Foulger-Pratt Companies/Argo Investment Company)

East Campus Talking Points

Proposed East Campus HotelIn a highly unusual move, we’re reposting (unchanged) below our “10 East Campus Talking Points” from November 1st. While we were hoping to eliminate number 10 (about meaningful public input) we’ve decided to keep it here based on the University’s apparent botching of the marketing campaign for the three public information sessions taking place over the next week. Their poor efforts are reminiscent of a forum last semester that was so poorly advertised that only 5 students showed up. Needless to say, we are frustrated. The meetings are:

—>Thursday, May 3: 3 – 5 PM at the University Visitor’s Center (STUDENTS)
—>Friday, May 4: 12-1 PM at Tydings Hall, Room 0117 (FACULTY/STAFF)
—>Monday, May 7: 7-9 PM at Richie Coliseum (GENERAL PUBLIC)

Conceivably much of the project layout and design will be up for debate at these meetings. The mix of use and the magnitude of the project probably will not be negotiable.

> RSVP Now on the Event on Facebook
> See our post, “Raising the Profile of East Campus Redevelopment
> See all our East Campus posts

10 TALKING POINTS

Rethink College Park has never questioned whether or not East Campus will be beautiful. Indeed, a brief walk around campus and a glimpse through the University’s illustrious Master Plan are proof enough that administrators can build world-class facilities and urban spaces. The intent of this exercise is to infuse some community ideas into what has so far been a highly insulated process. These suggestions should not be viewed as detailed prescriptions, but rather as an attempt to broaden the debate on the East Campus project. They are a work in progress and we’ll be sure the final community suggestions are heard.

We believe these 10 points will guarantee the vibrancy of the district (in no particular order):

East Campus Concept1) Tie East Campus to the traditional downtown – start with the adaptive reuse of the Pocomoke Building

There is a huge barrier that exists today between traditional downtown College Park and the East Campus site. That barrier, oddly enough, is the open space that is Fraternity Row and the Chapel Field. It will become the dividing line between the two districts to the detriment of both. We have proposed in the past that the Pocomoke Building be retrofitted to include a specialty grocer. This would not only be the first step toward binding together the two districts, it would provide an amenity downtown that is sorely needed.

2) Connect Paint Branch Parkway with a road through East Campus and into Old Town

Fusing East Campus with the Rest of CampusAnyone who has ever driven on Route 1 or through Old Town knows it’s a headache. Route 1 is constantly congested simply because it is the only north-south road through College Park. The Old Town road system has a confusing one-way streets grid that is clearly intended to eliminate outside traffic in the residential neighborhood. This setup pours traffic out onto Route 1 and has become a serious safety issue. Now that the university is advertising Paint Branch Parkway as a major thoroughfare to campus, we feel it behooves the entire community to connect at least one existing dead end road (we think Princeton Ave) in Old Town through Frat Row and the East Campus site all the way to Paint Branch Parkway. This connection would further the objective of point #1.The Route 1 sector plan provides for a connection of this sort and decision-makers must not shy away from it.

3) Integrate the Purple Line into the project

The State Highway Administration has proposed two similar alternatives for the Purple Line around East Campus. One is a median alignment on Paint Branch Parkway (directly through UMD’s North Gate) and the other goes through the East Campus (and next to the Armory). Since the former seems to go against the pedestrian purpose of the transitway, we feel the latter should be provided for in the site plans for East Campus and an onsite Purple Line stop should be pursued.

4) Minimize park (green) space

UMD’s campus has an ample amount of green-space and more on the way as the University continues to build structured parking and convert surface parking to pedestrian malls. Much of this space is already underutilized and we feel that providing any significant amount of it on East Campus would work at cross purposes to the emerging view of East Campus as an “Urban District”. We suggest that the university leave space to fulfill this high density vision if demand doesn’t yet warrant it. Many people have pointed out College Park’s lack of a town square. Our readers suggested that a town square like Madison’s (University of Wisconsin) is in order.

5) Maximize the diversity of residents

There has been much focus on the need for affordable graduate student housing. University affiliated housings provides 6.7% of UMD’s Grad Students with housing compared to 14% at peer institutions. East Campus is an opportunity to close this gap and the university has shown a clear commitment to do this. Still we don’t want to see College Park divided into turfs – East Campus should also contain undergraduate housing, faculty housing, and (dare we say) housing not earmarked for anyone in particular.

6) Make clear pedestrian and visual links to campus, trolley trail, and the metro

East Campus is not only the greatest single development opportunity in College Park, its central location is a great chance to connect the university’s sprawling facilities and tie together College Park’s existing pedestrian facilities. These include the promenade on either side of Mckeldin Mall, the City’s Trolley Trail (formally the Rhode Island Streetcar line), the College Park metro station, and UMD’s rapidly expanding research park. A major sidewalk from east campus and along the Purple Line alignment we proposed in #3 seems like a logical way to reduce the number of new stoplights on Route 1. A site plan committed to these connections will ensure that East Campus is part of College Park.

7) Limit parking – don’t let garages dominate the district

A College Town is a resoundingly pedestrian place. When you hear people rave about Charlottesville, Ann Arbor, or Berkeley it isn’t for their great parking garages. We can’t deny that College Park is in a suburban area or that the vast majority of people move around in cars. Still a College Town provides a unique opportunity for people to work and live in the same place and university officials should not ignore the huge burden that parking lots (and cars by proxy) place on developers, renters, and the community at large. Cities that have reduced or eliminated parking requirements like Ann Arbor, Michigan and Ithica, New York have seen an increase in new projects designed to house students. Eliminating parking can also make projects more affordable by reducing their overall cost.

Nodes of Activity8) Provide for independently owned businesses

Because of the limited amount of retail spaces in the city, rents are exorbitant and only ‘sure thing’ business models like national burrito and sandwich chains seem to be able to survive downtown. More net retail space in College Park should alleviate high rents, but still we think some sort of provision for independently owned businesses is in order. This could take the form a strict percentage requirements like those in the Washington Convention Center and other cities or the intentional inclusion of small and odd size spaces in building designs.

9) Require LEED Certification

The university continues to tout its environmental successes, but actions do truly speak louder than words. If the university is really committed to protecting the environment it should require LEED Certification on East Campus. The recent approval of NOAA’s Center for Climate and Weather Prediction is a great example of the application green building practices to a university-affiliated building. Some degree of LEED certification on East Campus is necessary and reasonable.

10) Show a commitment to meaningful community input

The university’s attempts to include the larger community in the East Campus have fallen short thus far. Their East Campus website, while providing a good overview of the project, is geared towards developers and Rethink College Park is left as the lone organization trying to engage the public. University administrators must East Campus Conceptfollow up on their commitment to meaningful community input on East Campus. Other universities have done the same for similar projects (see case studies in UMD’s market research for East Campus (PDF)). We suggest they start with large displays in prominent locations on campus once site plans and building designs are underway. When plans begin to materialize the university should host several events to gain community input and support.

Of course the university can build an expansive and beautiful east campus, but they need the university community to build a truly great college town.

As always we encourage comments!