CP Rent Cap Lowered

The City of College Park’s limit on rent for rented units not in apartment buildings under the city’s “rent stabilization ordinance,” was recently lowered to 0.8% of a house’s assessed value, down from 1%. The change has sparked debate covered by today’s Diamondback. City council members argue, accurately, that the law restricts the amount of rent landlords can charge in the city. Students and landlords argue, also accurately, that the intent of the law is to discourage properties from being rented to begin with. In fact, the law itself (Chapter 127 of the city code) states in its purpose section that its intent is to reduce “the number of single-family homes that are rental properties.”

RCP co-founder David Daddio has described how the combined effect of the ordinance with owner-occupancy requirements on new housing has suppressed student housing in the city. A lawsuit filed by students and landlords against the City Council and Mayor Stephen Brayman is currently pending. Although exorbitant rents are clearly a problem, we have long maintained the bigger problem is the simple lack of enough rental housing near to the university.

> Diamondback: “Rent stabilization could threaten students
> CP City Code (Rent Stabilization Ordinance is Chapter 127)
> RCP: “Suppressing Student Housing

Friends Community School – Past, Present & Future

old FCS

The Friends Community School (FCS) has been located on 4601 Calvert Road for 21 years, since it was established by the Adelphi Friends [Quaker] Meeting. It has taught K-6 grades, and recently expanded to teach 7th and 8th grades. This past school year was the final term for FCS at Calvert Road. They will move to their new site in Westchester Park on Kenilworth Avenue in the fall. FCS has been leasing the Calvert Road building since its establishment in 1985. The Westchester Park school is being built by FCS through contributions from the FCS community in its Grounding Our Future Campaign. The new site will be the permanent home for the school.
new FCS elevation
There is strong community interest in Calvert Hills for the old school to remain a school.  College Park City Council voted this past week to explore for 120 days a lab school concept (in partnership with the Prince George’s County School District and the University of Maryland) for the Calvert Road site.   If a lab school does not pan out, the city may consider other options for the use of that site including other school options. The latter scenario would fall in line with an interest from new Prince George’s County superintendent John E. Deasy for more small local community schools.

The new school is 27,000 square feet and sits on 17 wooded acres adjacent to Greenbelt National Park. It will be LEED certified and employ non-load-bearing straw bale technology. Straw is a renewable building resource that acts as superior insulation and is fairly easy to build with. It is equally impervious to fires, insects, high winds and heavy rains as traditional insulation. Straw bale structures typically save on 15% of wood used in a conventional structure. The new FCS is now the largest known straw bale structure in the world.

The new FCS will also feature a vegetated roof, a rain garden designed to limit soil erosion and filter pollutants from rainwater, and flooring that absorbs sunlight and stays warm during winter months. On cloudy days, floors will be heated by water pipes installed underneath.

new FCS and surrounding

There is presently a FCS summer camp still at the old Calvert Road school.

See the Gazette’s report on the FCS move.

The Arts needed for East Campus to shine?

The following is an edited contribution by John W. Euill, III. John is a 34 year-old resident of the Cool Spring neighborhood in Adelphi. He takes classes at UMUC and frequents Rt. 1 everyday. Thanks, John.

The Birchmere, Alexandria, VAI’m excited to hear about developments such as East Campus coming to the area. I feel they are long overdue. I think the area’s college town feel will be enhanced while also making it a destination for the region. I do have one concern, that there will be no consideration for the live arts. What gives many urban destinations their appeal and draw are their ability to support the live arts. For example, Georgetown, U Street, Silver Spring (future site of Birchmere), and Alexandria.

We have an arts district within walking distance, a high school with an arts component (Northwestern), and a college campus where a good portion of its population appreciates the arts. I feel it would be a big misfortune to have an arts district a mile down the road and not have any venues where local and international artists can perform. What good is it to have an arts district nearby if all of the artists residing in it have to leave town to perform?

We have a good start with the Clarice Smith Clarice Smith Performing Arts CenterPerforming Arts Center on the UMD campus. But is there consideration for a jazz club or a small music hall somewhere off campus? Perhaps even a comedy club would break up the residential/retail mix. Most people have shops to go to in their own neighborhoods – mostly all of the national retail chains. What most people don’t have are places to go to hear a good local band or a national headliner, or to see their favorite comedian live. Who says that stuff needs to be in downtown DC only?

Having a Cheesecake Factory here may be great. But people can go to other areas for that. It won’t draw them here. On the other hand, if they see in the paper that their favorite jazz artist or comedian is performing in College Park, guess what? That brings them here. Then they eat and shop here before or after the performance. They bring their friends here the next time. Then they shop and eat here. East Campus becomes a draw for people outside of the area and it gets recognized in the media. People will come if there’s enough incentive.

Georgetown has its Blues Alley. U Street has its many venuesBlues Alley, Georgetown for live music and even a theater house. Alexandria (and soon Silver Spring) has The Birchmere. What will we have? Just places to shop and eat? I’m sure studies have shown that you attract a certain demographic if there are live arts in the area. Could there be a study provided that shows statistics on how live arts venues affects an area? Many great universities have a nice assortment of live arts nearby: UC Berkley, U of Chicago, NYU, Georgetown, Howard, etc. We have the opportunity to be named among them not only for academics, but an exciting place to live and visit. Let’s not waste that chance.