More Greenspace Improvements on South Campus

UMD’s planned south mall is slowly unfolding. When complete it will provide a pedestrian axis all the way from Anne Arundel Hall down to the southern end of Van Munching Hall, through Commons 1,2,5, and 6 and across to Hartford Hall in the Washington Quad. Two portions of the phased project are underway right now.
Master Plan (Southwest District)

Washington Quad

Residents of Washington Quad must have been rather shocked to find last weekend that their entire courtyard/load unload area had been torn up (the project was rather foolishly begun just before opening weekend) to make way for a new $3 million greenspace. The project was funded in part by the Commons 5 & 6 developer and is expected to be completed in November. The project has rather dubious environmental benefit, but it will store and recirculate rainwater in the planting beds. Read more and see other schematics here.

Washington Quad
Van Munching Mall

Work has begun on the 2nd phase of the new Van Munching mall. It will serve as a gateway on the southern end of the mall next to the Mowatt Lane parking garage and the road. The project includes adding more plantings to what was already there as well as a clocktower and more brickwork. Read more and see other schematics here.

Southwest District phase2

More On-Campus Housing in the Pipeline

With On-Campus waitlists surging past 1500, modified triples and lounges once again becoming common practice, and the memory of hundreds of rising seniors kicked out of housing last semester, the University is pursuing a 2 building, 400 bed public private partnership in the vicinity of Mowatt Lane Garage. While these buildings will do little to alleviate the real long term demand for student housing (we estimate 5,000 to 7,000 beds), it is definitely a step in the right direction. We’ve cleverly named them “commons 7 and 8” on our map.

ETA: Fall 2009/Spring 2010.

New Initiative Dedicated to Bicycle-Friendly College Park

A newly revitalized committee dedicated to bicycle issues could bring new attention to bikes on campus in College Park. After several years of inactivity, a newly hired graduate research assistant in UMD’s Department of Transportation is revitalizing the group. Gulsah Akar, an engineering graduate student, recently held a meeting for the group spelling out his goals.

The group hopes to:Bicycle Committee concept

  • Increase bicycle use
  • Increase bicycle safety (both riding and parking)
  • Increase bicycle awareness (introduce bike as a viable mode)
  • Create a sustainable bicycle program
  • Funding

For more information on the Bicycle Committee, contact Gulsah at gulsah at umd.edu.

This is a wonderful time for bicycle issues in College Park. When funding is found, the reconstruction of Route 1 will mean an improvement for cyclists. We hope some of that money will be earmarked for dedicated bike lanes on the entire corridor. Bike lanes will encourage alternative transportation and provide an amenity for current cyclists.

UMD cycling teamOther useful College Park cycling resources include the College Park Area Bicycle Coalition, the The Washington Area Bicyclist Association, UMD Cycling Club. Another useful contact is campus police officer John Brandt, who specializes in campus biking, who can be reached at jbrandt@umpd.umd.edu.

We have also heard about the possibility of an innovative new bike rental project that could come to our area – stay tuned.

Federal Government Key to Purple Line Funding

Light Rail in the Trastevere Neighborhood of Rome, Italy

An article in today’s Washington Post explains some of the hurdles facing the Purple Line – and why Maryland has opted to wait until next year to apply to the Federal Transit Administration for funding:

Unlike federal highway funds, which states receive based on a formula and may spend as they wish, money for new transit projects is awarded at the discretion of the FTA. The agency doesn’t have much to dole out. The FTA has proposed spending about $1.4 billion on new transit projects next fiscal year, compared with $42 billion that states will receive for highway maintenance and construction, according to federal figures. More than 100 transit projects across the country are expected to compete for federal money in coming years, according to a federal report. …

To win, said [John] Porcari, the transportation secretary, Maryland’s biggest challenge will be proving that a Purple Line would attract enough riders. He said he thinks it would beat out other proposals in its ability to serve a heavily transit-dependent population and blend into communities while “stabilizing and enhancing” them.

The 16-mile Purple Line, which could open by 2015, is designed to revitalize older communities, including such areas as Langley Park, where many lower-income residents rely on buses because the Metrorail system doesn’t take them east or west. …

It’s worth noting at this juncture that Dan Reed over at Just Up the Pike has produced a newspaper-quality series on Purple Line NIMBYism in Mongomery County. While not the major hurdle for the project, NIMBYism has proven to be a key (and very interesting) component of the debate. We thank Dan for continuing to raise the profile of area blogs.

Also, it should be noted that a fierce political debate lurks on the horizon in Maryland as to whether to raise the state gas tax to fund transportation projects like the purple line. John Porcari clued us in in June.

> W. Post: “Rail Projects at the Mercy of U.S. Agency

The photo shows a light rail line in Rome

Public Forum on “Mansionization” today

A public forum will be held today to discuss “mansionization” issues in Prince George’s County (sorry about the late notice, we just learned about this). The forum will be held at

7 pm in the Prince George’s County Parks and Recreation Administration Building, located at 6600 Kenilworth Avenue in Riverdale

Mansionization is the phenomenon characterized by the construction of unusually large homes replacing smaller homes in an existing neighborhood or homes that are incompatible with the character of an existing neighborhood.

Today’s meeting is the first in a series of meetings to discuss the Prince George’s County Planning Department’s ongoing Mansionization Study, how this practice is impacting communities locally and regionally, and how these issues need to be addressed. The general public is invited to share their thoughts and concerns.

Contribution to the forum can be made without attending by completing and electronically submitting a survey to the Planning Board. The survey can also be printed, filled, and taken in person to the meeting.

RTCP Development Map 2.0

We’re proud to announce the unveiling of the latest version of our latest development map. This map builds upon the success of our first map, with the easy updatability of the Google’s recently introduced “My Maps.” You’ll notice that we’ve color coded the project pins and added polygons for larger scale projects (like East Campus and M-Square). A green pin means that the project is already built, under construction, or that we’re reasonably sure it will begin construction soon. A red pin indicates uncertainty surrounding the project; whether it be political, regulatory, or developer uncertainty. We also drew out College Park’s extensive trail system because we believe trails are a vital part of the pedestrian fabric of any college town. Enjoy!

East Campus Steering Committee Members, Schedule Announced

Yesterday University Vice President for Administrative Affairs Doug Duncan released the list of members of of the East Campus community steering committee that will be participating in a series of topical public meetings this fall. Three of the 40 members are students, and 17 are affiliated with the University of Maryland. The newly update schedule has been added to the sidebar to the right.

For the truly curious, the complete schedule and all 40 committee members are after the jump. This information and other data to support the public process will be posted to the university’s East Campus website.

Continue reading East Campus Steering Committee Members, Schedule Announced

Downtown Guide Updated

Downtown MapWhile we’re busy dreaming about the new businesses that could come to the mixed use buildings on Route One and East Campus, for the time being most College Park residents are stuck with what we’ve got in downtown. Downtown contains over 70 storefront businesses offering tacos, transistors, tea, and textbooks.

The downtown guide includes the phone numbers and location of all businesses, as well as the city’s car and bike parking facilities. Print copies are available at City Hall.

>> Downtown College Park Guide (PDF)

RTCP’s Ten Best

244 posts, 898 comments, and basically a year of serious postings. And what a year it has been! RTCP’s staff gets a little upset when good posts get buried. Just because they are old doesn’t make them any less important. So we decided to go back and dig up our ten best. Here they are in no particular order:

1) “Shopping for Low Lying Fruit” – 10/9/06. Eric Fidler rethinks to Pocomoke building, proposes an adaptive reuse into a grocery store (complete with incredible renderings) and exchanges blows with non other than John Porcari himself.

2) “10 East Campus Talking Points” – 11/1/06, reposted (with pictures) 5/1/07. David Daddio combines feedback from the RTCP staff to give our specific recommendations for East Campus. The points are as relevant today as they were in November (especially the part about keeping the public process transparent and meaningful).

3) “Mazza Grandmarc Student Housing Project Languishes” – 2/14/07. David Daddio discovers (as much as you can discover a $60 million project) the ill-fated Mazza Grad Student housing project, thus setting off a long chain of press coverage running up to the project’s eventual approval. Somehow it also led to a forced “compromise” on state legislation.

4) “Airport Regulations Stall Northgate Project” – 5/9/07. After a long series of phone calls and an alphabet soup of government terms, Rob Goodspeed sheds some light onto why the biggest project approved in CP hadn’t (and still hasn’t) started construction.

5) Special election survey 1 and survey 2 – 1/5/07. Rob Goodspeed gets every city special election candidate to tell all (after plenty of prodding).

6) “Greenbelt Station Proposal Now Includes Four 18-Story Tower” – 2/17/07. Rob Goodspeed discovers the true meaning of “Not in MY Backyard” on a cold morning in February.

7) “Historic District Considered Near Downtown” – 10/5/06. Rob Goodspeed unravels the Old Town Historic District saga.

8) “Talking Seriously About the Purple Line” – 5/11/07. David Daddio brings the University’s position on the Purple Line out in the open and uses his days as a lowly intern to tear it apart.

9) “Reconstructing Route 1” 2/2/07. Eric Fidler figures out what the deal is with the Route 1 reconstruction plans.

10) “Smart Growth, Student Housing, and Transportation – What Does it All Mean?” – 5/22/07. David Daddio explains why student housing is the salvation of College Park (even if no one making decisions chooses to open their eyes and see it).

Student Housing Proposed at Northgate

Early Proposal for 8400 Baltimore AveA condominium project first proposed in December 2006 by area developer Otis Warren is moving forward, and this time it seems possible it will be developed with students in mind. The project, located at 8400 Baltimore Avenue, will contain 300 residential units, 14,000 square feet of retail, and a 4-story 421 space parking garage. These are the same numbers from when we posted a very rough rendering in February. According to our sources, although the city has a number of complaints regarding aesthetics, they supported the concept that it could become student housing at their meeting earlier this month. If built, the building could result in as many as 900 to 1,000 student beds. The condo market has softened significantly in recent months and many projects in the Washington region have moved from condos to rental units.

Issues raised during the city’s consideration of the detailed site plan at their meeting earlier this August included the infamous rules about whether the building’s facade had enough brick, the fact that the proposed building’s lot coverage exceeds the maximum and is set back 8 feet farther than the build-to line, and quibbling about the applicant’s traffic and parking exemption calculations.

We think this project illustrates one of the biggest problems with the M-U-I overlay zone: the excessive parking requirement. Cities as diverse as Ithica, New York, San Francisco, and Arlington County, Virginia have had the courage to question the parking dogma and build buildings with no — or very little — parking, especially when located near transit. Rental housing near the university on Route One should contain less parking than the zone currently requires.

The Prince George’s County Planning Board Hearing on the plan has been scheduled September 20th.