Stay in Touch With RethinkCP

With the school year approaching, activity is picking up around here. With major projects rolling down the pipeline and decisions being made about the East Campus Project, it promises to be a busy fall. In addition to reading the site, how can you stay in touch with Rethink College Park?

1. Join the email list. We use it very rarely – only when there’s something important to announce. It’s usually only one or two messages a month:

Subscribe to Rethink College Park Announcements
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2. Join our Facebook group – we recently switched from a Maryland-only group to a “global” one, so anyone can join who is on the website.

3. Use our RSS feed to track us in Bloglines, My Yahoo or Google Homepage.

DOTS Expands Weekend Service to Metro

Stamp Bus

Starting August 25, 2007, the Department of Transportation Services is offering expanded weekend service on Route 104 to the College Park Metro from central campus beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings. One of the major complaints of bus riders within the campus community was the lack of weekend bus service from campus to College Park Metro Station on the Green Line. Buses would not leave Stamp Student Union on Saturday and Sunday mornings until after 12:00 noon.

With the extra hours of bus service, students will now be able to travel to DC for jobs or weekend activities via the Shuttle-UM bus and Metrorail earlier than previously made possible. Likewise, those wishing to visit College Park traveling from elsewhere in the DC Metro area on weekend mornings can now do so. Rethink College Park applauds the move as a way for DOTS to better facilitate access between campus and Downtown DC during the weekend morning hours. The full Fall 2007 schedule for the route can be found here. (PDF)

In addition to the Shuttle-UM Route 104, several other public bus lines run along Campus Drive to the Metro Station. The Metrobus (red, white, and blue buses) Routes C8, J4, F8, and the County’s TheBus Route 17 all provide service. Particularly during evenings or weekends, one of these buses may come before the Shuttle-UM bus. Metrobus costs $1.25, or $.35 with a transfer (automatic with a SmarTrip Card) and TheRide costs $.75. This is the best map we could find of the routes, if riding a route for the first time you can double-check with the driver to ensure you’re on the right bus. Links to all these transit services are always under “transit” on the right side of the page.

WMATA Bus Route Map

East Campus Public Input Process Begins

East Campus Concept - Massing

Last night, university officials and their development partner Foulger-Pratt/Argo Investment launched what will be a comprehensive public input process for the East Campus project, the University’s plan to create 2,000 units of student market rate housing (Including designated graduate student housing), 400,000 square feet of retail including a grocery store, hotel, and office building along Route One. Here’s how the process has been organized:

  • An East Campus Community Steering Committee has been created. Although we do not have a list of the steering committee members, they include representatives from College Park’s civic associations, the city, county government, and elected officials. To our knowledge there are only three students on the committee.
  • In a series of 4 (possibly 5) Steering Committee public meetings, community members will hear and have a chance to comment on almost all facets of the project.
  • Separately, SGA President Andrew Friedson has organized a Student Advisory Committee with a variety of student representatives. They will meet with University officials on the same days as the steering committee.

Here is the schedule of Steering Committee public meetings. All meetings will take place from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in Marie Mount Room 0100. The topics discussed will include Uses and Market Feasibility, Transportation and Parking, Financing and Land Use, Discussion and Conclusion. We are awaiting the exact schedule.

September 4 – Existing Site, Relocations, Environmental Stewardship
September 20 – Uses and Market Feasibility
October 8 – Transportation and parking
October 22 – Economic Impact, Financing, Land Use and Design
October 29 – Overall consensus building and conclusion

Several additional details about the project were revealed yesterday. The plans revealed last spring have remained largely unchanged, however it seems the university will need extensive cooperation from city officials (including possibly financing). The moderator of the meeting was noted Washington attorney Robert Peck, who admitted he had been retained by the university to craft last year’s Request for Proposals. Peck’s long resume includes stints as Sen. Patrick Moynihan’s chief of staff, heading the General Service Administration’s Public Buildings Service under President Clinton, and time as president of the Washington Board of Trade. Also, University officials hope to stick to the schedule discussed last year: finalize the project design by the end of the year, break ground on relocating existing facilities next spring, and open the first housing by Fall 2010.

The images come from the presentation Foulger-Pratt/Argo Investment has been giving at community meetings. Over the summer they have posted several slides including a list of the retail tenants already contacted about coming to the project. We strongly encourage community members to review the slides closely.

East Campus Concept - Phasing

What is Your Home’s Walk Score?

walkscoreA new website designed to assess the walkability of neighborhoods has been causing a buzz on the web lately. Designed to calculate “the walkability of an address by locating nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc” the site combines data gleaned from Google into one easy-to-understand score ranging from 0 to 100. Under 20 is “driving only,” around 50 has “some walkable locations” and over 90 is a “walker’s paradise.”

Plugging in a few addresses, it seems College Park’s scores range quite widely by neighborhood but none are very good. The University View got 52, City Hall 77, and South Commons 66. Some quick searching shows other well-known college towns generally rate much higher, often at or near 100. My old address in Ann Arbor got 98. Also, Silver Spring, Bethesda, Georgetown, and Dupont Circle all receive scores near 100.

What is your home’s walk score?


Local neccesity for mixed-use on Cafritz Property?

In this article we draw attention back to a concern aired in a previous post. Many citizens have spoken up for the Cafritz’s to keep their property undeveloped, or to not pursue changing existing zoning to accommodate mixed use. Up to the second (previous) round of meetings at the end of June, the development team had not adequately addressed these concerns to the public at large. However at the latest meetings those concerns were addressed head-on by the development team.

The Cafritz’s acknowledged that not everyone in the community supports development that is mixed-use. In explaining their choice for mixed-use over other development styles, they claim that they have received more positive than negative support for their mixed-use project. They purport that their development will abate an under-served market.

To demonstrate that the Riverdale and surrounding area market is under-served, the development team cited these comparative statistics from the Washington Post: In DC there are 24 square feet of retail space per capita, and one grocer per 9,700 people. In Riverdale there are 15.8 square feet of retail space per capita and one grocer per 18,000 people. Riverdale’s figures are less than half the national average and are clearly deficient when compared to DC. Cafritz Property development would conceivably close that gap by some amount by serving the local market. All concerned parties will not be appeased by the Cafritz’s answer for mixed-use development. But we commend the developer nonetheless for stepping up and explaining their reasons this time around.

It is worthwhile to note that comparing the Riverdale area to DC and national market averages assumes that DC and the nation as a whole are efficiently served by their retail markets. For example, are DC’s 24 square feet of retail space per capita all truly necessary? Could better planning reduce that figure while maintaining or even improving DC’s consumer utility from its retail market? Such planning is necessary in today’s age of urban sprawl, abandoned strip malls, and vanishing green space.

Cafritz Design Principles

Round three of Cafritz Property development public meetings took place last week where design principles were publicized. These principles will be used to draft concept plans. The completed concept plans will be presented in a fourth round of public meetings in September before the Cafritz’s apply for rezoning. Identical meetings for the concept plans will be SATURDAY, September 15th (10am-12pm), and TUESDAY, September 18th (7-9pm).

Here is a representative list of the design principles…

Transportation & Connections – No vehicle connection to Calvert Hills, but instead pedestrian and bike connection is possible. Connect to Riverdale Town Center with streets, paths and trails, and connect to the existing surrounding trail system overall. Buffer sidewalks with trees and lamp posts. Connect for cars, bikes, and/or pedestrians over the CSX tracks to River Road. Make a Rt.1 intersection with no University Park access to discourage cut-through traffic in UP.

Organize streets in a grid pattern with parallel parking. Implement “right-size” parking that at most meets but does not exceed zone requirements; get a variance for that if necessary.

Business & Retail – The retail broker on the development team reports that there are no negotiations between East Campus and Whole Foods. This further strengthens the possibility of the grocer being on the Cafritz Property. Images of short retail fronted by wide recreational and pedestrian areas were posted as representative of what the developer has in mind.

Placemaking – Locate tall buildings (4-8 stories) in the south-center of site, and stagger shorter buildings from there to the sides. Back parking garages against the post office buildings to the south to minimize their presence. Make a main public green on Rt. 1 that sets back about 156′ and retains natural topography and trees. Scatter other green areas throughout. Place public art throughout.

Livability – Make residential primarily home-owned rather than rented. Minimize single-story retail by building residential above ground-level retail.

Environment – A pilot LEED rating system called LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND) is being pursued. The pilot rating system integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism, and green building into the first national standard for neighborhood design. The Cafritz Property is not part of the pilot program but is pursuing LEED ND nonetheless with help from a consulting firm hired for that specific purpose.

The future of the WMATA site bordering the north of the property is still very up in the air. This is probably why the pedestrian/biker connection to Calvert Hills was only identified as a possibility at this point.

We are happy to report that the development team addressed their reasoning for mixed-use development over other possibilities. This was something that was not done in previous meetings, as discussed in a previous article. **Check back soon for a more in-depth discussion about this.**