The East Campus Community Review Steering Committee has been meeting since August to hear from the developers and their consultants about a wide variety of issues surrounding the project. We have encouraged our readers to attend these meetings (and many have) and I am an official committee member of this committee. The meetings are preceded by a “student focus group” between graduate and undergraduate students and university officials.
While we have published several items related to the project, I thought it was time for a summary of some of the news that has been discussed at these meetings. Most of the supporting documents have been posted to the East Campus website, and offer a variety of additional information.
Two issues were discussed at the previous (October 8th) meeting about transportation. First, several members of the committee strongly opposed vehicular connections between Old Town and the East Campus project. As I described in a previous post, I believe these streets should be open and strategies used elsewhere to control traffic would alleviate resident’s fears. Second, Foulger-Pratt announced they wanted to design the project choosing the Paint Branch Alignment for the Purple Line. The Maryland Transit Administration’s preferred light rail route is straight through the project, the location that makes the most sense from a planning point of view. The route through the project has been assumed in all the discussions previous to this month. We strongly feel the reasons cited by Foulger-Pratt are not satisfactory and will present a full description of why after Monday’s meeting.
Here’s a summary of some of the most germane issues discussed. All of this is subject to change.
The “city” (it is unknown who precisely this means) has submitted a letter with requirements for the project to the University and the developer. This document has not been made public, making it difficult for us to evaluate the nature of the requests. It seems clear the project will need some type of public financing (such as a TIF) and will need city approval and support.
The parking garages will be embedded within blocks where possible. While they had released graphics showing precise numbers of spaces, they declined to discuss them at last week’s meeting saying they wanted to wait until the traffic study had been completed. The developers are negotiating with county officials about the scope of the traffic study they will complete.
Specifically for graduate students, the project will include 75 units of 2 bedroom graduate housing priced at $900 per person, and 75 units containing five bedrooms that will rent at $650 per person. This is similar to was it required by the RFP. In total, the project will contain roughly 2,000 units of housing, all rental, although not designed specifically for undergraduates. This housing will be priced at “market rate.”
The “anchor tenants” at the project include roughly 175,000 square feet of retail. They are a movie theater (now perhaps replaced by the Birchmere Theater), a gym, book store, and grocery store. The preferred grocer mentioned is Whole Foods. There will also be a childcare center for children under 3 years old. Other tenants will include a variety of restaurants, neighborhood retail, and destination retail. There will be no bars in the project.
The project will be under the jurisdiction of the UMD police. The developer has committed to a LEED Silver standard, although hedged about whether they would commit to applying to the USGBC for the official certification.