UMD Forges Ahead With East Campus – Begins to Court New Developers

East Campus Concept - Massing
UMD issued a new phased East Campus Request for Proposal (RFP) Wednesday and will select a developer for Phase I of the project by the end of July. With $5 million in hand to begin relocating their facilities on East Campus to the former Washington Post plant, UMD appears to be forging ahead with a realistic phased implementation plan that takes into account difficult economic conditions. The proposed full build-out of the site plan remains substantially the same (aerial rendering) as the one developed over the course of the past couple years…. although it is subject to further changes to be worked out between the selected developer, UMD, the City and County.

—> See our “10 East Campus Talking Points” to read what RTCP thinks should be incorporated into the project.

Proposed East Capus Plaza behind existing power plant

Is UMD an Ardent Supporter and Outright Champion of the Purple Line?… SGA Hosting Purple Line Forum Tuesday

To RTCP, the planned closure of Campus Drive to cars and buses is fundamentally connected with the UMD administration’s desire to avoid the Campus Drive alignment of the Purple Line and turn the road into a “pedestrian walking mall.” Whether such a proposal is the best course for the campus community or not, the Campus Drive alignment continues to be the only prudent and feasible east-west light rail route through campus. The Campus Master Plan envisions an internal campus bus loop connected to regional bus transportation on the periphery of campus… an outmoded concept that doesn’t take into account the technical constraints or funding realities of the Purple Line. It’s time for the University to embrace the real intra-campus and regional strategic transportation benefits that the Purple Line will provide. Anything less is obstructionism… a position that is tantamount to a rejection of the entire 16-mile project.

The administration is attempting to rearrange long-established bus routes that will only have to be moved back to Campus Drive once the Purple Line light rail is built. Many bus routes (Shuttle UM & WMATA) can be eliminated with the establishment of the Purple Line, but Shuttle UM’s central campus hub will have to be next to the campus Purple Line stop in front of the Student Union to achieve the highest possible ridership… it’s time for UMD to become another ardent supporter and outright champion of the Purple Line.

“The university does not seem to want to address the reality of the situation, which is that the line [alignment] they want is really not possible,” Daddio said. “They don’t seem to be properly engaged with the state [MTA] or they would have come to the conclusion by now that at the end of the day it’s not possible to do what they want to do.”

Come out and voice your opinion about the planned closure of Campus Drive. The Student Government Association’s forum will be held Tuesday (May 4th) from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Margaret Brent Room of the Stamp Student Union. (RSVP ON FACEBOOK)

—> Our take on the proposal

—> A good Diamondback article on the salient issues (4/29/10)

—> Earlier Diamondback article with good RTCP quotes (4/28/10)

—> An excellent analysis by Diamondback writer Mardy Shualy (4/27/10)

What’s your take?

Fearing Smart Growth (or Embracing it?)

Route 1 in CP
There’s an excellent column in today’s Washington Post that I think speaks directly to situation in College Park and inner suburban communities like it. The column, written by UMD architecture professor emeritus Roger K. Lewis, describes “favorably located but underdeveloped or unwisely developed land with potentially high real estate value” along blighted highways. From the column:

Aging, low-rise commercial structures with little architectural coherence or aesthetic quality are scattered throughout the area, along with extensive surface parking. Landscaping is minimal or neglected. Haphazardly deployed signage, lighting and utility structures add visual clutter.

Plans are afoot to radically transform this area, the premise being that it is a prime candidate for a makeover to accommodate future growth. But plans envision the redevelopment area becoming urban rather than suburban. Comfortable with the status quo, you fear that nearby urbanization will threaten your quality of life, spoil the character of your community, depress your property’s values and make traffic congestion unbearable.

Having worked on Smart Growth in College Park for almost 4 years, I am continually surprised just how resilient the opposition is to compact, infill development along the corridor. Perhaps I even underestimate the size of this opposition. In a recent email exchange with community members and local elected officials, my support for basic Smart Growth principles brought virulent opposition. Mary Cook, a local resident and former City Councilperson, went so far as to say that I was not “concerned with the future of College Park.” Tom Dernoga, outgoing District 1 County Councilman, railed against my pro-smart growth agenda and said my opinions reflects an “elitist (or purist) planning approach that has little meaning in the real world.” He went on to say that I was overstating my “position and ignoring the concerns of MANY people in the Route 1 Corridor.”
Indeed there is a sizable contingent of people in College Park that are perfectly happy with the current land use pattern on Route 1. This group is organized and extremely effective politically (much to my chagrin). I’ve always believed those opposed to development are more organized and motivated for the simple fact that individuals are more apt to take the time to oppose something they perceive as immediately detrimental to their interests. Far fewer people are motivated to come out and actively support something that could provide them long term benefits.  NIMBYism thrives on the nuances of development, misinformation, suspicion and the backroom nature of planning. It manifests in insular citizen groups who scoff at outsiders and ostensibly carry the banner of “the community” as if the community is one monolithic group.

Our belief that the silent majority of the community supports the wholesale redevelopment of Route 1 is what keeps this site going (at a considerable expense of time and money to its writers). Perhaps we’ve misjudged the real sentiments of the community. In today’s column, Lewis says: “as new long-range plans are implemented in the coming decades, your property’s value will probably go up, your way of life and neighborhood character will be enhanced, and traffic congestion will not worsen.” Maybe we haven’t done a good enough job of conveying these points and showing how similarly situated neighborhoods maintain their suburban fabric but benefit tremendously from infill redevelopment.

RTCP has received an uncountable number of emails over the years from community members expressing gratitude for the work we do here. These people universally recognize that development on Route 1 will have a net positive effect on the City and acknowledge that the goals of Smart Growth aren’t achievable if our expectations of developers are unreasonable or don’t take into account financial realities. The majority of these emails are from long term residents who say that this site has made them hopeful for real change in College Park. Where before some had contemplated moving, folks have even gone as far as saying this site has given them the resolve to stay.

Please take a second to email this post to like-minded individuals and comment here if you support the vast majority of opinions we present on Rethink College Park. Share it on Facebook and Twitter. We’re especially interested in hearing from long term residents.
Starview rendering

Continuing the ‘Anywhere But’ Campus Drive Purple Line Strategy

“The university is a major beneficiary of this project [the Purple Line],” Daddio said. “But you wouldn’t know it by their actions in the last few months.” Washington Post (1/28/2008)

Purple Line 6
There is no doubt as to the University Administration’s intent with their latest move to close Campus Drive to cars and transit.  One of the strongest arguments for a central campus Purple Line alignment between the ‘M’ Circle and the Stamp Student Union on Campus Drive is that the proposed light rail would link up with the hub of Shuttle UM – UMD’s successful and far-flung bus system. By removing transit vehicles from Campus Drive, administration officials have found a way to seriously undercut and potentially pre-empt the Maryland Transportation Administration’s (MTA) preferred alignment through campus. In doing so they risk the continued success of Shuttle UM and create yet another serious obstacle for the Purple Line – a project whose profound potential benefits for the campus community they rarely communicate. The Purple Line would bring 4 high investment transit stops to campus and dramatically enhance transportation options for UMD students, faculty and staff both regionally and intra-campus.

Purple Line 2
The intra-campus Purple Line Concept.

The planned closure supports outgoing University President Dan Mote’s vision for Campus Drive to “serve as a major pedestrian walking mall” that he laid out to the campus community in October 2007. He claims this idea is explicitly supported by the Campus Master Plan, but RTCP’s editors showed that Mote’s vision for the roadway is based on a misreading of the Campus Master Plan which neither implicitly nor explicitly supports closing Campus Drive to transit. Mote’s continued opposition to the Campus Drive alignment is a “knee-jerk reaction and demonstrates a continuing lack of coordination with MTA.” It runs counter to the advice of nearly every urban and transportation planner who has taken a serious look at the situation on campus as well as counter to the multi-year, multi-million dollar Purple Line planning process being conducted by the state.

Continue reading Continuing the ‘Anywhere But’ Campus Drive Purple Line Strategy

UMD Plans to Ban All Cars and Buses From Campus Drive

Purple Line 7
Concept sketch of Purple Line in front of the student union. Image by MTA.

Written by Cavan Wilk. Cross-posted from Greater Greater Washington. (Assistance from RTCP)

The University of Maryland plans to close the central Campus Drive to nearly all traffic this summer, including Metrobus and almost all student shuttle bus routes. (The proposed but not announced summer closure will be temporary, but if successful would be made permanent in 2011). This will diminish student access to transit and seems designed to strengthen the UMD administration’s efforts against a Purple Line through the center of campus.

The closure follows the 2001-2020 Facilities Master Plan, last updated in 2007, which calls for creating a more pedestrian-focused central campus core. That plan only allows a single internal circulating shuttle on Campus Drive.

All other shuttles and transit vehicles would be relegated to the edges of campus along with private cars, and forcing many students to transfer to reach the Metro or other destinations outside campus.

According to the MTA, 750 transit vehicles use Campus Drive between 6 am and 7 pm on a typical school day, compared to 5,500 private cars, mostly containing only a single passenger. The University could still make Campus Drive a mostly pedestrian-centered area without banning transit vehicles. Meanwhile, Shuttle UM ridership has soared as the University builds more off-campus student housing connected to the campus by shuttles.

One transit route that is planned to run on Campus Drive is the Purple Line, connecting UMD to the Metro, New Carrollton, Silver Spring and Bethesda, and finally connecting the campus to surrounding areas in ways that were missed when UMD and College Park pushed for a Metro alignment along the railroad tracks instead of along US-1.
Continue reading UMD Plans to Ban All Cars and Buses From Campus Drive

Domain Project Area Charrette STARTS WEDNESDAY

Located at the Corner of Campus Drive and Mowatt Lane, the Domain Project Area encompasses a series of mostly vacant properties just adjacent to campus near Van Munching Hall – the home of UMD’s business school. The project area includes Mosaic at Turtle Creek and The Domain at College Park – a proposed 5-story luxury multi-family building with 250 residential units and 5,000-10,000 square feet of retail. The Hanover Company will be the developer of the Domain project and market the it to graduate students, young professionals, visiting professors, and empty nesters similar to the way Mosaic is planned to be marketed.

Attend the charrette sessions this Wednesday, Thursday and/or Friday to learn about development plans, explore planning issues in this particular area, define a vision for future development, and interact with other stakeholders. See this PDF for scheduling information.

Form-based Codes Debate Hits Email

We thought our readers might be interested in a fiery email debate going on between Tom Dernoga, the District 1 County Councilmember leading the effort to prevent the use of form-based codes (FBC) in northern College Park, and myself. Our respective screeds each lay out a fairly complete case against and for the use of form-based codes north of MD-193 in College Park (Dernoga’s portion of the city).

Tom’s basic argument is that the county’s planning department (MNCPPC) is not to be trusted and that county political figures and citizens should maintain their current influence on development projects at all stages of the development review process. Tom’s viewpoint comes from his nearly 8 years on the County Council and time as a Citizen Association President and pro-bono lawyer for citizen groups before that. The Washington Post once called him: “The Lawyer Who’s Wanted When Development is Not.”

My argument is that this system leaves too much power in the hands of individual County Councilmembers and their most vocal (often ill-informed) constituents. This creates uneven development standards across council districts and I believe goes a long way towards explaining why there is so little development activity in Northern College Park…. despite plenty of development interest. I argue that form-based codes will de-politicize the process while still providing opportunities for public input. I’ve included the two most recent and productive emails in the exchange between Dernoga and myself, so keep in mind that there may be references to earlier emails that aren’t included here (for the sake of brevity). Please read and consider carefully before commenting.

Continue reading Form-based Codes Debate Hits Email

What is so special about MD 193?

File this under “Newbie”

Maybe some of you are like me. When I first heard the hub-bub about “Form-Based-this” and “sector-plan-that” my first reaction was “What the hell are you people talking about?”

The proposed Amendment 5 to the Route 1 Sector plan states:

Add the following text to page 50: “Corridor nodes located north of MD 193 shall not be considered for future application of Subtitle 27A of the County Code.”

RTCP as well as KabirCares have posts on the subject.

They only way to try and figure things out is to start to ask questions. My question is this. What is so special about MD 193? If Subtitle 27A of the County Code is such a bad idea then why not the entire town? Forget for a moment if 27A is a good idea or not or what 27A IS exactly. For now I just want to know why MD 193.

Maybe many of you are plugged in enough to already know the answer. I am not and for the benefit of the rest of us here is what I have found out.

Continue reading What is so special about MD 193?

Senator Cardin to Speak at Town Hall on Friday

Our pal Rachel Hare from UMD for Clean Energy tells us all about a Town Meeting this Friday on Campus. Stop by and say hello to Ben.

It’s easy for America to be green on Earth Day.  It’s easy for us to support energy efficiency, encourage sustainability and demand emissions reductions on Earth Day.  The entire world is watching, and it is exactly what is expected.
But what about the other 364 days of the year?
Can America truly commit to strict environmental standards that will reduce emissions, create green jobs and promote renewable energy?
This Friday, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), will take up this question during a town hall meeting at the University of Maryland, College Park.  During the discussion, hosted by student group UMD for Clean Energy, Cardin is expected to address recent progress of federal climate change legislation that is making its way to the Senate.

Continue reading Senator Cardin to Speak at Town Hall on Friday

Squashing the Vision

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That’s the definition of insanity. ~ Albert Einstein

The community’s vision for Route 1 is to have a compact, dynamic, mostly 4-6 story mixed-use corridor. That vision has been formally codified in the Route 1 Sector Plan – the primary zoning document for College Park – for the better part of a decade. As one planner put it recently, the community’s long term vision for Route 1 is to create “a network of sustainable, transit-supporting, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented, medium- to high-density neighborhoods.” This basically translates to housing (and some office) on top retail which fronts streets and wide sidewalks (depicted below) all along the corridor. Increased traffic would be handled by a more frequent, more reliable Route 1 bus service with “superstops” shared by the various transit agencies and sited in areas with the highest concentration of planned development… a vision set out in a recent transportation study completed for the City.

Continue reading Squashing the Vision