NO 0.5 Mile, $23 million MTA/UMD Tunnel Compromise

Despite what you may have read in the Diamondback today,  there is no campus tunnel deal in the works between UMD Administrators and the Maryland Transit Administration. According to the Diamondback:

Perhaps ending years of debate, Vice President for Administrative Affairs Ann Wylie announced at yesterday’s University Senate meeting that the MTA had suggested a compromise last month: The line would run above ground on Campus Drive until it reached the Art/Sociology building. The line would then run underground behind Tydings, Francis Scott Key and Marie Mount halls before emerging on the east side of Regents Drive by the Lee Building and continue onto East Campus.

The author didn’t reach MTA before publishing the story. Former RTCP Contributor Matt Johnson spoke with Mike Madden, MTA’s Purple Line project manager and Anne Wylie. Neither had any knowledge that there was any compromise in the works. Nothing has changed. The University still fully supports the Purple Line, but only an alignment that is not cost-effective and won’t ever be funded by the Federal Transit Administration. Their position is tantamount to a rejection of the entire 16-mile project. According to a message from Mike Madden: “We have never agreed to a tunnel option and have made it clear to UM that an underground alignment is not a viable option for the Purple Line. We have fully explained the reasons for not agreeing to a tunnel option. ”

Another interesting element of the story is when the Diamondback recounts statements made by Dr. Wylie at the same University Senate meeting yesterday:

She said she was sure putting the line down Campus Drive wasn’t feasible after examining a similar situation at the University of Minnesota. Like this university, the University of Minnesota is a major research institution that has brought an electric train onto its campus.

Also like this university, it was told similar stories that the train would stop for pedestrians and campus beauty would be preserved. The University of Minnesota now has a train running through it’s central campus with 42 inch fences on either side to shield pedestrians from its tracks. Several stop lights were placed throughout the campus to direct pedestrians and cars and its central road was closed for two years during construction.

“We can expect exactly the same thing if this is to be our fate,” she said.

Perhaps this was a misquote, but according to Matt Johnson (from Track Twenty-Nine) construction of this light rail just started, hasn’t even reached the UMinnesota campus and trains won’t operate there till 2014. RTCP thinks that must explain why there are no reported pedestrian fatalities there yet!

RTCP Sponsored Mazza GrandMarc “Hard Hat Tour” May 17th

Mazza 11x17 Site PlanRethink College Park is extremely pleased to announce that it’s sponsoring a “hardhat tour” of the nearly complete Mazza GrandMarc Student housing project in North College Park. Ten years in the making, Mazza’s final approval was the subject of a protracted battle between student leaders, Rethink College Park and County Councilman Tom Dernoga in 2007. Once the retail portion of the project is complete, it will be the first transit-ready, mixed-use redevelopment project in northern College Park. Leasing has already begun for the Fall 2010 semester.

The $43 million, 630-bed complex is geared primarily towards University of Maryland graduate students, will be serviced by Shuttle UM and provides a public trail connection to Paint Branch Trail just behind the complex. The event is open to the entire community. Citizens, students, prospective tenants, local leaders and press are all welcome.

When: Arrive May 17th @ 5:30 PM (tour to begin promptly at 5:45)

Where: 9530 Baltimore Avenue just north of Jordan Kitt’s Music. The group will convene just in front of the new leasing office in the permanent building.

What: Leasing agents will be on hand to provide a guided tour of the nearly complete project and the adjacent Paint Branch Trail connection. RTCP staff will field questions about the project and it’s implications for Smart Growth in College Park.

RTCP will provide a carpool from College Park City Hall which will leave promptly at 5:15 PM. Please RSVP for the event on Facebook and comment if you will be a driver or passenger in the carpool.

Students Berate UMD Administrators Over Campus Dr. Bus Plan

“We really just want to see what sort of problems would occur so it could inform our thinking in the future,” Millree Williams, University spokesman

Stamp Bus Bay
Students and Purple Line supporters made sure their voices were heard loud and clear at a meeting yesterday afternoon to gather input on the impending test closure of Campus Drive to all vehicles including nearly all public transit this summer. Those in attendance seemed to overwhelmingly share RTCP’s view that the attempt to create a “traffic-free, pedestrian-friendly zone” on Campus Drive would reduce campus accessibility and safety, suppress transit ridership in the long run and directly contradict the Campus Master Plan.

The only positive comments on the administration’s plan amounted to support for closing the road to cars. Both Frank Brewer, Associate Vice President for Facilities Management, and David Allen, Director of the Department of Transportation, fielded tough questions for nearly 1.5 hours.  RTCP was extremely impressed with the thoughtful student comments and their steadfast support for smart and sustainable campus transportation policy. Many in attendance scoffed at administrators and were both unsatisfied with the responses and shocked by how poorly thought out the plan seemed to be. We were taken aback by how ill-prepared these two top University administrators were for the questions and couldn’t help but feel bad that they had been forced to toe an indefensible line for their superiors (Dr. Wylie and Mote).

We’re hoping to get a full video of the meeting, but until then here are some of the major holes in the plan that were pointed out at the forum:

Continue reading Students Berate UMD Administrators Over Campus Dr. Bus Plan

Northgate Condo Project Site Goes to the Auction Block

Defunct Northgate Condominium Elevations

Sign of the Times

According to sources, the site of Monument Realty’s Northgate Condo project has gone into foreclosure and will hit the auction block this Wednesday, May 5th. The 1.05-acre parcel lies just north of University View and Taco Bell on Route 1. The 17-story, 204-unit, $68 million Northgate project was originally approved in June 2006 as high end condos with ground floor retail. Mark Vogel, the developer of the Varsity and University View, flipped the property and approved plans to Monument Realty for $4.2 million, but the project became stalled in 2007. That was when the Federal Aviation Administration began investigating concerns that the building represented a “presumed hazard to air navigation” based on the height of the building and its location in the College Park Airport’s flight path. The height of the building was eventually limited to 12-stories, but with changing market conditions, Monument began to signal their intention to turn the Northgate project into student housing. Nothing ever came of it.

Defunct Northgate Condominiums
Earlier Rendering.

The Detailed Site Plan has lapsed on Northgate Condos and the future owner of the property would have to re-enter the planning process. Since the Route 1 Sector Plan update will pass later this month and change the underlying zoning that governs what can be built on this parcel, the future owner will have considerable difficulty building anything over 4 stories. The zoning will be Mixed-Use Residential: “Properties that contain a mix of uses that are predominantly residential.” Given financial realities that developers face, RTCP believes such a height limit will preclude ground floor retail on this property and in redevelopment in much of the Route 1 Corridor from this parcel northwards until the Hollywood Rd Area.


We spoke with County Councilman Eric Olson’s office and apparently Resolution PGCPB 09-170 item II #7, pg 4. will allow construction between 4 and 10 stories instead of 2-4 on this parcel.