Collecting College Park: The Weekly Link Roundup

Welcome to Collecting College Park, a new weekly feature here at Rethink College Park. On Friday mornings, you can expect to see this weekly news roundup of stories relevant to development, planning, transportation, and quality of life around the city and the campus.

With the gubernatorial election this past Tuesday, it’s been a slow news week. Items of note, however, include:

  • O’Malley victorious: Incumbent governor O’Malley took down Diamondback-endorsed challenger Bob Ehrlich. College Park also saw a high student voter turnout.
  • County revokes Thirsty Turtle’s liquor license (Diamondback, Patch):”The bar’s ability to serve alcohol may be suspended as soon as Nov. 23 after the board investigates further and submits a written notice of its decision to the bar’s owners, Alan Wanuck and Tom Hall. The deliberation, which began at about 7:30 p.m. last night, was held to review a Sept. 23 incident in which two student police aides were instructed to attempt to get past Turtle’s bouncers equipped with only their real, underage state driver’s licenses and cash for cover. They were allowed in and served beer once inside. A plainclothes University Police officer then promptly confiscated the two beers, which were used as evidence in yesterday’s hearing.” More at Patch.
  • Looking to Loh (Diamondback): The university’s new president, Wallace Loh, began his term on Monday. The Diamondback’s editorial board says: “Loh has been silent on the issue of underage drinking and the controversy surrounding the bars in downtown College Park, despite having a history of cracking down on underage drinking at the University of Iowa. This issue, which was ignited when four men, three of whom were students, were stabbed following an altercation at Thirsty Turtle, has left University Police Chief David Mitchell, city officials and the SGA calling on Prince George’s County to revoke Turtle’s liquor license. Additionally, Loh’s stance on issues such as the Promoting Responsible Action in Medical Emergencies protocol remain a mystery.”
  • Council holds off at-large seats (Patch): “Mayor Andrew Fellows first proposed the new structure at Oct. 5’s council meeting. His tentative plan consisted of replacing the current system of four districts each represented by two council members, with five districts each represented by one council member, and adding three at-large seats….However, council members decided Wednesday that it was best not to rush the process. Councilman Bob Catlin (Dist. 2) said that given the short window between now and the election next November, the better approach would be to establish a redistricting commission to analyze the new census data, due out this spring, and take it from there.

That’s it for this Friday! If you’ve got tips, suggestions, or pointers for next week’s edition of Collecting College Park, leave them in the comments or email Alex at lxdlnbc@gmail.com.

Cordish Companies to Host Public Forum on East Campus

The new developer of the proposed East Campus mixed-use development project will host a public forum to solicit citizen input and ideas on Tuesday, November 30 at 7:00 PM in the Ritchie Coliseum. This is a great opportunity to weigh-in on a project that will change the face of College Park. In July, the University named Cordish Companies as the new lead developer for the long-anticipated project that will offer much-needed amenities and graduate-student housing to College Park. The mixed-use center will develop around the proposed Purple Line light rail running from Bethesda to New Carrollton. Below are earlier renderings of the development. The latter is from the previous developer, Folger-Pratt/Argo, who ended their relationship with the University last year.
East Campus Concept
Proposed East Capus Plaza behind existing power plant

Ehrlich Transportation Plan Unsuitable for College Park

light rail
Light rail transit in Portland, OR (image via the Rethink College Park Flickr Page).

Before casting your vote today, please consider what you would like your commute and that of future College Park residents to look like. Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob L. Ehrlich surely has: His transportation platform, as outlined below, does not help actualize the vision of the modern college town that we all would like College Park to be.

More buses? The key to Ehrlich’s transportation platform is halting construction of the Purple Line light rail extension to the Metro system. The Purple Line would transverse Washington suburbs, connecting the Orange Line at New Carrollton to the Red Line at Bethesda. The route would have five stops in College Park—just outside the city limits at UMUC, in front of Stamp Student Union, East Campus, the existing Green Line metro stop, and on River Road at M-Square—quickly carrying local faculty and staff to campus, students to internships in D.C., and all residents to the businesses it would attract along the Route 1 corridor. Instead of investing in this speedy, commercially-viable transit system, Ehrlich would like to create a “rapid bus service” along the route, adding to the deluge of buses and shuttles that already hurdle up and down Campus Drive and get caught in mid-afternoon traffic across the region. Even The Diamondback, which endorsed Ehrlich yesterday morning, noted that when it comes to the Purple Line, Ehrlich’s plan is “less popular, less efficient, and less environmentally friendly.”

Roads over rail? Last week, Ehrlich promised to completely halt construction of the Purple Line if he gains office, claiming, “the dollars aren’t there”. While he cannot find money for light rail, there seems to be ample dollars available for roads. Ehrlich intends to divert the $80 million that O’Malley has dedicated to light-rail engineering to local road projects. Ehrlich has long given preference to roads over transit, beginning construction of the $2.6 billion Intercounty Connector during his term, while spurning the $1.6 billion light rail project. As Ehrlich’s representative on the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority board Robert J. Smith told The Washington Post, Ehrlich’s complaints of funding woes for the Purple Line are an attempt to “delay the project” and direct “all money available” to the Intercounty Connector, a nearly completed freeway marked by its environmental infirmity. In College Park, where nearly 50% of students come to campus by some other means than alone in a car, Ehrlich’s antiquated, autocentric scheme is unsuitable for the needs of the campus community.

Simply, when it comes to transportation, Bob Ehrlich does not have the needs of College Park in mind. While the Purple Line surely faces other obstacles in the reluctant University of Maryland administration, the Prince George’s and Montgomery County Councils have already agreed to the project, proving that the need and the desire for modern transit is here. All we need now is a visionary governor who will bring our ideal of a livable, vibrant college town to fruition.

For a similar viewpoint, read architecture professor emeritus and Purple Line NOW president Ralph Bennet’s guest column, “Fear the purple,” in The Diamondback.