A Rethink College Park Holiday Wishlist

In the spirit of the holiday season, we—the contributors at Rethink College Park—discussed some of the things that we’d be delighted to find bestowed upon our city this year. What follows is our wishlist, a collection of things that might not happen, but that we’d gladly welcome were they to appear.

Sidewalks That Make Sense and Infrastructure for Bikers: We want new ones, and improvements upon the ones that already exist. College Park is dense enough that walking through it is a reasonable option, but the infrastructure to do so is dangerous. Usable, possibly widened, sidewalks up and down the entire length of both sides of Route 1 would support pedestrian traffic. Likewise, as easy as it should be to bike from campus to M-Square, or M-Square to the View, or the View to North College Park, it just isn’t. We want clearly demarcated bike lanes on and off campus that provide a safe passing for those who elect not to drive their cars.

The Purple Line: We know there’s still a ways to go until the plan becomes a reality, but we just can’t wait! Very simply, we’d like to see a resolution of the ongoing alignment conflict that has plagued the UMD administration, students, and residents of College Park so that the project can move forward.

Entertainment Venues: There are currently zero places within walking distance of any point in College Park to see a movie or a live music performance. Though it’s not hard to head to P.G. Plaza, why should one have to do so to catch a matinee? We’d love to see venues of both stripes in College Park. There’s certainly enough audience to support them, between the families, young professionals, and students in the area. And, when not providing a nightlife scene, those spaces could be used by the community for events, meetings, and presentations.

Better Dining Options: There’s no limit on the places we’d like to see sit-down restaurants serving quality food and providing a nice atmosphere. Downtown is a given, of course (though Ledo’s deserves a nod), but what about “midtown,” around the View, and the immediate area surrounding M-Square? College Park could easily accommodate new restaurants, bars, coffee shops, spots for a quick lunch, an ice cream shop, and perhaps even a grocery store that’s accessible on foot…the list goes on. It would be even better if we could attract not just the chains that populate the College Park Shopping Center, but locally-owned businesses, too.

Graduate Student Accommodations: Graduate students have woefully few living options in College Park. Graduate Gardens is the closest to campus; otherwise, it’s off to Adelphi or wherever one can find a place to live. Graduate students deserve well-built, attractive housing options with easy access, whether via bus, bike, or walking, to campus. It would be ideal if graduate student housing could also accommodate a childcare center, which would be beneficial to not just those parents who also need to attend to their studies, but to others in College Park with children.

Some Attention to North College Park: Though this list is skewed toward downtown College Park, we don’t want to forget about those who live just slightly north. Two things that we’d like to see in North College Park are the demolition of the former Mandalay Restaurant building, perhaps to make room for a multi-use structure, and the extension of the Paint Branch Trail to Little Paint Branch Park in Beltsville.

A Good Relationship with President Loh: The city of College Park’s relationship with the University of Maryland did not flourish under former university president C. Dan Mote; while town-and-gown relations weren’t bad, they were generally nonexistent. Now that Wallace Loh has taken the reigns of what’s often called the Maryland University System’s “crown jewel,” we hope that he’ll open a dialogue with the world that lives just outside of academia. College Park could be a great college town, but it needs the college in question to respond, integrate, interact, listen, and even offer requests or suggestions. One of our contributors described the ideal relationship as an “honest to goodness partnership for the good of the whole city,” and that’s precisely what we’d like to see. And while we’re talking local officials, how about a trustworthy county executive? Rushern Baker is off to a good start, so let’s hope he keeps it up.

Two More Requests: We’d really, really like to take down the “livable community” sign at the entrance in North College Park…and we’d love it if the state adequately plowed Route 1 this year.

We enjoyed putting together this list and did so in a lighthearted manner. We certainly don’t expect an massive, imminent overhaul of sidewalks, for example, even if we think it’d be great for College Park. Sometimes it’s just useful—and fun!—to consider wishes, however unattainable they might be.

This year, what would you wish for in the city of College Park?

Purple Reign: President Wallace Loh and the Purple Line

“This may be the most important decision of your presidency.”

This is how new University of Maryland President Wallace Loh reports a piece of advice that he received from the federal Department of Transportation, when discussing the preferred alignment for the Purple Line. No pressure. The DOT only holds the keys to hundreds of millions of dollars in potential funding, without which the light rail project is unlikely to ever get off the ground.

Based on his remarks at a recent faculty forum, it appears that Loh is taking the Purple Line alignment very seriously. Although he has not yet recommended a specific alignment, his comments should be encouraging to many readers of this blog. According to Loh, “whether you choose Campus Drive or some other alignment is fundamentally a question of your vision for the next 50 years.” He regards the Purple Line as essential to the future of the university, the region, and the state. He expects that 20-30 years from now College Park will be a less suburban environment than it is now, fewer students will be driving cars, and fewer faculty and staff will want to drive cars, as the region becomes increasingly congested.

Interestingly, Loh reported that he compared notes with officials at Portland State University, which recently saw the opening of a TriMet MAX line that goes right to the center of its campus. It seems that the folks at PSU are quite proud of their new accessibility, and the train is so attractive to students that the university is updating its promotional materials to highlight the light rail. Loh recognizes that students increasingly want quick, sustainable access all over the region.

Loh also commented that the state’s case for federal funding for the Purple Line would be helped by a unified vision from the university and the surrounding community. Community support for the Campus Drive alignment is overwhelming. The protracted dispute between the local community and Loh’s predecessor C. Dan Mote over the choice of alignment probably would not meet the definition of “unified vision.” Loh’s official recommendation to the Chancellor and Governor is not due for a couple of months, but these signs are encouraging.

Loh offered other hints at his vision for the future of the city and the region. More details to come in a future post!

Reminder: Last “Enjoy College Park” Tour is Tonight

The final “Enjoy College Park Tour” event of the year will be taking place on Monday, December 20th at Hanami Japanese Resaurant at 7:00 p.m. Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk is the guest speaker.

The “Enjoy College Park Tour” takes place at a different area restaurant each month. It is designed to bring people together from across the city of College Park to talk about local issues and support local establishments. You can RSVP by sending an email to ilovecollegepark@gmail.com.

Shop College Park!

SHOP COLLEGE PARK

All of us RTCP readers and contributors want to see College Park’s business environment to thrive and support a variety of unique local restaurants and retail spaces.

For those interested in supporting the idea of shopping locally, the website www.shopcollegepark.org is a great resource. A Facebook and Twitter version of Shop College Park launched that will be updeated frequently with the latest deals and events taking place at College Park establishments.  Sign up to “like” Shop College Park on Facebook and “follow” Shop College Park on Twitter at stay informed!

Our college town is great for families, too!

College Park Patch reported earlier today that College Park has been named by Bloomberg Businessweek as “Best Place to Raise Kids in Maryland.” The nice little blurb includes the following:

“Home to the University of Maryland, College Park was developed starting the late 1800s. Part of the city is part of the Calvert Hills Historic District, and a number of historic sites are in the area, including College Park Airport, the oldest continuously operated airport in the world. According to longandfoster.com, many families move to College Park for its good schools (four elementary schools, three middle schools, and four high schools) and its proximity to Washington, D.C., about 10 miles away and accessible by metro. The area’s population is 37.7 percent black and 12.2 percent Hispanic, according to data from Onboard Informatics.”

Patch notes that the school count isn’t entirely accurate—some of those 11 schools do fall outside of the city’s boundaries. And, despite the cultural diversity and attractive historic sites, College Park does leave some things to be desired. Improved streetscapes and bike paths, as well as better pedestrian infrastructure, would be welcomed, and there’s a demand for more businesses (UMD students wishing for bars notwithstanding!).

Overall, however, we won’t quibble too much with the distinction. It’s an honor, after all!

The Lackawanna “Runway”: Residents largely unhappy with streetscape improvements

Rendering of proposed Lackawanna Street streetscape.

A $100,000 neighborhood streetscape project that was once designed to give a facelift to one of North College Park’s major neighborhood street is instead stirring much controversy—so much so that some neighbors on the street think the city is ruining their neighborhood street.

The city received funding through a Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) grant to beautify the east part of Lackawanna Street between Narragansett Parkway and 53rd Avenue. Many residents use the street as an access point to the north gate of the Greenbelt Metro station.

At the heart of the controversy lies the rows of bright white street lights that the city’s engineer and planner have used to illuminate the 2500 ft long street segment. Though the city has been working on the streetscape project for more than a year, Pepco activated the lights last Friday.

Though blurry in this picture, Lackawanna's lights are clearly high-wattage.

“I was shocked coming home on Metro on Friday night. From the platform, the whole street is lit up like a runway. It is insane,” said Heather Bourne, a resident living on the street.

“If the money was granted with a stipulation that the lamps be bright enough to supply an emergency landing strip for wayward aircraft, this could explain a few things. If we got the money to simply light up a sidewalk, any emergency landings will now be an unfortunate side effect of our exceptionally shiny street,” added Aaron Bourne, Heather’s husband.

The Bourne family is planning to send a signature petition to city asking College Park’s engineer to correct the lighting problems.

The runway analogy wasn’t limited to Bourne family alone. Mathew Byrd, another nearby resident, said “It’s great for playing street hockey at 3AM, and maybe for providing a navigational aid for a space shuttle, but aside from that, it’s a nuisance.”

The exact wattage of the lights is still unknown, but most residents agree they are much brighter than actually needed.

“The lights are bright enough to light up my backyard! The light from across the street shines into my living room. Our city has a planner and an engineer. If they were asleep at the wheel on this, I think we need to hold them accountable. This is a neighborhood, not a football field,” said Aaron Bourne.

An email to College Park’s planner was not returned.

The planning document outlining the installation of lights states that the purpose of the lights is to “encourage the feeling of safety, improve view sheds, and enhance the appearance of the streetscape.” The city planner used induction lamps, which are evidently similar to fluorescent lamps.

The Bournes, however, think the city went too far if safety was the main reason for adding those bright lights. “Please ask yourself, was crime bad enough to ruin our street? My family has to live with this; we don’t just walk through it on our way to the metro.” Aaron Bourne asked.

Some residents also complain that the a detrimental effect due to excessive light pollution will result in lowering values of their house properties. “The lighting along Lackawanna is absurd and will need to be toned down. In addition to the very negative effect on the lives of people living along that street, I don’t see that it will do much to raise property values in the eyes of prospective buyers,” said Jennifer Bardi, another nearby resident.

Other residents think the lighting’s intensity is only a small part of the problem: The white-blue lights which have been proved as health hazards. “We all want lighting that is environmentally friendly, inexpensive, and makes the street safe, but we want the lighting to be healthy, too. And the evidence is clear: blue-white spectrum outdoor lighting in a residential area is a public health hazard,” said resident Lourene Miovski. Ms. Miovski, a cancer survivor, is well aware of these concerns.

The debate over light pollution has been strong enough to involve the city’s Committee for Better Environment (CBE). CBE recommends environmental-related matters in the city to the Mayor and Council. “CBE should be interested in the amount of electricity being consumed by the new lights on Lackawanna St. as well as avoiding light pollution,” wrote CBE co-chair Stephen Jascourt in an email to city officials. Mr. Jascourt recommended that the city planner use low wattage bulb as a remedy for the problem.

But, not every resident is completely against the changes. Some think the security benefits outweigh other concerns. “I’m walking home for the first time under these lights and it’s also the first time I feel confident I won’t be assaulted while commuting…they are wonderful,” aid one resident who walks the street daily to the metro station.

“No one has died because of this and hey, maybe a mugging was even diverted this weekend because of this. How about some positive thinking?” said Jane Hopkins, asking her fellow residents to be patient until the issue is addressed by city officials.

The pollution debate caught District 1 council member Patrick Wojahn off-guard. Mr. Wojahn, who also lives on the street, believes that “the lights were the right thing to do.” He said he heard from a number of residents both on and off Lackawanna Street that they were glad that the lights were coming. “I’m sure we can work this out in a way that will not have a detrimental impact on the residents of Lackawanna Street,” added Mr. Wojahn.

Alternate view of the streetscape plan.

In Speed Cameras, City Finds a Treasure Trove, But Can Take Only a Fraction to Its Coffer

A cash-strapped city that has been scrambling to recover thousands of dollars of lost revenue will probably get some relief through newly installed speed cameras. A recession-hit economy has cost the city a loss in state funds and a reduction of property taxes due to declining house prices. The city has been using means like a $5 hike in parking permit fees to recover from such loss of revenues.

The city first installed speed cameras in 3 locations: Metzerott Road, Paint Branch Parkway and Rhode Island Avenue. A new camera was recently installed on Route 1. Per state regulations, all these cameras must be installed within half a mile from an educational institution, such as a local school or the University of Maryland.

In last May, the city awarded the speed camera contract to a Lanham-based company called Optotraffic. In March, the city conducted a public hearing on the subject.

Cameras went into operation on November 15. As of close of business on December 7, a total of 8663 citations were issued, which roughly averages 377 per day. Out of the $40 charged per ticket, the city receives $24 and Optotraffic receives $16; this means that the City is getting $9048 per day. If the trend continues, the yearly revenue from the cameras will be around $3,302,520. For this fiscal year, which ends in June 2011, the projected revenue will be around $2 million.

Though the city plans to install more cameras within its boundary, there is a major caveat on how much the city can keep these revenue figures. The city can only take an amount equal to 10% of city’s total operating budget, which equals $12.5 million. This means the city can keep around $1.25 million; the rest must be returned to the state.

“Do I like the aspect of the law where the state should get the excess money? [I’ve] mixed feelings, but I doubt they will be getting much,” said District 4 council member Marcus Afzali on the part of revenues the state will be getting.

Some residents also think the state should not be given a free ride to enjoy 90% of the revenue. “My argument is that we should not be forced to pay money to the State from this program, when they have cut our share of the Highway User Revenue fund by 90%. In my opinion, we should simply stop issuing tickets, which will save the city the cost of reviewing and validating those tickets. In essence, after we hit the 10% number, our efforts are going to the state government, not the city, but the city would still incur all the associated costs related to the operation of the cameras. Hardly fair, in my opinion,” said north College Park resident Mathew Byrd.

But the council members don’t agree on such a strategy. “We’d be in violation of state law if we hold this money back.  I certainly don’t think that’s a wise idea,” said District 1 council member Patrick Wojahn.

District 2 council member Bob Catlin also echoed Wojahn’s concern: “Perhaps people should try to function in the real world rather than an imaginary world.”

Other residents support the cameras, but are skeptical about the revenues because of “hidden” costs. “Who paid for the equipment? Who pays to maintain the equipment? Who installed it? That all costs money and last time I checked there is no such thing as a free ride,” said resident Kennis Termini.

The revenue figure from speed camera will most likely decline over the time in future. “The current rate of citations will most likely go down as people become accustomed to the cameras being there, even if we move them within the areas we’ve set up,” said Wojahn

“Optotraffic reports that Metzerott rate has decreased significantly as expected and desired,” said the city’s public safety director, Bob Ryan. The Metzerott Road location has been proven to be a goldmine, yielding the highest number of revenue figures.

In addition to the 10% budget cap, there are other limitations. There is a small administrative cost of around $3-4 per ticket. Also, the revenues from traffic tickets cannot be spent on anything the city wants; they must be spent on projects related to traffic and pedestrian safety.

A treasure trove.

When it comes to how to spend this extra revenue, most in the council said they haven’t given much thought to the subject, but will figure something together. There are, however, a few exceptions.

District 2 council member Catlin said he prefers the revenues should be spent in line with the strategic plan that the city finalized last summer. “Once we figure out the revenues better, we should look to the city’s strategic plan and the five year Capital Improvement Project plan and see how the funds can best be spent. I am not inclined to amend this year’s budget to add any significant new spending over the next seven months, but would program these new revenues into the budget planning for fiscal year 2012.”

Catlin also thinks a better candidate for the new revenue spending is about repairing city’s ailing streets. “We have lost over $1,000,000 in state aid for street repair in the last two years, with no end to these cuts in sight (2015).  So I would not call these revenues, as significant as they appear to be, a windfall to be used to fund a variety of new or expanded city programs,” he added.

District 1 council member Wojahn also has a wish list, which includes more bike lanes and pedestrian signals. “I would like us to work with the county to install new safety measures on Rhode Island Avenue, along the lines that folks were suggesting at the NCPCA meeting a couple months ago. I’d also like to see if we could use it on additional bike lanes around north College Park, perhaps along Edgewood or Lackawanna Street.  If we get enough, maybe we could do an additional pedestrian signal on US 1 somewhere,” said Wojahn.

Other council members want to take a wait-and-see approach.

“We haven’t had official discussions yet though, but it’s a good idea to start early. I’d want to sit down with other council members and seriously consider all options and see where the need is the greatest,” said Afzali. His counterpart Denise Michelle also thinks the same.

“[It’s a] good question, but Mayor and Council hasn’t discussed, and I think it’s too early to speculate. I’m sure we’ll be discussing it fairly soon,” said mayor Andrew Fellows.

Ongoing Plans to Complete Trolley Trail, but Barriers Stand in the Way

Progress on the incomplete sections of the Trolley Trail are slowly moving forward, but some major roadblocks could significantly delay the day that we see a complete trail extending from the Berwyn neighborhood to the Northwest Branch Trail near Route 1 in Hyattsville. Because the trail runs through portions of College Park, Riverdale Park, and Hyattsville, there are a number of entities fumbling through the funding, design, and construction process. Following is an update on each of the incomplete sections. The Google Map below can also be found at Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail.

Rhode Island Ave Trolley Trail

First, the bad news. It seems unlikely we will see a paved trail through the Cafritz property anytime soon. The problem stems from the inability for the property owners, county officials, and NIMBYs to agree on what type of development is appropriate for the site. If you are unfamiliar with the stalled Cafritz development, get caught up here and here. Until the stalemate is broken and some agreement is reached, it appears the Cafritzes are unwilling to allow the trail to cut through their property. They are likely using the trail as leverage to negotiate for a higher-density development.


cafritz hobo path


EYA Trolley Trail

The Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation is working on the final design and construction documents for the section from Tuckerman Street (just north of Riverdale Park’s town center) south to Madison Street. Unfortunately, no one kept track of the official boundary of the right-of-way from the old streetcar line; this poor record-keeping has now led to disputes with surrounding landowners about the exact route of the path. Construction could begin as early as next summer, but is dependent on how fast disputes with landowners are resolved.

EYA, the developer of the Hyattsville Arts District, is responsible for the section south of approximately Madison Street to the Franklin’s Parking Lot. They are under contract to begin construction after acquiring an unknown number of building permits. There are plans to eventually extend the Trolley Trail from Franklin’s to the Northwest Branch Trail near Route 1, but there is currently no funding for this section.

In other trail news, plans are also under way to extend Paint Branch Trail northward along Cherry Hill Road to north of Sellman Road and connect with the Little Paint Branch Trail, completing an off-road paved trail from Laurel to Bladensburg. Also, Maryland has nearly completed its portion of the vital missing link between Bladensburg Park and the National Arboretum. When finished, this will allow direct bicycle access from College Park all the way to Anacostia Park and Navy Yard.  Imagine riding your bike to an afternoon baseball game! However, there are reports that the District of Columbia is dragging their feet and still attempting to acquire money for the design stage. It seems that, unfortunately, the full connection is still more than a year away.

Stay tuned for an update on the final section of the Trolley Trail in College Park through the Old Town neighborhood and a revisit of the safety issues at the Paint Branch Road crossing.

Graduate Housing in East Campus: We’re Glad we were Wrong!

We’re happy to report an important error in our post on the Nov. 30 East Campus Forum. Although discussions at the meeting suggested that graduate housing was no longer a priority for East Campus, we have since learned that graduate housing remains a central component of the project.

Ann Wylie, UMD’s Vice President for Administrative Affairs, said, “Graduate housing has been our number one housing priority from the inception of this project.” Blake Cordish, Vice President of the Cordish Companies, wrote “Everyone will gain from a graduate population in East Campus.”

There are no plans to include undergraduate housing in East Campus Phase I.

Wylie is a former Dean of UMD’s Graduate School, and has been a strong advocate for affordable graduate housing in the university’s new town center. As described in the university’s April 2010 request for proposals for the project (p. 5), an ongoing possibility is that the graduate housing could be financed through tax-exempt bonds from the Maryland Economic Development Corp (MEDCO), one of various ways to ensure affordability for the graduate housing. MEDCO bonds have been used previously to fund UMD undergraduate housing, totaling around 2900 beds in recent years.

The East Campus graduate housing could be built as a separate building. The April 2010 RFP suggests Block F in the schematic (see below) as a possible location, adjacent to the proposed site for the Birchmere music hall (Cordish have already made it clear that they prefer to break up the development into smaller blocks).

An interesting alternative possibility is that the graduate housing could be intermingled with the market-rate housing. This could be an excellent way to use the new development to foster integration of students and city residents.

In contrast to the sturm and drang that accompanies most proposals for new undergraduate housing in College Park–and is currently surrounding the Maryland Book Exchange development–graduate housing in East Campus seems to be an all around crowd pleaser. There are good reasons for this:

  • Grad students have really boring parties. Residents love this.
  • And they drink far too much coffee. Café owners love this.
  • Grad students tend to be year-round residents. Much better for local businesses than students who are gone away for close to 6 months of the year.
  • The campus needs to be a more appealing for grad students. The university’s ambitions depend heavily on its ability to compete successfully for top grad students.
  • They tend not to have cars, and want to live in a place where they can walk to the grocery store. Good for parking and the carbon footprint.
  • A grad student who lives in East Campus could save up to $150/month over commuting from Columbia Heights, in metro savings alone (peak rate).
  • Some grad students have young children. This is good for diversifying the community.

East Campus Public Forum Builds Hype, Leaves Questions

Around 150 people filled the bleachers in Ritchie Coliseum on Tuesday night to learn about what the Cordish Companies and the Design Collective (C-DC) plan to do with East Campus. There was a mix of anticipation and weariness, as many in the audience were veterans of the ultimately aborted East Campus planning process led by Foulger-Pratt (FP).

Did the new guys in town have better ideas? Had they done their homework? Do they have what it takes to get the project off the ground this time around? The answer is a definite “maybe.” C-DC have a good track record and some clear ideas of what they want to do, but their plans remain embryonic and it is not clear how much thought has gone into the unique features of College Park and the East Campus location.

If you’re new to this process, or if your memory is as shaky as mine, you might want to check out RTCP’s digest of East Campus articles and RTCP’s list of East Campus talking points. And, check back soon for conceptual drawings (we hope!). Read on for more specifics.

The forum was led by Blake Cordish, vice president of the company that his great grandfather founded. Together with two colleagues from C-DC he gave a brief presentation on the background of the company and the goals for the project. Most of the goals were fairly familiar: building a sense of community, integrated architecture, mixed-use, pedestrian and transit friendly, etc.

Most revealing were some pointed criticisms of the plans that Foulger-Pratt had developed for the project. This gave the clearest insight into what C-DC sees as most important. The presentation was rather short, and most of the forum was used for break out discussions with C-DC staff – the kind with slick posters and easels where people can write about their pet peeves or favorite wine bar.

Cordish Companies and the Design Collective are closely related Baltimore companies that have coordinated redevelopment projects locally and around the country, some much smaller than East Campus, others somewhat larger. Some of their work can be found here; it includes the Inner Harbor Power Plant in Baltimore, a small but effective redevelopment on the Johns Hopkins Campus, and larger projects such as Kansas City’s Power and Light District. A note: The company has an alarming habit of naming developments “X” Live!” At least 5 projects have the same name. Let’s hope that this won’t turn into “Route 1 Live!”

Like Foulger-Pratt, Cordish emphasized that the company owns and manages most projects that they have developed. This is reassuring, as it encourages long-term investment. Cordish claimed that the long-term strategy made it attractive for them to use high-quality building materials, suggesting an upgrade over the materials in the Foulger-Pratt plans. Cordish said that his team’s goal is to change the way that people perceive the area, and they would like to create a “nationally acclaimed” college town development.

Scope
The scope of the new project is smaller than the earlier FP plans. It includes the north part of East Campus, covering all of the area to the north of Rossborough Lane, plus one line of buildings on the south side of Rossborough Lane. Plans to demolish and replace Leonardtown and surrounding areas are not part of the current plans, but could be added in the future. Within the current area, the plan is to first develop the area closest to the Route 1/Paint Branch intersection, as that will be the first to be empty, and the area closer to the Power Plant/Service Building will be built out later.

Streets
C-DC strongly believes in smaller street blocks and good sight lines from the exterior. They were critical of the large blocks in the FP plans and the unbroken façade that had been proposed for the Route 1 frontage. The concept sketch shows one new east-west street north of Rossborough, and 3 new north-south streets in the development. Additional pedestrian/bike only routes will further break up the buildings. The centerpiece of the development is a new open space/town square, roughly one city block in size, towards the northern tip of the development. The northern focus of the development is apparently motivated by the development schedule and by the noise of the power plant. This also means that the new center of activity will be as far as possible from College Park’s existing downtown, and surrounded by major roads, green spaces, and parking lots. It’s not clear how this could foster synergistic development of a unified downtown College Park.

Rossborough Lane will be kept wide, to allow for Purple Line trains.

Mixed-Use
The concept designs included a variety of mid-rise buildings, with residential only on the east of the project and a mix of retail/office and residential on the west side of the project. As in the FP design, C-DC plans an anchor hotel at the corner of Route 1 and Paint Branch Parkway. Plans for the retail/office component were not yet developed. The developers made the standard nods to a mix of national and local retailers, but it’s not clear whether they had thought through the reasons why so many businesses fail in College Park. Amenities for childcare and other family-attracting features were not yet in the plans.

The housing plans sounded like a departure from the FP plans. Instead of a mix of market-rate and graduate student specific housing, C-DC only has plans for market rate housing (i.e., catering only to those precious young professionals and undergraduates with deep-pocketed parents, but no graduate students). The emphasis on bringing a year-round graduate student population into the center of College Park was a well-conceived part of the university’s original vision, and it’s disappointing to see this idea dropped. UMD is currently working to provide 650 graduate beds on East Campus through a state bond, but details on that project have yet to emerge.

The Birchmere Music Hall still appears in the concept plans, but it remains unclear whether this part of the development will move ahead.

Sustainability
The C-DC team emphasized their seriousness about sustainable building practices, and noted that around a third of their staff are LEED-certified. They claim to have a record of innovation in the use of sustainable materials. Many readers will be eager to see more details in this area.

Moving Forward
The plan to first build out the northernmost tip of the development is questionable from the perspective of integrating College Park, but it does suggest that C-DC is eager to move ahead quickly. They plan to seek public tax increment financing for some aspects of the project (see RTCP’s TIF 101 guide here). That process has the potential to delay the project, depending on the politics of the new Baker-led PG County Council.

No specific plans for future meetings or updates were given at the meeting, but you can read about them here as soon as they are available.