Cafritz development informational meeting – Tuesday Nov 1

An informational meeting on the proposed development at the 36-acre Cafritz property will take place Tuesday, November 1 at the College Park City Hall (4500 Knox Road). As most readers are aware, the Cafritz property is located adjacent to Route 1, immediately south of College Park and east of University Park. The meeting will include a presentation on the latest development plans from the Cafritz developers and provide an opportunity for a public Q&A.

wholefoods

The updated site plan (above), including a commitment from Whole Foods, has sparked discussion and debate throughout the region and in surrounding areas including the Calvert Hills neighborhood of College Park as well as the cities of University Park and Riverdale Park. While the prospect of a Whole Foods has garnered lots of positive attention, the most recent site plan resembles something similar to a 1970s suburban strip mall and leaves lots of questions about what “Future Development” will look like. This meeting will provide an excellent opportunity for residents to hear directly from the development team and weigh in on the conversation. Hope to see you there!

City’s First Skate Park to Open Early Next Year

Rendering of the proposed Sunnyside Skate Park

Back in March this year, the City Council approved the design of College Park’s first skate park. According to City’s planning department, if permits are issued (as expected), construction of the facility should begin next month. The site of the project is within the confines of Sunnyside Park on Rhode Island Avenue just north of Edgewood Road in north College Park. Construction is anticipated to take 60 days. The City’s planning department published the final design late last week to its website.

On Mar 22, 2010, the City awarded Seattle-based Grindline Skateparks (http://www.grindline.com/) a contract to design and build a skateboard park in Sunnyside Neighborhood Park in north College Park. The City held two public hearings on the park, one in April and another in June last year.

In October last year, the park’s design went through a few major revisions, after receiving concerns from M-NCPPC and some residents on children’s safety in the proposed park. According to the new design, the park’s bowl is much shallower (four feet) compared to the previous one, which was more more than seven feet deep. The new design is expected to attract more beginning skaters and would be more safe for the community and easier to maintain. There are also an addition of a stair element to the new design.

M-NCPPC continues to have concems about maintenance and has requested that the City provide assistance. The City Manager and Public Works Director indicated that supplemental maintenance could be provided as part of the City’s routine park maintenance program.

Speaking of the park, Kennis Termini, a long time resident of north College Park, and a member of the park design committee, said: “I look to the Sunnyside Skate Park as being a positive outreach to our youth community that is local, safe and widely supported.”

[Fazlul Kabir lives in north College Park and writes a daily blog at http://KabirCares.org]

College Park Business Beat – October

The Business Beat is a bi-monthly newsletter prepared by the City of College Park Planning, Community and Economic Development Department covering local business news including openings, closings, expansions, leases signed, and other information of interest to College Park businesses. This edition features news on Big Play Sports Grill, Fishnet, and College Park Day. To subscribe, please feel free to contact Michael Stiefvater at (240) 487-3543 or mstiefvater@collegeparkmd.gov.

 

 

Purple Line Receives Green Light for Next Phase – CP Open House 11/1

purplelineunion

The Purple Line, a proposed light rail line that is a critical part of College Park’s future development, has cleared an important hurdle on the way to becoming a reality. On October 7th Governor Martin O’Malley announced that the Federal Transit Administration has given the go ahead for the project to proceed to the “Preliminary Engineering” phase. This means that the project now can move on to developing more detailed plans, construction schedules, and cost estimates, and can complete the relevant environmental studies. This latest approval is no guarantee of ultimate federal funding for the project, but it moves the project an important step closer.

The Purple Line is a planned 16 mile light rail line that will run from Bethesda in the west to the New Carrollton Amtrak station in the east. The College Park/University of Maryland area will be one of the main beneficiaries of the project, with 5 planned stations (University College, UMD Student Union, East Campus/Route 1, College Park Metro, and River Rd./M Square). Important progress was made earlier this year when University of Maryland President Wallace Loh announced that the university was dropping its opposition to a route that passes through the middle of the UMD campus. That route received strong support from the Maryland Transportation Administration (MTA) and from the local community and officials.

The MTA has announced a series of Open Houses to update community members on this next phase of the project. The first of these will be held in the Prince George’s Room at the Stamp Student Union, in the middle of the UMD campus, on Tuesday November 1st, from 5:30 – 8:30 pm. All are welcome.

City and Book Exchange Developer at Impasse

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At the October 4th City Council worksession (video above), councilmembers, city planning staff, and R & J Company, LLC were at loggerheads over the developer’s proposed 6-story building on the site of the Maryland Book Exchange downtown. Lying just below the surface are community concerns over the fact that the mid-rise building would contain 830 undergraduate beds and approximately 170 beds marketed to graduate students and young professionals across the 341 units. The City’s agenda tonight incudes a motion recommending that the County Planning Board reject the detailed site plan for the project.
Book Exhange elevation from College Ave
Keep in mind that the city (both council and staff) fill an advisory role. The County Planning Board and Council have the final say. Eric Olson on the County Council could definitely delay the project, but ultimately this does not come down to a popular vote no matter how much elected officials at both the city and county level would like it to. The developer is mostly within the intent and bounds of the zoning for the property and could seek relief in the court system. Their hard line approach seems to indicate and intent to do just that. As usual, the press coverage and political pronouncements overlook the legal and regulatory framework underlying the development review process.

The Prince George’s County Planning Board will  hear the case on Thursday, November 3rd in Upper Marlboro. It will be very interesting to watch how the Book Exchange project progresses through the process seeing as this is the first project to be proposed since the adoption of the updated Route 1 Sector Plan in summer 2010. Some of the disagreement stems out of the lack of precedent for these new regulations.

There is definitely a gap between what the Sector Plan says and what the City’s staff wants it to say. Most (but not all) of the items listed in the city’s staff report are of questionable relevance. The developer’s argument that the building doesn’t need to be “stepped-back” from the Old Town neighborhood is pretty specious.