Greenbelt Sector Plan: Conceptual Alternatives Workshop

Yesterday, a workshop was held for the Greenbelt Metro Area and MD 193 Corridor Sector Plan, which covered land use scenarios for several areas of the sector plan, known as “focus areas.” Three time frames (short-term, medium-term, and long-term) were used to describe when these scenarios could be realized. Short-term is meant to be 1 to 6 years, medium-term is 7 to 15 years, and long-term is 15 to 30 years.
Greenbelt Sector Plan Focus Areas

Focus Area 1: Greenway Center

This area has poor connectivity with a sea of parking and limited entrance points that hinders transit and walkability. The sector plan will call for a reduction in the parking lots through enhancing existing environmental amenities and incorporating new public/open spaces. The project team proposed filling in the parking area with a modest amount of retail and housing over the long-term (market constraints would likely prevent this from occurring sooner). Introducing residential units would allow activity to be maintained outside of working hours and thus provide support for more retail. It is assumed that there will be a lack of funds needed to support the demolition and replacement of the current buildings. But with the gradual infill of new development, a grid pattern would still be created that would bring connectivity and a new sense of place to the area.

Focus Area 2: Capital Office Park, Golden Triangle, Belle Point, and University Square

With the presence of the Beltway and Kenilworth Avenue, this area is divided into three pods that are fairly isolated from the rest of the sector plan area. This separation is unfortunate because it promotes auto traffic and acts as a resistance to mixed-use development opportunities and general connectivity. Thus, office parks exist where a variety of businesses and dwelling units could have been brought together. Building better sidewalks and adding a designated bike path along Greenbelt Road can help alleviate some of this isolation, but the interchanges and grade separation of the Beltway and Kenilworth Avenue would be very difficult and costly to overcome. The plan supports modest retail/office infill in the office parks, as well as improving the Lakecrest Drive and American Legion intersection by University Square. But overall, it supports retaining existing uses.

Focus Area 3: Greenbelt station’s North Core and South Core

As discussed in last week’s meeting, the north core could see either mixed-use development or a major employer by the Greenbelt station. If a major employer moves in, it may induce contractors to locate in the Greenway Center, Capital Office Park, or Golden Triangle. If the employer was GSA, it would probably not bring many employees to the south core. The plan could call for building a trail along Indian Creek, which would act as an extension of Indian Creek trail and run adjacent to the north and south core. A pedestrian path could be built over Indian Creek that would connect Breezewood Drive to the south core. Because of the sensitive nature of Indian Creek, it would probably not be a road. However, a road is proposed to connect the north and south core, and a shuttle system could run between them. A pedestrian bridge is also proposed, bringing another connection with Hollywood, although the location for it has not been confirmed (it was suggested that it could be located near Huron Street, between the north and south core). For the south core, it is likely that the southern portion would be multi-family residential and the northern portion would be townhouses. Potentially, this could be built in the short-term. In total, about 1,000 dwelling units and 115,000 square feet of retail and/or office space are proposed for the south core.

Focus Area 4: Franklin Park, Beltway Plaza, and MD 193 Corridor

With the lack of obstacles such as a creek or a highway, this area probably has the most potential in the sector plan area to become a walkable and well-connected place. Beltway Plaza could see its rear parking lot filled in with multi-family housing in the short to medium-term. Beltway Plaza itself could redevelop over the long-term, with the existing mall being replaced with smaller, mixed-use development. This would create a town center atmosphere with a more grid-like pattern that would provide at least one direct connection from Greenbelt Road to the rear of the plaza. If a major employer moved into Greenbelt Station’s north core, it could bring a greater incentive to redevelop this area, but it would also bring more traffic. Overall, we would like to see a general grid pattern take over this area, with stronger pedestrian connections linking Berwyn Heights, Beltway Plaza, Springhill Lake, and Greenbelt Middle School more closely together.

Other Issues

There was a general consensus to relocate the fire station to near the MD-193/BW Parkway interchange, which would reduce response times. There was also support for replacing surface parking with structured parking throughout the sector plan area, but the project team noted that the cost was too high to justify the demand for the short-term. Finally, a suggestion was made to shift transit stops from the periphery to the center of the focus areas to encourage more pedestrians.

The next meeting will be held on Thursday, April 19, at 6:30pm at Springhill Lake Elementary School. It will be a workshop that will present and discuss the preferred alternative for the future of the sector plan area.

College Park Development Update – March

The Development Update is a bi-monthly newsletter prepared by the City of College Park Planning, Community and Economic Development Department covering development activity in the City. This edition features updates on the City’s Community Legacy application, Domain at College Park, and East Campus. If you have any questions or would like to subscribe, please feel free to contact Michael Stiefvater at (240) 487-3543 or

Greenbelt Sector Plan: North Core Concepts and Design

Prince George’s County’s Planning Department is in the process of creating a new plan for the city of Greenbelt, called the Greenbelt Metro Area and MD 193 Corridor Sector Plan. The goal of the plan is to guide transit-oriented development around Greenbelt Metro Station and commercial revitalization and pedestrian-oriented improvements along the MD 193 (Greenbelt Road) corridor. In January, there was a meeting on existing transportation conditions within the sector plan area, which we reported on here.
Greenbelt Sector Plan Area

On Thursday, a workshop focused on design issues specifically for the Greenbelt station, which is considered the north core of the sector plan. As project leader Chad Williams put it, the north core is “a linchpin” for College Park and Greenbelt. It arguably has the most potential of area covered by the sector plan.

The north core, which currently is filled with more than 3,000 parking spaces, has been zoned for mixed-use for years. In fact, the County approved a concept site plan a few years ago for the area that includes 1.1 million square feet of retail, 1.2 million square feet of office space, 1267 dwelling units, and 300 hotel rooms. Yet the site still remains a parking lot, mainly because one of the developers, Patrick Ricker, was caught bribing county officials (including former county executive Jack Johnson) in exchange for favoring his projects (You can read a more in-depth history of the Greenbelt station plan here). Continue reading Greenbelt Sector Plan: North Core Concepts and Design

Coming Soon – Trolley Trail From Paint Branch to Calvert Rd.

Trolley TrailThe City is moving forward with Phase IV of the Trolley Trail which will complete a missing link from Paint Branch Parkway to Calvert Road. Prospective bidders have until April 12 to submit final proposals for completing this half million dollar project. Once complete residents in the Calvert Hills will be able to pedal uninterrupted to their closest grocery store– MOM’s 3 miles away in Hollywood. That is until Whole Foods comes to town.



RTCP To Host March 19 New Contributors Meeting

UMD CHAPELRethink College Park (, a local group/website dedicated to helping transform College Park into a great college town, is currently recruiting new contributors. Part journalism and part smart growth advocacy community group, the project’s impact spans far beyond the internet. Rethink College Park sets the debate in local and regional traditional news outlets and helps instigate substantive policy change. The group’s members use the site as a sounding board to communicate smart growth concepts to the public and shape specific projects such as student housing proposals, the East Campus redevelopment and the proposed Purple Line light rail. In 2008, the urban planning portal Planetizen named Rethink College Park one of the web’s top 10 planning websites. In 2011, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley recognized the project for its community activism and achievement.

The group is credited with:
– Helping advance multiple mixed-use student housing developers on Route 1
– Bringing the routing of the Purple Line through the University of Maryland campus to the forefront of public debate
– Furthering the goal of a pedestrian-friendly, transit-ready, mixed-use district for the state’s flagship university

We are seeking both residents and students with an interest in urban and transportation planning, journalism, and community participation. No experience necessary. Enthusiasm a must.

The meeting will be held at 6PM on Monday, March 19th at Looney’s Pub (8150 Baltimore Ave. – Ground floor of The Varsity). Email to RSVP.

College Park Metro Walk Score Ranks Among the Worst

Greater Greater Washington recently did a story on the Walk Scores of Metro stations and predictably found Prince George’s County bringing up the rear with an average score of 49.8 out of 100… which is considered Car Dependent. Using an address on the west side of the Metro station gives a score of 49 while the east side give a horrendous score of 37.

walkscoreThis probably isn’t news to anyone who works near M-Square or uses the College Park Metro station with any regularity. There is a complete lack of any viable options for those wishing to move towards a car-free lifestyle and using the current M-Square master plan as a guide, not much will chance in the future.

As Matt Johnson from GGW points out, Prince George’s County in particular is having challenges taking advantage of its Metro stations.

Prince George’s has 15 stations, which is more than any other jurisdiction aside from the District. The county is at a disadvantage because of the placement of many stations. Even so, Prince George’s has not committed to transit-oriented development around its stations. The county has a history of allowing development on the fringes of the county to short-circuit demand for offices and retail near Metro.

In the past, there have been grand plans for development near the Metro that have gone nowhere for one reason or another; however, M-Square is moving forward with three “suburban style” office buildings that would  do very little to bring up that Walk Score. It’s time to take M-Square and the area surrounding the Metro seriously.

It’s Time to Rethink the Book Exchange Proposal

When I became aware of new development coming to the Maryland Book Exchange site I thought, “Great! We are finally getting some student housing downtown.” So many of the previous development had been farther north that this project looked to be right in the sweet spot giving real incentive for tenants (most of which will be students) to abandon their cars and help revitalize downtown.
Then I heard about grumblings from the City Council and other residents of Old Town on the project: — “Its too large.” — “There will be a thousand students roaming the streets of Old Town looking for parties.” — “It doesn’t fit in with the residential neighborhood.”

My initial reaction? Give me a break.

Continue reading It’s Time to Rethink the Book Exchange Proposal