Residence Hall Association Supports Purple Line on Campus Drive

Today’s Diamondback reports that the Residence Hall Association voted to support the Campus Drive alignment of the Purple Line, saying the alignment would avoid residence halls, be close to the center of campus, and be the most aesthetically pleasing location.

> Diamondback: RHA votes for Campus Drive Alignment 

City Presents Real Estate Data

We know as well as any the difficulty of keeping track of all the development occurring and proposed in College Park, as well as how hard it is to separate truth from fiction when it comes to the economics of real estate. That’s why we decided to post these slides, presented by the city’s economic development planner Chris Warren at the February 12th Real Estate Roundtable. They present a concise snapshot of new developments on Route 1, and the College Park Retail and Office markets. Notably they show retail space in downtown College Park commands very high rent, as the number of residents has grown but effective space remained largely unchanged. Also, vacancy rates are generally low, despite the high-profile vacancies downtown. (Paperworks and Wawa)

Route 1 Projects

Route 1 Projects

Retail
College Park Retail Market

Office
College Park Office Market

The full presentation is here.

Final East Campus ‘Principles’ Meeting Wednesday

After an extensive, seven-month process of official meetings, private negotiations, and Rethink College Park discussions, the East Campus Community Review Steering Committee is set to discuss and (hopefully) approve a statement of development principles that will guide the development of the project. The meeting is planned for this Wednesday, February 27th at 7:30 p.m. in the Charles Carroll Room of the Stamp Union. After Purple Line-induced delays, the developers have also begun detailed design work on the project. Click read more to review the draft document.

Continue reading Final East Campus ‘Principles’ Meeting Wednesday

Duncan to Discuss Purple Line Tonight

University Vice President for Administrative Affairs Doug Duncan will present the Prienkert Drive alignment of the Purple Line tonight, Monday, February 18th, at the SGA meeting at 6:00 p.m. in the Prince George’s Room of Stamp Union. All interested students are encouraged to attend.

We also noticed a presentation PDF from the MTA posted to the SGA website featuring some additional details about the various alignments being studied by the MTA.

Our Campus Drive alignment petition now has over 220 signers.

Pondering the Purpose of Rethink College Park

I just posted to the urban planning portal Planetizen a short article explaining some of the philosophy behind Rethink College Park. The article is based on a presentation I gave last semester to a student group. After describing some of the challenges to implementing Smart Growth in College Park, I attempt to evaluate our success, concluding “new tools and an engaged approach could supplement conventional modes of professional practice.” I invite readers to contribute their comments.

> Smart Growth at the Grassroots: Rethinking College Park

UMD Updates Facilities Master Plan

The UMD administration has completed an “update” to the Facilities Master Plan that reflects changes since the original plan was approved nearly seven years ago. It includes a re-affirmation of many of the original plan’s goals, changes to construction timelines, and tables summarizing changes to campus facilities that have taken place since the 2000 Master Plan. The update also includes updates on the progress of the East Campus Redevelopment Initiative.

The only specific mention the update contains relating to the Purple Line is this text:

“Maximize use of alternatives to driving to campus.”

“Support Purple Line stations on or adjacent to campus consistent with providing central pedestrian movement.”

However, attendees at the recent East Campus Community Review Steering Committee received much different information relating to the Purple Line. Last week, Associate Vice President for Facilities Management J. Frank Brewer gave this presentation containing this illustration overlaying the administration’s preferred Purple Line alignment over the Master Plan map.

Jan28 Presentation Master Plan Illustration

We have several reactions:

1. Is this part of the Master Plan update? If so, it should be included on the official version on the Facilities Master Plan website. If it is not, it should not be presented as such to the public.
2. The map omits the two other alignments under official consideration, making it not a planning document but an argument for one option.
3. The plan presents incomplete and inaccurate information annotated on top of the official master plan map. It includes “2,000 units” at the Knox Box area despite the fact the property remains fragmented in different owners and no specific proposal has been made. Even if the owner of much of the land wants to redevelop it, acquisition, design, and approvals would take perhaps a decade. There is a similar situation for a parcel labeled “600” across from the Architecture Building, no specific proposal has actually been made. It also only includes numbers for housing, not the extensive office and classroom space planned by the university along a new mall.
4. Despite the distortions and omissions above, the irony is the illustration still seems to support a campus drive alignment anyway! If you imagine a Stamp Union station, the 10-minute walking circles would encompass not only the proposed new housing, but also the substantial amount of existing housing on North Campus and excellent access to planned construction there and elsewhere. The university’s plan presents a walking radius that spills over into low density cul-de-sacs to the south.

Draft Principles Released for Last East Campus Meeting

The University has released this statement of principles, significantly more detailed than the last, for the Community Review Steering Committee to debate at the last East Campus meeting tomorrow night. Click here (or “read the rest of the post” below) to review the full text and provide your feedback.

Tomorrow’s meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Prince George’s Room of Stamp Union.

Also, the presentations from the last meeting, about parking, the Purple Line, and transportation have been posted.

Jan14_Presentation (48 pages)
Continue reading Draft Principles Released for Last East Campus Meeting

Signs? We Don’t Need No Stinking Signs!

This post is by Clay Gump, a resident of College Park and member of the East Campus Community Review Steering Committee.

OosterwoldeThe topic of a recent East Campus meeting was traffic and how to plan for it. The East Campus project is going to present a challenge when dealing with the large mix of pedestrian, auto, and bicycle traffic. While the developer representative was detailing the options maintaining traffic flow I recalled a interesting concept I had read about in Discover Magazine called “Shared Space.” The East Campus project could very well present a fantastic opportunity to utilize this concept. Basically the idea is to remove all traffic controlling signs, signals, and rules. Sounds crazy right? Well the numbers sound promising. In the town of Drachten in the Netherlands one intersection had an average of eight accidents per year. After the signs were removed that number dropped to one per year while reducing congestion by 20 percent. Here is a fascinating video discussing this crossing.

The entire concept is based on the idea of perceived risk whereby all creatures (even the road raged commuter) will adjust behavior when there is a perceived risk. Having signs and marking telling the drivers exactly what to do actually discourages drivers to be aware of their surroundings. This might also explain why those with anti lock brakes drive faster and cyclist with helmets get into more accidents. Come to think of it it might also explain why I backed up my new car into a rock even though I had the “parking assist” option. Of course I could just be a bad driver.

Keep in mind this is not a traffic calming scheme or a pedestrian “zone” rather it is a way of incorporating a “community sense” to an area that encourages intermingling of all traffic types. Groovy man.

Another effort is on in the Kensington borough in London to “Declutter” the streets in preparation for the 2012 Olympics. They have reduced pedestrian accidents by more than 40 percent. Considering the safety history of Route 1 in general I think it is time to adopt some new thinking in how we design our intersections. Maybe East Campus could be a model for Shared Space design and give the folks at SHA something to think about when it comes time to improve Route 1.

Washington Post Covers Alignment Debate

Purple Line 7

The Washington Post today ran a story briefly describing the debate about where to locate the Purple Line on campus. While we think the new alignment being considered is superior to the now-abandoned Stadium Drive alignment, we continue to believe Campus Drive is the best alignment for campus. While administrators want to keep it off their “Main Street,” we think that’s precisely where transit belongs.

The Campus Drive alignment brings visitors to the heart of campus, maximizing ridership and minimizing expensive new infrastructure. According to a rough analysis completed last fall the majority of people traveling on Campus Drive today are already on transit, so why should they be relocated to a less convenient location?

We’re far from alone in our views: our Campus Drive petition has topped 200 signatures, including some of the campus’ leading academic experts in transportation planning, and a diverse group of students, staff, and alumni.

This debate aside, we think it’s important to note the community is unanimous in our agreement the Purple Line will be a good thing for both College Park and the region. We look forward to collaborating with all stakeholders to build this much-needed investment.

> Campus Drive Petition
> Previous posts on the Purple Line

Purple Line Route Set, ‘Enormous’ Underground Parking at East Campus

WMATA Bus Route MapThe East Campus project is located roughly half a mile from the College Park Metrorail station, adjacent ten bus routes, bisected by a bike trail connected to a major regional trail system, and the future home of a Purple Line light rail station.

The project developers have made a guess as to how much less parking will be needed than what is already required under the existing zoning. Included in their parking analysis revealed last night, they’ve provided parking at 90% of the existing zoning for office, 75% for apartments, 90% for restaurant visitors, 90% for retail, 100% required for the hotel and grocery store, and 95% needed for the Birchmere and cinema. At the presentation last night, the developers boasted of the forward-thinking that produced their estimate that the project would require 15% less parking than Prince George’s County zoning requires. Although the traffic study estimated roughly half of the peak trips to and from the site will be not in automobiles, the percentages above represent how much parking will be provided for each use – a much higher amount.

Thanks to these estimates, the developers plan to build roughly 4,000 parking spaces in the first phase, and perhaps 1,500 in the second phase. For the most part, the parking will be concealed at the center of blocks and in two “enormous” (their word) underground parking structures that will span nearly the entire width of the site. (When they are posted, we’ll add the diagram shared with the committee last night.)

East Campus Purple Line Alignment #7However, the biggest news from last night’s East Campus meeting was about the Purple Line. It seems the MTA, Foulger-Pratt, and President Mote have agreed to plan for the Purple Line on Rossborough Lane, one block south of the route anticipated in early project plans.(The farthest south in the illustration to the right.) On campus, only two alignments remain — Campus Drive, and a new, at-grade southern alignment dubbed by the MTA the Preinkert Drive/Chapel Drive Alignment. Over the next month, the MTA will be completing a detailed analysis of the new alignment in order to compare it with Campus Drive.

Campus Purple Line Alignments

Also last night, the developers presented their traffic impact study that found the road network would be able to absorb the traffic from the project for the first phase, and for the second phase suggesting several modifications needed including new turn lanes and modifications to traffic lights. As expected, University Park resident Bridget Warren grilled the developer’s traffic consultant over the finer details of the 57-page traffic impact study.

The developers said that now that the Purple Line route has been settled, they will begin to refine and finalize the block structure and architecture of the project. At the next meeting, a committee including the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation Dean Garth Rockcastle will present a “design principles” document they have created, and the committee will discuss the overall development principles for the project.