December Cafritz Meeting: Revised Plans

The Cafritz Property will hold a community meeting to discuss revisions to its current plans Saturday, December 13, 2008 (9am-11am), at Riverdale Elementary School (5006 Riverdale Rd).

Rezoning of the Cafritz Property has not yet been applied for.  The Cafritz family may start to do so early in 2009.  Community support may need to be firmed before that could be done successfully.  The Cafritz website does not seem to have been updated in at least year.

Rt.1 Sector Plan Update: December Charettes, Boundary Amendment Decisions

At the end of October, the County Council authorized a new Route 1 Sector Plan update and planning process.  The update rescinded a previously proposed, controversial, southern amendment of area to add to the sector.  The amendment would have included Rt.1-fronting properties and the Cafritz Property.  The Sector Plan is a document of policies and recommendations to guide development, public amenities, and transportation within the sector’s defined boundaries.

Community charettes will be held in early December (see calander along top left column of this page, or MNCPPC website).  They will be the premier forum for affected residents and business owners to air opinions to planners and politicians.

The old plan (left) included the proposed southern amendment Rt.1-fronting residential properties from Pineway and Carleton Terrace south to East-West Hwy., as well as the Cafritz Property.  The updated plan (right) took out that southern amendment.  The proposed northern amendment of areas including Ikea, Cherry Hill Rd., and parts of the Hollywood neighborhood was kept.

State Highway Administration [SHA] financing for many improvements the Sector Plan recommendations (bus slips, sidewalks, bike lanes) is now shrouded in doubt.

Rt.1: Meeting Reminder, Sector Plan process & amendments

**REMINDER** College Park US 1 Corridor Sector Plan community meeting:       Wednesday 7-9pm @ Lakeland/College Park Community Center [5051 Pierce Ave]

The updated Sector Plan, once initiated, will be a PG County Planning document containing legal stipulations and overall vision for development of properties within its boundaries.  There is currently in place, an older version of the Sector Plan.  It is thought to have problems since it has been around for a while and the Rt.1 mixed-use development it envisioned has not been realized.  A property’s ultimate inclusion in the Sector Plan will ensure its rezoning and development [both if any] conform to  specifications and vision of the Plan.

The updated Sector Plan is still in its planning stage.  Wednesday’s meeting is part of a public process where updates to the Plan will be discussed.  A public design charrette [interactive community workshop] will be held in December for the same purpose.  More information about the Sector Plan @:

M-NCPPC proposed to amend to the updated Sector Plan, properties in two separateM-NCPPC Rt1 Sector Plan w/proposed additions swaths north and south of the current Sector.  The northern swath includes parts of the Ikea, Hollywood, and Cherry Hill Rd. neighborhoods.

The southern swath includes Rt.1-fronting properties between Guilford Rd. and East-West Hwy. (including Cafritz Property).  College Park and University Park both oppose this addition.  County Councilman Eric Olson is planning to not include the southern swath in October when time comes for him to motion initiation of the Sector Plan amendment to voting by County Council.  Once he does that, no one can make a backdoor effort to re-include the controversial properties.

The Sector Plan will also be discussed at a tentative M-NCPPC Planning Board meeting October 2nd, and at a tentative County Council public hearing (where Sector Plan update/amendment is initiated) October 21st.

MD State Budget Cuts Affect Purple Line, Rt.1 Improvements

Articles in today’s Diamondback and Washington Post report on yesterday’s announced state transportation budget cuts.  The cuts occur after the state received less transportation revenue than expected, attributed to the current economic recession.  Local projects affected by the cuts:MD capital [by Flicker user ectsue]

  • Route 1 Corridor Improvements [bus slips, sidewalks, bike lanes]   $7.1 million over next four years, now deferred
  • Purple Line [engineering work for federal proposal]                                 $100 million, now reduced to $75 million

Both projects’ original funding were allocated from the state’s transportation trust fund in a 6-year plan released in January.  The $2.4 billion Inter-County Connector apparently remained unscathed.

Transportation Secretary Porcari reported that the Purple Line will still apply for federal funding (necessary for the project’s ultimate realization) next year.  Apparently the early stages of the project received more budgeting than absolutely necessary, according to other Transportation officials.

REMINDER: Cafritz Property Workshops This Week

The fifth Cafritz Property meetings will be held this SATURDAY (Sept. 15, 10am-noon) and TUESDAY (Sept. 18, 7pm-9pm) at RIVERDALE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (5006 Riverdale Rd, Riverdale MD).

Both identical workshops will present a concept plan for the mixed use development. The concept plans are to be based on design principles culled from previous workshops. There will be a new format without the familiar topic stations: A 20 minute presentation will precede a slated hour for open discussion.

See our previous posts on the Cafritz Property.

New Initiative Dedicated to Bicycle-Friendly College Park

A newly revitalized committee dedicated to bicycle issues could bring new attention to bikes on campus in College Park. After several years of inactivity, a newly hired graduate research assistant in UMD’s Department of Transportation is revitalizing the group. Gulsah Akar, an engineering graduate student, recently held a meeting for the group spelling out his goals.

The group hopes to:Bicycle Committee concept

  • Increase bicycle use
  • Increase bicycle safety (both riding and parking)
  • Increase bicycle awareness (introduce bike as a viable mode)
  • Create a sustainable bicycle program
  • Funding

For more information on the Bicycle Committee, contact Gulsah at gulsah at umd.edu.

This is a wonderful time for bicycle issues in College Park. When funding is found, the reconstruction of Route 1 will mean an improvement for cyclists. We hope some of that money will be earmarked for dedicated bike lanes on the entire corridor. Bike lanes will encourage alternative transportation and provide an amenity for current cyclists.

UMD cycling teamOther useful College Park cycling resources include the College Park Area Bicycle Coalition, the The Washington Area Bicyclist Association, UMD Cycling Club. Another useful contact is campus police officer John Brandt, who specializes in campus biking, who can be reached at jbrandt@umpd.umd.edu.

We have also heard about the possibility of an innovative new bike rental project that could come to our area – stay tuned.

Public Forum on “Mansionization” today

A public forum will be held today to discuss “mansionization” issues in Prince George’s County (sorry about the late notice, we just learned about this). The forum will be held at

7 pm in the Prince George’s County Parks and Recreation Administration Building, located at 6600 Kenilworth Avenue in Riverdale

Mansionization is the phenomenon characterized by the construction of unusually large homes replacing smaller homes in an existing neighborhood or homes that are incompatible with the character of an existing neighborhood.

Today’s meeting is the first in a series of meetings to discuss the Prince George’s County Planning Department’s ongoing Mansionization Study, how this practice is impacting communities locally and regionally, and how these issues need to be addressed. The general public is invited to share their thoughts and concerns.

Contribution to the forum can be made without attending by completing and electronically submitting a survey to the Planning Board. The survey can also be printed, filled, and taken in person to the meeting.

Local neccesity for mixed-use on Cafritz Property?

In this article we draw attention back to a concern aired in a previous post. Many citizens have spoken up for the Cafritz’s to keep their property undeveloped, or to not pursue changing existing zoning to accommodate mixed use. Up to the second (previous) round of meetings at the end of June, the development team had not adequately addressed these concerns to the public at large. However at the latest meetings those concerns were addressed head-on by the development team.

The Cafritz’s acknowledged that not everyone in the community supports development that is mixed-use. In explaining their choice for mixed-use over other development styles, they claim that they have received more positive than negative support for their mixed-use project. They purport that their development will abate an under-served market.

To demonstrate that the Riverdale and surrounding area market is under-served, the development team cited these comparative statistics from the Washington Post: In DC there are 24 square feet of retail space per capita, and one grocer per 9,700 people. In Riverdale there are 15.8 square feet of retail space per capita and one grocer per 18,000 people. Riverdale’s figures are less than half the national average and are clearly deficient when compared to DC. Cafritz Property development would conceivably close that gap by some amount by serving the local market. All concerned parties will not be appeased by the Cafritz’s answer for mixed-use development. But we commend the developer nonetheless for stepping up and explaining their reasons this time around.

It is worthwhile to note that comparing the Riverdale area to DC and national market averages assumes that DC and the nation as a whole are efficiently served by their retail markets. For example, are DC’s 24 square feet of retail space per capita all truly necessary? Could better planning reduce that figure while maintaining or even improving DC’s consumer utility from its retail market? Such planning is necessary in today’s age of urban sprawl, abandoned strip malls, and vanishing green space.

Cafritz Design Principles

Round three of Cafritz Property development public meetings took place last week where design principles were publicized. These principles will be used to draft concept plans. The completed concept plans will be presented in a fourth round of public meetings in September before the Cafritz’s apply for rezoning. Identical meetings for the concept plans will be SATURDAY, September 15th (10am-12pm), and TUESDAY, September 18th (7-9pm).

Here is a representative list of the design principles…

Transportation & Connections – No vehicle connection to Calvert Hills, but instead pedestrian and bike connection is possible. Connect to Riverdale Town Center with streets, paths and trails, and connect to the existing surrounding trail system overall. Buffer sidewalks with trees and lamp posts. Connect for cars, bikes, and/or pedestrians over the CSX tracks to River Road. Make a Rt.1 intersection with no University Park access to discourage cut-through traffic in UP.

Organize streets in a grid pattern with parallel parking. Implement “right-size” parking that at most meets but does not exceed zone requirements; get a variance for that if necessary.

Business & Retail – The retail broker on the development team reports that there are no negotiations between East Campus and Whole Foods. This further strengthens the possibility of the grocer being on the Cafritz Property. Images of short retail fronted by wide recreational and pedestrian areas were posted as representative of what the developer has in mind.

Placemaking – Locate tall buildings (4-8 stories) in the south-center of site, and stagger shorter buildings from there to the sides. Back parking garages against the post office buildings to the south to minimize their presence. Make a main public green on Rt. 1 that sets back about 156′ and retains natural topography and trees. Scatter other green areas throughout. Place public art throughout.

Livability – Make residential primarily home-owned rather than rented. Minimize single-story retail by building residential above ground-level retail.

Environment – A pilot LEED rating system called LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND) is being pursued. The pilot rating system integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism, and green building into the first national standard for neighborhood design. The Cafritz Property is not part of the pilot program but is pursuing LEED ND nonetheless with help from a consulting firm hired for that specific purpose.

The future of the WMATA site bordering the north of the property is still very up in the air. This is probably why the pedestrian/biker connection to Calvert Hills was only identified as a possibility at this point.

We are happy to report that the development team addressed their reasoning for mixed-use development over other possibilities. This was something that was not done in previous meetings, as discussed in a previous article. **Check back soon for a more in-depth discussion about this.**

Friends Community School – Past, Present & Future

old FCS

The Friends Community School (FCS) has been located on 4601 Calvert Road for 21 years, since it was established by the Adelphi Friends [Quaker] Meeting. It has taught K-6 grades, and recently expanded to teach 7th and 8th grades. This past school year was the final term for FCS at Calvert Road. They will move to their new site in Westchester Park on Kenilworth Avenue in the fall. FCS has been leasing the Calvert Road building since its establishment in 1985. The Westchester Park school is being built by FCS through contributions from the FCS community in its Grounding Our Future Campaign. The new site will be the permanent home for the school.
new FCS elevation
There is strong community interest in Calvert Hills for the old school to remain a school.  College Park City Council voted this past week to explore for 120 days a lab school concept (in partnership with the Prince George’s County School District and the University of Maryland) for the Calvert Road site.   If a lab school does not pan out, the city may consider other options for the use of that site including other school options. The latter scenario would fall in line with an interest from new Prince George’s County superintendent John E. Deasy for more small local community schools.

The new school is 27,000 square feet and sits on 17 wooded acres adjacent to Greenbelt National Park. It will be LEED certified and employ non-load-bearing straw bale technology. Straw is a renewable building resource that acts as superior insulation and is fairly easy to build with. It is equally impervious to fires, insects, high winds and heavy rains as traditional insulation. Straw bale structures typically save on 15% of wood used in a conventional structure. The new FCS is now the largest known straw bale structure in the world.

The new FCS will also feature a vegetated roof, a rain garden designed to limit soil erosion and filter pollutants from rainwater, and flooring that absorbs sunlight and stays warm during winter months. On cloudy days, floors will be heated by water pipes installed underneath.

new FCS and surrounding

There is presently a FCS summer camp still at the old Calvert Road school.

See the Gazette’s report on the FCS move.