Greenbelt Sector Plan: Preferred Alternatives

On April 19, the last public outreach meeting was held for the Greenbelt Metro Area and MD 193 Corridor Sector Plan, which laid out a more detailed vision for the plan area. What follows are some of the highlights of this vision. A draft of the sector plan is expected to be released in July, and a joint public hearing will occur in September (tentatively set for September 18, 2012).

Land Use
Greenbelt Sector Plan Zones
Land use is to be organized in part by dividing the plan area into two zones: Greenbelt Metropolitan Center (which includes Capital Office Park, Franklin Park, and Greenbelt Station’s north core) and MD 193 Corridor (which includes Greenway Center, Belle Point and University Square, Beltway Plaza, and Greenbelt Station’s south core). The goal is to enhance connectivity within each zone and promote development that complements the other areas of the zone.

Two different land use approaches for Greenbelt Station’s north core will be proposed. It would call for either a comprehensive, transit-oriented mixed use community or a major employer (such as a GSA tenant like the FBI) with some potential for associated mixed-use development. For a more detailed description of each scenario, see our post on the North Core Concepts and Design meeting.

Continue reading Greenbelt Sector Plan: Preferred Alternatives

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.

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

Greenbelt Sector Plan: Existing Transportation

Prince George’s County’s planning department is in the early stages of creating a new sector plan for the city of Greenbelt, called the Greenbelt Metro Area and MD 193 Corridor Sector Plan. The goal of the sector plan is to guide transit-oriented development around the Greenbelt Metro Station and commercial revitalization and pedestrian-oriented improvements along the MD 193 (Greenbelt Road) corridor. The last sector plan for Greenbelt was completed back in 2001, before Prince George’s County released a few key publications concerning growth and development: the General Plan (2002), the Countywide Green Infrastructure Plan (2005), and the Countywide Master Plan of Transportation (2009). The county is looking to incorporate these more recent publications into a new sector plan for Greenbelt. It hopes to have a preliminary plan ready by this fall.

Greenbelt Sector Plan Area

This plan is important to College Park because it will guide development in an adjacent city that attracts many of College Park’s residents. Yesterday, a presentation of existing transportation conditions was led by project manager Chad Williams at Greenbelt Middle School. Transportation in Greenbelt is certainly a relevant issue; the city is also strongly connected to the Beltway and has a metro station that a significant portion of College Park residents use regularly.

The presentation focused mainly on existing car traffic conditions, describing current levels of congestion on key roads within the sector plan area. These roads include the Beltway, Baltimore-Washington Parkway, Kenilworth Avenue, Greenbelt Road, Cherrywood Lane, and Hanover Parkway. Levels of service (LOS) ranging from A to F for peak hours were discussed, and it was explained that a LOS D is really not much “worse” than a LOS A, because traffic can move freely for the A, B,C, and D levels. The Beltway and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway had the lowest level of service (E), although I was surprised it wasn’t even lower.

The presentation also discussed who uses the Greenbelt Metro Station, with the data coming from the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA). It was found that about 69% of users drive to the station, with a large majority coming from origins 5 to 20 miles away, typically north and west of the station. A low but significant percentage come from 30 miles away or farther. This data was based on the home address of users’ Smart Trip Cards, and a couple of audience members noted that this source may not correspond well to where the users actually came from. Nonetheless, given that a lot of traffic entering the Greenbelt station can typically be seen coming from I-95 north of the Beltway, this data seems at least reasonably accurate.

Bus routes were discussed briefly with a map that showed all the bus routes (including 2 UM shuttle routes) in the sector plan area. Audience members noted that the map failed to indicate the quality of service that these routes provide. A lot of members were not satisfied with the weekend bus service and hope that it can be expanded.

Audience members requested that a study of pedestrian and bicycle LOS be attempted for several intersections, and the presenter responded that some data has been collected for this during peak periods. I hope that data can be presented at some point; it could be valuable in helping to expand Greenbelt’s bike and pedestrian traffic while taking some cars off the road. Greenbelt is considering a bike sharing program, which could potentially fit well next to College Park’s planned program.

A PowerPoint presentation of this event should be available next week on the sector plan website.

New Language Museum Struggles

The College Park Gazette recently reported that the National Museum of Language in College Park has not been receiving enough funding.  According to the source:

The National Museum of Language in College Park opened in 2008 as the first facility of its kind in the United States—a museum dedicated specifically to teaching the history of the world’s languages.

But now, museum members are worried that a lack of funding could spell the end for an idea that was nearly 40 years in the making.

The museum is located on the second level of an office building at 7100 Baltimore Avenue–near Fraternity Row.  It is open Tuesdays, Saturdays and the first and third Sundays of each month.  Admission is free, but the museum is seeking donations and memberships in addition to the occasional government grants it receives.  The private funding is used to pay for operational costs.  According to the museum’s treasurer, James McFadden:

The museum needs about 800 members to be self-sustaining, and the next few months will likely determine whether it has potential to grow.

For more information about the museum, you can visit its website here.