The new developer of the proposed East Campus development will be hosting a public forum and soliciting citizen input on Tuesday, November 30 at 7:00 PM in the Ritchie Coliseum—that’s tomorrow night. Be sure to join, voice your ideas, and get the latest updates on the status of this critical development.
Just weeks after the launching of The Varsity website, The Enclave at 8700, formally referred to as Starview Plaza, has launched its website. The Enclave at 8700 is located just south of Metzerott Road and will feature a mix of 2, 3, and 4 bedroom suites. Flashy pictures and a cheesy slogan, “Explore the Evolution of You,” echo the marketing campaign of The Varsity (however, The Enclave has yet to launch its own YouTube page).
Also of note is The Enclave’s attempt to attract students from other area universities such as Catholic, American, and Howard: “College Park, Maryland is conveniently located between Washington, DC and Baltimore, both of which are only a quick Metro train ride or drive away…University of Maryland joins 171 other nearby colleges and universities in Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia all of which are welcome to stay at The Enclave at 8700.”
The website’s renderings and recent pictures from the site indicate ground floor retail at sidewalk level, large windows, and opportunities for outdoor seating. This should provide a great recipe for the beginning of active street life and pedestrian activity along Route 1. Like The Varsity and already complete, Mazza Grandmarc, The Enclave will offer students an opportunity to walk or bike to campus via the Paint Branch Trail or ride a shuttle down Route 1. Because of this, the developers of The Enclave were able to arrange a 20% reduction in parking spaces for the site.
The new developer of the proposed East Campus mixed-use development project will host a public forum to solicit citizen input and ideas on Tuesday, November 30 at 7:00 PM in the Ritchie Coliseum. This is a great opportunity to weigh-in on a project that will change the face of College Park. In July, the University named Cordish Companies as the new lead developer for the long-anticipated project that will offer much-needed amenities and graduate-student housing to College Park. The mixed-use center will develop around the proposed Purple Line light rail running from Bethesda to New Carrollton. Below are earlier renderings of the development. The latter is from the previous developer, Folger-Pratt/Argo, who ended their relationship with the University last year.
Construction continues on The Varsity and Starview, College Park’s next-in-line for undergraduate, off-campus student housing. The progress is beginning to show how the new buildings will improve Route 1’s streetscape.
The Varsity has begun installation of a wide sidewalk stretching south from the main entrance toward the bridge passing over Paint Branch Trail. The new sidewalk is much wider than the current sidewalk and provides a buffer of about 12 feet from the heavy traffic on Route 1. Land has also been cleared for the long-awaited Northgate Park located to the south of building along Paint Branch Creek.
However, questions remain about the imposition of a wall fronting Route 1 that will separate pedestrian traffic from the retail entrances located on the ground floor of the Varsity. Councilman Bob Catlin has informed us that the reason for the wall is to prevent these retail establishments from falling within the Paint Branch flood plain. This Diamondback article makes reference to similar concerns raised by council members at the time of the project’s approval several years ago.
A recent site visit indicates that the wall is 5 to 6 feet tall and stretches the entire length of the building fronting Route 1, potentially disengaging pedestrians from the building and the retail that locates there.
As the Route 1 corridor continues to develop, pedestrian traffic will be an integral part of the streetscape and retailers will depend on passing foot traffic for a significant portion of their business. Long, blank walls discourage an active street scene and break down lines-of-sight between storefronts and pedestrians—all negative elements that undermine the advantages of ground floor retail.
It appears that there will be three staircases leading up to the first-floor storefronts, but this may not be enough to entice passerby if they are unable to see the actually see what’s going on inside. Active and entertaining streets create a lively pedestrian environment, and active streetscapes and successful retail corridors are made possible when stores and outdoor seating are directly accessible and visible to passing pedestrian traffic. Visually appealing window displays and an abundance of activity entice pedestrians into stores.
Walls serve as barriers to this visual appeal. They prohibit the instinctive curiosity pedestrians possess that causes them to stop, peruse, enter, and patronize. Hopefully, the Varsity will draw an abundance of strong anchor tenants that will create a “destination location” and overcome the wall’s design flaws.
Few people will deny that Route 1 is well overdue for major improvements. Motorists are fed up with traffic, bicyclists despise its lack of bike lanes and high speed traffic, and pedestrians loath the poor condition of sidewalks. Traffic speeds, up to seven travel lanes (none safe for bicyclists), and long light cycles make this road equally as miserable to cross. Most everyone will also agree that vast stretches of Route 1 are not aesthetically pleasing and that restaurant and retail options are lacking. The Route 1 Sector Plan was established to address many of these issues, but it appears funding will continue to be a major hurdle to implementing that plan.
This is the first installment of what I hope to be a series on analyzing specific intersections along the Route 1 corridor. This series will focus on bicycle and pedestrian safety, and to a lesser degree, aesthetics and economic development. The goal is to analyze current conditions and facilitate conversation on ways to improve each intersection. It is my hope that increased public conversation on this topic will highlight the necessity for long overdue improvements and make Route 1 a funding priority.
The intersection at Route 1 and College Avenue is one of the most critical in College Park and deserves immediate attention. It links the southeast entrance to the University, the city’s retail corridor, and the Old Town neighborhood. Because of this, one could assume it handles the highest level of pedestrian crossings of any in College Park.