Cafritz development informational meeting – Tuesday Nov 1

An informational meeting on the proposed development at the 36-acre Cafritz property will take place Tuesday, November 1 at the College Park City Hall (4500 Knox Road). As most readers are aware, the Cafritz property is located adjacent to Route 1, immediately south of College Park and east of University Park. The meeting will include a presentation on the latest development plans from the Cafritz developers and provide an opportunity for a public Q&A.


The updated site plan (above), including a commitment from Whole Foods, has sparked discussion and debate throughout the region and in surrounding areas including the Calvert Hills neighborhood of College Park as well as the cities of University Park and Riverdale Park. While the prospect of a Whole Foods has garnered lots of positive attention, the most recent site plan resembles something similar to a 1970s suburban strip mall and leaves lots of questions about what “Future Development” will look like. This meeting will provide an excellent opportunity for residents to hear directly from the development team and weigh in on the conversation. Hope to see you there!

Information session on Cafritz property Wednesday, September 7 for local residents!

There are lots of meetings and events this week. Please be sure to read other recent posts. The message below was passed along from the Calvert Hills – Old Town neighborhood listserv. A great opportunity to weigh in on the Cafritz property along Route 1:

The Informational Session with the Cafritz Development team is scheduled for Wednesday, September 7th @ 7PM – College Park City Hall.

College Park City Planner, Terry Schum will provide an overview on the M-NCPPC development review process followed by a presentation in which Cafritz will address your questions, comments and concerns submitted previously. They have been advised to come with qualitative & quantitative data to support their studies (traffic, enviromental, etc.) and research.

Following the presentation there will be a group-setting Q&A. For those who are more comfortable in a non-group setting and/or wishing for a more conversation-style format to learn more about this proposed development, there will also be opportunity to speak one-on-one with the architects, envirnmental specialists, traffic analysts and others from the Cafritz team regarding the potential impact it will have on our community.

Members from City Council & the Mayor will be present as the City of College Park will eventually be submitting a stance on this issue with the County so please, plan to attend. Now is an excellent time to let your issues, questions, concerns and opinions be heard by our representatives.

Talks Resume for Whole Foods Just South of College Park

There’s nothing like talk of a Whole Foods opening in the neighborhood to get local pulses racing. After a few years of recession-induced torpor, it appears that plans are again underway to develop the Cafritz Property, a 35.8-acre tract of undeveloped land on Route 1 immediately to the south of College Park. Whole Foods would like to be the anchor tenant for this development (it is listed among their “stores in development“. As the lively discussion on the Riverdale Park Patch shows, some locals regard this as the best thing since unsliced organic bread, while others view it as the latest in a line of development and transportation disasters to hit the area.

A little background. The Cafritz Property is an overgrown/wooded tract bounded by Route 1, the MARC/CSX train tracks, and the towns of College Park and Riverdale Park. It’s where the Green Line metro exits the tunnel shortly before College Park Station. See the location in a map or an aerial shot It is one of the largest undeveloped pieces of land inside the Beltway. The land is currently zoned for single-family housing, but the Cafritz family would like to develop it as a mixed-use development. There was a flurry of community meetings and discussion on the development back in 2007. And then we all know what happened to real estate development in 2008. Some older schematics can be found at the long-dormant web site for the development. It is rumored that the new plans for the property will reflect less density than the earlier plans. We have not yet seen specific plans, or heard of new community meetings. If the newer plans are well received, then the development could move ahead sooner than East Campus (remember that one?).

Already saving your pennies for those perfectly proportioned tomatoes? Or groaning in despair? Let us know in the comments.

Why is this development different from other struggling developments, e.g., University Town Center, which is barely limping along? Simple: Whole Foods. Like it or not, nothing gives a neighborhood a stamp of approval like the upscale grocer.

Should locals rejoice? Well, some like to see housing prices go up, and others are less enamored of the much discussed Whole Foods Effect. Some see it as a much needed boost to the local tax base. Others as a way to save on driving to Whole Foods in Silver Spring. Others as a much needed antidote to the local inferiority complex.

What about those nice trees? Who’s going to look out for the environment? If you want to save the tree canopy in your own back yard, then you have reason to be worried. But if you’re serious about saving the planet, then a broader view is needed. People gotta live someplace. And we can save more trees if they live in dense developments, rather than in sprawling suburban castles. Dense development is more likely to work when it’s within walking distance to a transportation hub (Green, Purple, MARC, Bus lines). Not to mention proximity to the university and M-Square. Packing people close to transportation is one of the best things you can do for saving trees.

And will it create transportation gridlock? Hard to tell, really. Route 1 can get congested in downtown CP, generally in the direction of the morning/evening commute. But the stretch near Cafritz is rarely backed up. Whole Foods would certainly attract traffic. How many of those cars are not already on Route 1 heading elsewhere is hard to tell. Would dense housing compound the travel nightmare? For CP as a whole, probably not. The traffic in town is so bad already in part because so few of the people who work or study here also live here. If more of those people lived here — and those are the people most likely to settle in the new development — then their commute wouldn’t be clogging up our roads so much. Many would be attracted to the development by the prospect of being able to walk to the Metro and to Whole Foods.

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.

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.

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.**

Alternatives to Mixed-Use Cafritz Development?

The third meeting for the Cafritz Property was a summary of community input from the previous first two meetings that the developer found to be salient (as were reported in our previous Cafritz post). A large obvious chunk of public opinion that was not reported back at all was the interest of many citizens to keep the property undeveloped, or to not pursue changing existing zoning to accommodate mixed use. This is pragmatically to be expected of a developer pursuing mixed use in the first place. However it is disappointing that the Cafritz’s who boast of interest in community wishes did not note the expressed public interest in single-family residential in the wrap-up meeting and explain why this avenue is not being pursued.

When asked outright about single-family residential, the developer has always been quick to direct attention back to a purported great need and benefit for more mixed-use in the area. The benefit of mixed-used development could very well prove to be true. It would be satisfying to hear the exact reasons why the Cafritz Team appears to see more merit in mixed-use over single-family residential for current residents. The developer obviously has no intention of making a single-family residential development if they can get a zoning change.

It could be that pursuing a mixed-use ideal is meeting halfway those in the community who want only single-family homes. This post is largely intended to direct attention to a post on the Route 1 Growth blog. It discusses the pros and cons of the current direction of the Cafritz Property development, and its hypothetical alternatives.