Cafritz Development Update

June 14th saw the 3rd and final meeting of the initial round of Cafritz Property community workshops. The development team has publicized the following rough time line of further planning stages for development: 1) design principles 2) concept plan 3) file for rezoning. Public input from the completed initial round of meetings is now being synthesized by the development team into design principles, Step 1. These principles will be discussed and possibly amended based on public input in two identical meetings in July. Here are the tentative dates:

-THURSDAY, July 26TH (7-9pm) -SATURDAY, July 28th (10am-12pm)

The development team will then use finalized design principles to draft a concept plan, Step 2. That plan will be presented in two identical meetings in September. Here are the tentative dates:

-SATURDAY, September 15th (10am-12pm) -TUESDAY, September 18th (7-9pm)

*all meetings take place at Riverdale Elementary School (5006 Riverdale Road)

The final Step 3 will then be to apply for rezoning the property to allow for the mixed use development. If all goes well for the Cafritz’s, the earliest groundbreaking can be expected is fall 2009.

The Route 1 Growth blog has an insightful and valuable discussion on the pros & cons of re-zoning the site for dense mixed use versus developing single-family homes with the existing R-55 zoning. Route 1 Growth also has a list of important questions for the public to ponder in this development process. We highly encourage perusing these posts and their accompanying discussions. They are an invaluable resource for public involvement. The posts discuss (among other insightful things) the possibility that the development team already has multiple concept plans in part or whole, and is simply holding their series of public meetings to determine which will sit best with the public. Because development is a highly political process, this strategy would hypothetically gain the developer public support when it comes time for rezoning and other types of government approval.

Actual Cafritz Development planning strategy not withstanding, here is a synopsis of public input from meetings 1 and 2 of the first round of workshops that, in meeting 3, the development team reported to be salient. The development team will purportedly use this input to draft concept plans that did not exist before the June 14th meeting…

    Place-Making – Make a place for all ages that gives opportunities for informal socializing. Ensure housing that is compatible with surrounding communities. Pearl St. - Boulder, COMinimize tall buildings (especially above tree line). Use case studies of places including Georgetown, Bethesda Row, Silver Spring, and Boulder, Colorado. Include recycling, child care, recreation, adult education, and senior facilities. Include volleyball courts, interactive sculpture gardens, a skate park, water features, and sidewalk dining.
    Livability – Make dense varied housing accommodating a mixed income market that follows a village concept. Ownership is preferred over rental. Arrange density in a bull’s eye design (increasing density toward development’s center). Provide senior housing and no student housing. Mitigate impact on local school enrollment.
    Open Spaces & Connections – Ensure open public community spaces that vary in size (not one outdoor mall). Make green spaces inter-connective with paths. Include flexible open space similar to the Astroturf in Silver Spring. Develop a continuation of the Rhode Island Ave. pedestrian/biker right-of-way path connecting the Calvert Hills neighborhood of College Park to Riverdale Town Center. Connect the development to surrounding trails in a way that enhances overall local trail system connectivity. Make an automobile connection to Riverdale Town Center.
    Transportation – Enact programs that bring pedestrians, not cars. Make “right-size” sustainable parking to minimize impact on surrounding neighborhoods that has minimal visual impact. Create alternate north/south routes to Rt. 1 to minimize cut-through traffic in surrounding neighborhoods. Make an east/west connection over the CSX tracks to River Road. Make a clearer articulation of streets, curbs and sidewalks with more and safer Rt. 1 crossings.current Cafritz forest
    Environmental Sustainability – Maintain an overall green quality with retail adhering to LEED standards. Retain as many mature trees as possible, especially in buffer areas. Employ native species, incorporate wildlife habitats, make community gardens. Contact the county about storm drainage and other off-site issues.
    Culture & Community – Integrate the arts with the overall mixed-use and village concept in a way that is connective to the Hyattsville Arts District. Do not duplicate East Campus amenities. Include permanent gallery space, mixed use community meeting space, and a combined food/music venue that are all designed for the larger community.
    Business & Retail – Integrate open-air business and retail in ways that support pedestrian activity and help revitalize Riverdale Town Center. Encourage craft markets and local ethnic restaurants and business. Limit national chains and big box stores.

We hope that the development team will make a good faith effort to incorporate as much of this public input as possible into fresh concept plans.

Cafritz Workshop 1 recap

Saturday afternoon saw fruitful initial community input for planning of the potentially large development project at the Cafritz Property (interactive map). A healthy attendance was present along with a violinist and a caricature artist for entertainment. The workshop itself had the vibrant community feel that Cafritz Family hopes to create in its development.

**PLEASE NOTE, a second identical workshop is to be this Thursday, tell your neighbors!**

No plans for the site have been submitted yet and therefore the public is open to make any suggestions it pleases without disrupting predetermined designs/plans. This is a critical chance for the public to voice comments, questions, and concerns in person to a very receptive developer. We reiterate a statement by County Councilman Eric Olson: “Rarely do I find a developer who is so willing to engage the public before a complete plan is in hand… [I] want to acknowledge what I see as a true commitment to the community from [the Cafritz Family].”

Cafritz workshop1The workshop was organized into nine workstations where respective members of the development resource team were available to interact with attendees. Each workstation represented a different development issue. The issues were placemaking, livability, environmental sustainability, open space & connections, transportation, business & retail, history, culture & community, and the WMATA site.

Eight project values were described outright: 1) linking the development with surrounding communities to create a greater community, 2) high-quality mixed use development, 3) pedestrian safety, 4) integrating the arts into daily community life, 5) enhancing surrounding communities by making great places, 6) programming open spaces, 7) a choice of housing types, 8) sustainability.

Although no plans have been submitted for any type of approval, we do know some facts and ideas that are being worked with…

The project will be internally focused. This means that there will be limited frontage on Rt. 1 and surrounding neighborhoods. A patron would have to enter the property itself to really see what the development is all about. The community would have a central orientation rather than the peripheral facades that characterize most strip malls. This means that there could very well be a light natural (forested) buffer along Rt.1. That would somewhat maintain the present visual respite along Rt.1 that the forest on the Cafritz Property provides now.

more detailed cafritz mapThe WMATA site exists between Albion Road and the northern portion of the Cafritz Property (see the long boot-shaped portion on top of the Cafritz Property on the more detailed vicinity map). It was acquired by WMATA from the Cafritz property holding through eminent domain for Rt. 1 access to construct the Metro tunnel and building. The construction has obviously been complete for years and is no longer needed so WMATA could possibly transfer ownership of the property. The actual future of this WMATA property is unknown, but it is quite possible that it will remain as a natural buffer to Albion Road.

Through the middle of the property runs a trail connecting the end of the Rhode Island Avenue paved bike trail (a.k.a. the Trolley Trail) to the Riverdale Square Station. The dirt trail actually lies along a utility easement that PEPCO has maintained. Because of the easement, the trail will remain intact through the development (although it will likely be paved) and is a great opportunity for community connections (to the EYA Arts District in particular) and public outdoor living space.

Similar to much of Rt.1, pedestrian frontage along the Cafritz Property is non-existent or downright dangerous. The Cafritz Property’s portion of Rt.1 will be improved by the development. If a traffic access intersection is made on Rt. 1, a major pedestrian crossing will be integrated. This is much needed for pedestrians crossing to and from University Park as the only existing crossings are at East West Highway and Queens Chapel Road. Those crossings are fairly dangerous themselves and would not be particularly convenient to the new develpment . Pedestrian bridges across the CSX railroad tracks on the east side of the property would create much needed access to public recreation (Lake Artemesia, Wells Ice Rink & Pool). These are being assessed by the resource team to increase interconnectivity of the existing recreational trail system. Pedestrians would otherwise only have the pedestrian tunnel at the CP Metro Station.

p st whole foodsThe Business and Retail arm of the resource team stated that Whole Foods Mid-Atlantic President Ken Meyer has seen the Cafritz Property and said he would like to put a store there. The company is waiting on plans for the development in order to move forward. Fall is a reasonable time to expect a more definitive position from Whole Foods as to whether or not it will place a grocery store on the Cafritz Property.

Read the new Route 1 Growth Blog for a list of community suggestions for the Cafritz project. The RP Coffee House blog has a linked listing of the development resource team, as well as a discussion with graphics about footprint impact of a Whole Foods.

It was noted that the developer’s site will eventually have a forum to make comments.  They can presently be sent to

Cafritz Workshop Meetings

cafritz hobo path

Rumors sometime become reality – or so it seems given the potential redevelopment of the “Cafritz Property” (Developer Website) which we first talked about last month. Public workshop meetings are planned for early June. County councilman Eric Olson and College Park city councilwoman Stephanie Stullich are encouraging meaningful/rigorous public participation at these events. Such preliminary community input, Olson notes, is rare for development projects.
All workshops are to be held at:

cafritz meeting map

(10am-2pm, come any time)
(7-9pm) [identical to the first meeting]
[wrap-up meeting]

The first two initial workshops on the 2nd and 7th are intended to give all attendees a forum to share ideas and concerns about the project. The third meeting on the 14th will synthesize the public opinion shared at the first two meetings into principles to guide potential development on the Cafritz Property. The development team will then come up with a more complete proposal for more community meetings in the fall.

cafritz satellite map

The 40-acre Cafritz Property is located in northern Riverdale, just south of College Park’s Albion Road (Great interactive map – snapshot to the right). Route 1 runs lengthwise along the property and train tracks running adjacent to the Metro pass along the back length of the property. The proposed Rhode Island Trolley Trail extension (now a hobo path) runs through the middle of the property, parallel to the tracks.

What is now dense forest on the Cafritz property was once the site of a post-WWII military housing project. The property has since flirted with development possibilities numerous times while under the ownership of the Cafritz Family, and has also been considered as a site for public schools in the past.

Contemporary development possibilities that the public will discuss in said meetings will likely include mixed use residential and retail development. Possibilities include senior housing, a community arts center, and a Whole Foods grocery store. County Councilman Eric Olson has stressed the importance of a buffer of trees between neighborhoods and the development, green building techniques, high-quality commercial establishments, and a pedestrian/bike-friendly inter-connective transit orientation. Olson also encourages any housing be designed to minimize added pressure to local school enrollment, and accommodate active retirees and senior citizens. According to Olson, there is no interest in developing university student housing.

>> Read Eric Olson’s letter sent to the local community.

Terminus of the Trolley Trail at Albion Rd.

Fueling the College Park Rumor Mill

One of the advantages to running a blog is that you can throw caution and standard journalism practices to the wind and basically publish whatever you care to. While we usually avoid doing this, every once in awhile we like to clue in our readers on some of the rumors going on around town about projects in the very initial throes of planning. This is one of those times. According to this month’s University Park Newsletter (Page 8), preliminary plans are underway to create a major “new urbanist” residential community and possibly a Whole Foods on the (wooded) 40-acre Cafritz Property just south of the College Park city limits. It should be pointed out that construction of a Whole Foods on this property has major implications for UMD’s East Campus Development which is widely expected to contain some kind of grocery store.

Redevelopment of the Cafritz property could also be incorporated into the proposed Trolley Trail Extension since the trail right-of-way runs directly adjacent to the property.