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 Station’ Proposal Now Includes Four 18-Story Towers

Observing the Balloons

A small group of city officials and citizens gathered at the Greenbelt Metro station this morning to observe a balloon demonstration intended to provide residents with a way to gauge the potential impact of the Greenbelt Towne Center project. According to the latest plans provided to demonstration attendees, the current proposal includes over a dozen buildings ranging up to 18 stories. The demonstration included 6 balloons, designed to provide a sense of size to neighborhood residents. The entire complex will include over 2 million square feet of retail and office space, two 150 room hotels, over 1,200 residential units, and a whopping 14,000 parking spaces. The project also includes a section containing townhomes now under construction south of the station along the railroad tracks.

In the photo above, city staff and residents stand in the backyard of city Councilmember John Krouse, who is concerned about the increased density of the project. The view from his backyard (seen below) directly overlooks the Metro and project site. Krouse and other neighborhood residents object to recent changes to the plan that has introduced two 12-story buildings immediately at the Metro Station, instead of making those buildings four stories and “stepping up” to the taller buildings farther into the site.

Balloon Demonstration

As we have previously reported the plans we have obtained show the project will contain a one acre park at the exit of the station, and will involve reconfiguring the ramps connecting it to the beltway. Click here for a closer look at the open space site plan shown below.

Greenbelt Station Open Space Plan

More images from the balloon demonstration and related to the project are available here.

Visualize 12-18 Stories at Greenbelt

The developer for the Greenbelt Station project will be conducting an exercise using balloons this Saturday at 8:00 a.m. to demonstrate the height of the buildings planned. The project, which we described last week, includes 2,000 townhomes now under construction and a mixed-use complex of offices and shops located at the Greenbelt Metro Station. The demonstration was planned after local citizens expressed concern about the height of the project. Joe from the the College Park Observer has reprinted a letter from College Park City Councilmember John Krouse, where the councilmember explains his concerns with the project, which has been approved by County officials. Join us at this demonstration to learn more about the project.

Update: We just heard the developer will give a presentation at 8:00 a.m. outside the Metro’s East entrance

Projects To Transform Greenbelt

Greenbelt Station Towne Centre

Just up the road from College Park, work has begun on the first of two projects in Greenbelt that could add roughly 8,000 homes and millions of square feet of office and retail space to the town, founded during the Great Depression as a federally-sponsored model city. Years in the planning, the projects continue to elicit mixed emotions from residents of the close-knit community and the surrounding neighborhoods worried about traffic, crime, and other impacts of development.

Work has begun on the massive Greenbelt Station Towne Centre, a large multi-use project planned for 240 acres of land adjacent the Greenbelt Metro station. The project is being developed by Petrie Ross Ventures. As it is currently planned, the finished project will feature approximately 2,200 “luxury” residential units, over 1 million square feet of retail, and 1 million square feet of office space in a complex of rowhomes and towers up to 12 stories tall, however the developer told the College Park City Council they are considering even taller buildings – up to 18 stories. The developer estimates the project could result in over 7,000 jobs when complete. Interested buyers can register with Pulte homes to be added to a list for more information. Detailed information about the project’s conceptual site plan approval from the county is available on this website.

The Diamondback reported in August of 2005 that the developer and the College Park City Council negotiated an agreement where the project’s builder would pay the city $2.5 million and construct a pedestrian walkway to connect the project with the city of College Park. An open space concept plan we obtained from December includes over three acres of plazas and parks, including a 1-acre plaza at the entrance of the metro station, shown below:

Greenbelt Station Towne Centre

We will examine the controversial second major project, Springhill Lake, and a proposal by the owners of Beltway Plaza for residential construction on their property in a subsequent post. The New York Times recently examined the projects in the article, “Merging the Old With the New In a Washington Suburb.”