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.

Imagine: College Park/University of Maryland Arboretum

College Park has the fortune of having a unique system of trails and open spaces running through and around the city. However, there are some instances where this system of open spaces serves to divide the community rather than bring it together.

One such instance is the large, wooded open space directly north of Paint Branch Parkway and east of Baltimore Avenue. This land sits at the geographic heart of College Park and has the opportunity to serve as a gathering place for local residents and the University community. Unfortunately, this land is vastly underutilized due to difficult and unattractive pedestrian and bicycle access and a lack of visibility.

College Park Arboretum
Open land that could be used as a world-class arboretum

During my frequent runs and bicycle rides around Lake Artemesia, I am amazed by the lack of University students taking advantage of this amenity. I have come to the conclusion that the few number of students who utilize Lake Artemesia’s pathway and surrounding trail system is driven both by a lack of perceived safety and simply being unaware that such an amenity exists.

With so much beautiful open space directly adjacent to the University and many of College Park’s neighborhoods, it is unfortunate how cut off this land is from campus and surrounding neighborhoods, especially Old Town. Unfortunately, physical barriers, such as dangerous Route 1 and a sound wall along Paint Branch Road, along with psychological barriers, such as a perceived lack of safety, are currently discouraging more recreational use of this area. Additionally, though the university sits less than a mile away from Lake Artemesia, the distance seems much further due to the convoluted path system and a lack of sight lines between the two destinations.

A little planning and creativity could go a long way in creating a world-class arboretum right here in College Park. The solution to increasing usage lies in creating a highly pedestrian-oriented system that emphasizes safety and the natural beauty of the Paint Branch stream. The first step is creating a safe pedestrian crossing across Route 1 near Campus Drive. This includes curb bumpouts and pedestrian islands to reduce the distance and time necessary to cross this extremely busy road. Second, a pedestrian countdown signal and shorter light signals will emphasize an intersection that is geared toward people, and not only cars. Third, a wide, relatively straight, and well-let pathway that follows the Paint Branch Stream will shorten the distance between the university and Lake Artemesia, provide sight lines, and go a long way in increasing the perceived and real safety of this area. Finally, a high-class pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks will avoid the unsettling concrete tunnel that currently traverses below. This bridge will enhance visual interest, improve safety, and provide a new perspective on the lake and surrounding open space. In the long run, more amenities such as an outdoor amphitheatre, exercise equipment, a flower garden, and nature center could further enhance the attractiveness and desirability of the arboretum.

Artemesia
Early morning at Lake Artemesia
Dallas-Arboretum
The Dallas Arboretum


It is imperative that the university and city join forces in creating unique and desirable assets throughout College Park. We can hope than new University of Maryland President Loh will play an integral role in building this strong relationship. An enhanced and improved public space between the university and Lake Artemesia could create a much-needed amenity, serving both permanent residents and students. An arboretum could go a long way in making College Park more than just “a livable community”; it could propel it to be a top-notch college town and a regional attraction.

With the coming of the Purple Line and East Campus, College Park has the opportunity to capitalize on improved accessibility and attractive new development and provide another highly desirable amenity and reason for people to visit and move to College Park. It’s time for College Park to step out of the shadows, build upon its natural assets, and create a highly pedestrian-oriented public space that will serve as a community gathering place and transform College Park into the college town that it should be.

UMD And Lockheed Martin Corp. Form Partnership

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The University of Maryland and Lockheed Martin Corp. last Friday announced a new partnership that would potentially help fill more research and office space at the M-Square research park. The Fortune 500 global security company and the university have ties that go back 60 years. Lockheed Martin has committed to spend $1 million dollars per year for three years with the possibility of continued support in the future.

The new agreement provides a strategic framework for current and future cooperation that leverages the resources, talent, and ideas of both institutions to produce innovative solutions for global and national security challenges. The agreement provides for work in three key areas: Centers of Collaboration, Joint Pursuit of Business Opportunities, and Enhanced Research and Development.

It is currently unknown if the partnership will require space at UMD’s M-Square research park. There are three additional buildings that have not broken ground yet. The key focus areas in the partnership would be a perfect fit at M-Square.

Officials say a key part of the new strategic relationship is the creation of Centers of Collaboration, which will support sustained cooperative work in mutually agreed-upon areas – initially logistics and sustainment, climate change, and cyber-security.

Current tenants at M-Square include the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity organization, Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Earth System Science and Interdiciplinary Center, and the American Center for Physics to name a few.

americanphysicscenter

Charrette Outlines Future Development Near Mowatt Lane

On April 30, 2010 a Charrette was held in City Hall on the Domain project and the surrounding area. This also includes the area of the Mosaic at Turtle Creek. The goal was to come up with a overall vision for the area that can guide future development and create a mixed use neighborhood with tree-lined, predestrian and bicycle-friendly streets.

This area is located at the intersection of the Campus edge (near the Smith Business School) and a residential area. This is mostly on undeveloped property. There are many religious buildings in the immediate vicinity. The Domain project is located at the intersection of Campus Drive and Mowatt Lane while the Mosaic project located off Mowatt Lane.

The comprehensive vision includes 3 primary themes.

Continue reading Charrette Outlines Future Development Near Mowatt Lane

University Spends $12M on Washington Post Plant for East Campus Relocation


Washington Post Plant
Washington Post Plant

The University announced today that they plan to purchase the abandoned Washington Post site for $12 Million with the intention to use the site to house facilities currently on the East Campus site.  This is a clear victory for those who were opposed to using the Wooded Hillock site  for relocation as was previously recommended.

The Washington Post site is 18.5 acres with 315,000 square feet of space available. A good portion of the indoor space is 2 1/2 stories tall and could be converted to seperate floors if needed.

Is this a good plan? Brilliant move? Waste of money? What are your thoughts? The Campus press release is after the break.

Also see  Post to Abandon College Park Printing Plant

Continue reading University Spends $12M on Washington Post Plant for East Campus Relocation

M-Square Top Choice for Biotech Cluster

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East Campus? Stalled. Purple Line? Still Waiting. Maryland Football? Don’t ask. Here at RTCP we could use a little good news. Well we got some from Washington Business Journal. It looks like M-Square was selected as the top choice in Prince George’s for a new cluster of biotech startups. The proposal calls for two, five story buildings of 105,000 square-feet each right smack next to the metro station.

For years, Prince George’s County has been relegated to throwing farewell parties for its most promising biotech startups as they pack up and move to neighboring Montgomery County for more readily available lab space.

Continue reading M-Square Top Choice for Biotech Cluster

College Perk replacing 94th?

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File this under “things that make you go Hmmm….”

It seems the oft-troubled, slightly singed, yet always funky College Perk might be making a move to take over the former location of the 94th Aero Squadron. Check out http://www.the-perk.com/ for details.

Some of the added features they are looking to add are….

  • A Green Roof,
  • Enhanced Recycling,
  • Solar,
  • Herb Gardens,
  • Free Meeting Space for Civic Associations and Student Groups,
  • Blues Jams,
  • Wine Tastings and Wine Dinners,
  • A Showcase for Local Musicians,
  • and Lots More!

Any RTCP readers been there? Thoughts?

Could $20-Per-Gallon Gas be Good for College Park?

Remember the $4 per gallon price of last summer? What if it were $20? A new book by Chris Steiner ponders that very question. There is a interesting podcast on NPR with the author.

The price of Gas affects almost everything in our lives. How many of you changed your habits somewhat when gas was $4 per gallon? What would be the demand for the Purple line be if gas was say $6 per gallon?

The changes to our society will begin at $6 per gallon and continue on from there, affecting things far beyond the kinds of cars we drive and how often we drive them. America’s obesity rate will fall. Mass transit will spread across the country. Plane graveyards will overflow. We’ll lose the option to cheaply travel by plane, but high-speed train networks will slowly snake state to state.

Most of the development on CP right now has the focus of moving students closer to campus. When gas prices do eventually creep back up those living and working close to campus could stand to reap the benefits. There is no doubt that spikes in price at the pump can really hurt, however there is a very large upside when people actually begin to change habits.

How Entrepreneurship Can Help Rethink College Park

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Instead of the sharp boundaries that exist today, there should be a symbiotic relationship between the University of Maryland and College Park, with each providing resources and vision for shared projects that can improve both the University and the city.

The University wants to attract top-tier students and faculty. The city of College Park wants to provide a safe, enriching environment for citizens to live and grow. A culture of entrepreneurship can help realize both of these goals. Start-up companies will pay taxes to power the College Park economy, and help attract top academic talent to the University of Maryland.

So why has this not already happened?

Continue reading How Entrepreneurship Can Help Rethink College Park

Steve Francis potential investor in Sante Fe.

"BooYaa! Game over its $1 Bud night at the Fe!"

Stevie Fanchise might actually become a franshise. The Diamondback reports that the one-time Maryland Basketball star could trade dunking the “rock” to dunking buffalo wings to become a partner with current ‘Fe owners. 

The long-time Terp hangout will undergo extensive renovations this summer.

In the meantime, Srour said Santa Fe will be closing May 24 for renovations and hopes to open up the ground floor by the beginning of the fall semester but is unsure if construction will be completed.

“Santa Fe needs a nice facelift,” he said. “It’s a building that’s many years old.”

Srour said he wants to make Santa Fe more like the 9:30 club in Washington.”We are going to promote more of a band venue,” he said.

Srour said the bar in the center of the building will be removed and he plans to finally acquiesce to city demands and install a sprinkler system.

“We’re going to be changing the name and changing everything,” he said, adding the bar’s upper level will be turned into a “more trendy lounge [area].”

There have been other rumors of former Terp stars becoming investors in the past such Danny White and Shawne Merriman with no results. So we’ll see what pans out here.