Post to Abandon College Park Printing Plant

The DIAMONDBACK reported back in November that the Washington Post is closing its College Park printing plant sometime before June 2010. This will result in a $272,000 loss in tax revenue for the city. What does this have to do with the new Kindle DX? Probably nothing. But it does show how newspapers are struggling right now trying to figure out their rightful place in the digital world.

Continue reading Post to Abandon College Park Printing Plant

Would a Community Land Trust work in CP?

An editorial in today’s Diamondback puts forth the idea that a Community Land Trust (CLT) is just the ticket for snapping up vacant properties along Route 1. Then it would be the trustees (that would be us) that can make decisions on the development of the property. These CLT’s have been used successfully in many different areas including college towns. There is even one just south on Route 1 called the Gateway Community Development Corporation

So how exactly does s CLT work? The Urban Strategies Council based in Oakland CA  gives a nice thumbnail sketch.

1) Bank forecloses on property and takes ownership
2) Vacant, foreclosed property creates blight and public safety risk
3) Resident led community land trust(CLT) negotiates with bank to purchase property
4) CLT purchases property to maintain permanent affordability
5) CLT retains ownership of land
6) Lower-to-moderate income homebuyer purchases improvements (house) from the CLT
7) CLT leases land back to homeowner

Talk about rethinking College Park. Personally I’ve never heard of such a thing. However the idea sounds promising. A CLT can have a more long range community-based objective instead of just the bottom line. Maybe a CLT could have kept Paperworks and several other local businesses around.

The full Editorial is show below the break.. Continue reading Would a Community Land Trust work in CP?

“Aviation Plaza” Proposed For TDOZ Warehouse Area.

TDOZ-splotch The Urban Land Institute (ULI) spent a few days in May evaluating the TDOZ warehouse district for potential development. The area of interest is identified by that big red splotch on the image. Currently a large portion of that area is for sale and could be yours for the low price of $6.2 million. This is a greatly underutilized hunk of land in a prime location close to metro and M-Square. ULI is to provide planning and design guidance as well as a strategy for moving forward with the site. The ULI plan calls for

  • 600 Residential units at various price points,
  • 300,000 square feet of office space.
  • 140-180 room Hotel covering 100,000 square feet.
  • 40,000 square feet for Retail space.

They are placing special emphasis on making connections with the Aviation Museum and respecting FAA requirements. They have even suggested that the public space be named Aviation Plaza.

Continue reading “Aviation Plaza” Proposed For TDOZ Warehouse Area.

DC United in College Park?

With plans to build DC United’s new soccer stadium on Poplar Point in Anacostia (DC) in shambles, Maryland officials are now vying for a chance to build the facility in PG county. The team is interested in “two locations in College Park”, according to a Washington Post article two days ago, but County Executive Jack Johnson wants it near the New Carrollton or Greenbelt (as part of that county redevelopment boondoggle) Metro stations. This seems to be a similar chain of events that brought the Redskins new stadium to Landover…

Wawa Editorial and the Aftermath

In case you missed it, I wrote an opinion column that was published in last Wednesday’s Diamondback student newspaper entitled “Wawa, good riddance”. To read it, go here.

In summary, I celebrated the demise of the College Park Wawa and how it symbolized the less than desirable conditions of College Park. And while Wawa wasn’t the sole cause of College Park’s decline, it was perhaps the face of it due to routine weekend vandalizing from drunken bar-goers. I hoped that Wawa’s closing could catalyze future fundamental changes in downtown College Park to improve its sustainability and become more pedestrian-friendly. I called on JBG Rosenfeld Retail, the landlord of College Park Shopping Center where Wawa is located, to follow the East Campus Initiative’s lead and recognize the market and need for more attractive options for retail and housing in downtown College Park.

College Park Shopping CenterThe College Park Shopping Center was built in 1949, where a society dominated by car culture called for a strip mall with easily accessible surface parking at the expense of pedestrians. There are several long-term leases on the property, including CVS/pharmacy and Bank of America. JBGR owns this main L-shaped center, as well as the lot one block to the south, which encompasses FedEx Kinko’s and Applebee’s. The official profile of the shopping center can be found here.

Following publication, I received a lot of attention and feedback. However, almost none of it was from undergraduate students, which was my original intention. Even though the scope of my editorial went far beyond Wawa, I hoped that using it as a scapegoat would draw attention from those lamenting the loss of a late-night hangout. Instead, the bulk of feedback came from professionals and alums, most of whom praised my column and agreed with the principle that change was needed in College Park. One individual noted that it was a shame that downtown College Park did not more accurately reflect the presence of a nationally-recognized planning program, as well as the innovative National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education center on campus.

This week, I was surprised to learn that the principal of JBG Rosenfeld Retail, Robert Rosenfeld, teaches a class in Real Estate Finance in the Real Estate Development graduate program on campus. He had read my column and had assigned it to his students in preparation for class discussion. This past Monday, I introduced myself to Mr. Rosenfeld and sat in on his class discussion. While the reaction to my column was overwhelmingly positive, insightful questions such as the perceived lack of financial incentive for JBGR to redevelop the property were brought up. Mr. Rosenfeld responded that long-term leases that give an unusual amount of clout to tenants such as CVS make a revisionary effort in downtown more cumbersome.

However, Mr. Rosenfeld said that his company would observe the progress of East Campus very closely to see what impacts it has on the retail and development climate of downtown College Park. Finally, he offered a tentative plan to redevelop the southern lot with Applebee’s into a mixed-use, multi-story building with retail on the bottom floor and housing for rent on the upper floors. The plan is four years away, he says, but it would go towards transforming College Park from its present state.

In conclusion, I have welcomed all the feedback that I have received from the column and I look forward to yours. The question I grapple with everyday is how to ensure students get a seat at the table when their general apathy towards these issues persists. In the coming weeks, I hope to come up with ideas to encourage active student participation in a time of hope and transition for College Park. Stay tuned.

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.