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.