UMD, PG County Prove Transit Doesn’t Automatically Translate to Smart Growth

Ballston Metro Station

Service began at the College Park metro station on December 11th, 1993. Since that time, only one Transit Oriented Development (the FDA building) has been built in the area. What’s the only other major construction project in the immediate area in the past ten years? A 1,345 space parking garage. Such is the plight of nearly every Metro station in PG County – heavy on parking, light on walkability. This of course is not the case in Montgomery County nor the Northern Virginia suburbs (Ballston Metro picture left), which have become national models for how to build on and around suburban transit stops. So why the discrepancy? The completely backwards state of PG County politics according to a Washington Post article earlier this month. The situation is probably compounded by notoriously poor leadership from WMATA.

According to a former metro board member:

“We really tried to develop those stations, but we just constantly ran into flak from the [Johnson] administration if it wasn’t what they wanted and it wasn’t the people they wanted,” said Smith, an architect. Metro would come up with a proposal to develop a site, have “its ducks in line, but if Johnson didn’t want it, they would tell us, ‘You can go ahead and approve it, but we won’t issue the building permits,’ ” Smith said. “It became ludicrous.”

So what do we have to look forward to at the CP Metro? That 1,345 space lot was built by WMATA in 2005 to facilitate a 500 unit condo building to be built by Manekin on the remaining surface lot (proposed building pictured in orange below). There has been no movement at all on that project that we have heard.

Of course we still have UMD’s gargantuan M-Square Research Park. One office building is nearly complete and the much lauded NOAA building is finally underway after more than a couple ceremonial groundbreakings. Unfortunately, M-Square is just about as far from transit-oriented as can possibly be imagined. M-Square Sprawling Research Park might be a more appropriate name. MTA planners will definitely have a hard time integrating the Purple Line into the area in a pedestrian-intuitive manner. We’re excited about Route 1, but there is a good reason why we rarely cover Metro development…
Detailed Phasing Plan for M-Square

3 thoughts on “UMD, PG County Prove Transit Doesn’t Automatically Translate to Smart Growth”

  1. The land around the College Park Metro Station (east of the tracks) was rezoned to be little more than a suburban office park in the mid 1990s, for a variety of reasons. Fear of apartments, severe height limitations on buildings because of the proximity of the airport, and traffic impact issues quickly come to mind.

    Now that the land has been assembled by the University (since the rezoning), it appears that the future of that area is to serve as the location for future federal government office buildings. Since new federal ofice buildings require significant security perimeters, perhaps something that would be most appropriate for an industrial park, it appears that the rezoning sucessfully anticipated the bleak future use to which that site would be used for.

  2. Great article with much truth. There are many who can share the blame however. In addition to the nymbies (referenced by Councilmember Catlin, obliquely, there is WMATA’s notoriously bad land development group.

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