What’s New in CP

As many are well aware, RTCP is in semi-hibernation mode at the moment. We’re planning on a kickoff meeting to discuss the future of the site sometime in May. Until then there are a couple tid-bits to report despite the dampened state of the real estate market. Thanks to everyone who continues to email and post comments about all the great changes coming to the city….

-> Starview Plaza – The Diamondback reports that Starview Plaza is progressing through the early stages of the approval process. The project, which sits just north of College Park Carwash, has languished for years (at least 5?) and the underlying land is owned jointly by the City and University. Originally planned as a hotel, the developer now plans a 500-Beleagured Starview Projectbed mixed use student housing project with an impressive LEED Silver rating. As the Diamondback reports, there has been much debate over exactly what materials should be used on the facade. The Sector Plan requires 75% brick and as the Mazza Grandmarc debate showed us, the city and the county in particular hold tightly to that standard regardless of how visible certain parts of the building are. The choice is between hardyplank – a composite of recycled materials which helps a buildings LEED rating – and brick (an energy-intensive material) on the least visible parts of the building. Let’s hope the county council departs from its absolutist ways by avoiding unneccessary delays…

southwest district phasing-> Campus Construction – The University has released an updated campus construction map, which shows progress on several different projects we’ve blogged about over time. The new journalism building is progressing, the Tyser Tower expansion at Byrd Stadium is underway, and improvements to the Southwest quad and in front of the business school are coming to a close. Also, North Gate Park, a project mired in bureaucracy, funding constraints, and development SNAFUS for the better part of four years is scheduled to start construction this summer. North Gate Park is a joint venture between the city and university and was designed by undergraduate students. 

-> Parking – Recognizing the serious burden that parking requirement place on private developers of student housing, UMD-DOTS via the university’s strategic plan has agreed that students at select off-campus housing complexes can park on-campus. This is a smart move that we think could pay serious dividends by encouraging more student housing. Building lots on Route 1 are small and shallow, thus making the provision of suburban-style parking ratios extremely difficult for dense mixed-use projects. Hopefully the city/county can capitalize on this new policy to implement their Transportation Demand Management plans.

-> Purple Line – There are signs that Campus Drive advocates are making serious inroads. More to come shortly.

11 thoughts on “What’s New in CP”

  1. On the Purple Line – the Faculty Senate will be getting a presentation on Thursday 5/1 at 3 pm (0200 Skinner) and MTA will also be conducting an open house that evening at the College Park Municipal Building (drop in anytime between 5 and 8 pm)

  2. Here is something else going on in College Park:

    Rally revitalizes talks over univ. workers’ contracts
    By: Kristi Tousignant
    Posted: 5/5/08
    Student activist groups held a May Day rally Friday to advocate labor rights and highlight university workers’ struggles to gain fair work conditions.

    University workers united last semester to speak out against discrimination in the workplace – particularly against non-English speaking workers – and held forums to protest low wages, shift changes and sexual harassment. Six months after workers’ groups pushed their harassment into the public eye, union officials have succeeded in re-opening contract discussions.

    Friday’s rally featured a coalition of student groups who voiced concerns about immigrants’, workers’ and graduate students’ rights in honor of May Day, a date which historically recognizes the labor movement.

    There are so many issues
    on campus,” said Carter Thomas, president of Students and Workers Unite!. “We want to make clear that campus labor activism is currently going on.”

    A group of 25 people gathered for the event sponsored by Students and Workers Unite!, Feminism Without Borders, College Park Students for a Democratic Society, the Asian American Student Union and Community Roots.

    Landscape Technician Supervisor Craig Newman, who also represents a local workers union, said there are still labor problems at the university but acknowledged that they are being addressed.

    “This is about respect and justice,” Newman said. “I’m tired of seeing people respected because they have money or control. It is not just about personal wealth.”

    Newman said discussions between workers and upper administration are going on now, though he said he did not expect a solution to be reached for several weeks.

    Newman’s main point of contention was the change in housekeeping shifts imposed by the administration last semester, saving the university $300,000, Newman said.

    “The easiest place to save money is among those who don’t speak,” Newman said. “But now, we are willing to talk.”

    About four years ago, the housekeeping staff came in at 10 p.m. and worked until 6:30 a.m., allowing workers to do their jobs while the academic buildings were empty. But due to budget constraints, the administration changed the shift from 4 a.m. to noon, giving the workers only four hours before students and faculty flooded the buildings.

    Not only does the new shift make it more difficult for workers to do their jobs, Newman said, but the change has also resulted in a decrease in pay. Though the university did not officially cut any wages, workers received a $1-per-hour bonus when working between 1 p.m. and 2 a.m., a time slot the new shift does not fall into.

    Newman urged the crowd to write into administrators and ask them to give workers relief from a shift that he called “harder, faster and more dangerous.”

    Junior family studies major Rosa Lozano, who spoke at the rally on behalf of Feminism Without Borders and called for the university to sign an anti-sweatshop petition, said she understood the workers’ pleas.

    “I think it’s ridiculous,” Lozano said. “I think that an institution like this, in order to support the education of future professionals, cannot deny workers’ basic rights. As students, we have the responsibility to speak up for them.”

  3. jane, unfortunately that topic doesn’t fit in with our elitist, gentrification encouraging, architectural photo fetish, any development is good development blog :).

  4. Hey everyone! I’m leaving a comment because I’m going to be receiving extra credit for my HISP class. Please feel free to skip over my boring one-page drivel filled with keywords and concepts from the course. With that said, I will proceed to write a comment on each of the issues presented in this blog post.
    Regarding the Starview Hotel, I am glad that the various College Park authorities are coming to a consensus about its creation. I also hope that certain Prince George’s County Council Members (e.g. Councilman Thomas Dernoga) don’t hit the brakes on this plan and allow it to move forward. As long as we don’t get somebody with a townhouse (elitist) mentality that doesn’t understand the megastore (masses) mentality, then we, the students of UMD will be fine. The same goes for the planned campus construction projects, specifically the North Gate Park project. The pedestrian link to campus and the bus shelter should provide a great relief and an efficient way of getting an campus for many students. Hopefully, the strict regulations induced by a policy of Nietzchian public space will be surpassed by the need for a more communal and Aristotelian viewpoint. I also like the fact that the Paint Branch ecosystem is a factor in the construction of this park.
    The construction at Byrd is also a good idea. Students going to football games like to see that their football stadium is a aesthetically up-to-date. Hopefully, the beautification of the stadium will attract more alumni to football games, and with more alumni, there will surely be more donations to the University of Maryland.
    A new journalism building is also a good idea. My hopes are that visiting potential faculty members will be turned on by the continued attention paid to the journalism school by UMD and, though it is a great school already, it will become even more prestigious.
    In the midst of the ongoing campus construction, I hope that the architects will pay a bit of attention to the Tschumi’s concept of the “Strategy of the In-Between.” This strategy highlights the importance of buildings with more than one function, in which the level of “urban contact and sociability” will be greatly heightened.
    I particularly like the new parking plan for students living in particular off-campus residential areas because it hits home for me as a University View resident. It would be much easier for me to park on campus for those late night study sessions and not to have to move my car in the morning. I will be feeling much less gentrified from the on-campus community who can simply walk back to their dorms and don’t have to worry about their cars being ticketed.
    Thank you for taking a look at my comment and I hope you find it enlightening!

  5. I’m glad to see progress on the Starview Plaza, although I have my suspicions on the future of the developement. It was already been delayed for years and I fear the reported progress now is just to satisfy all the pissed off students who are struggling to find housing. Also, the debate over what materials should be used in the project is a concern. The Sector Plan requires that 75% of the materials used in the project be brick, which is good since brick is a natural resource and help makes the development a consumerable project. The city says they are gonna also use hardyplank – a composite of recycled materials. However, as both the City and the University are cheap and selfish it would not surprise me that they will use the bare minimum of brick and fill the rest of the developement with the cheapest and probably hazardous material they can get there hands on. For the earth’s sake lets hope they use recycled materials and help make college park a “cradle to cradle” society.

    I believe the construction around campus is a good thing. Tyson’s Tower seems to be making good progress and is on schedule to open in 2009. This will attract more alumni to football games, and with a little help from the football team, (I have faith in Chris Turner to lead us to greatness next year) maybe we can get some donations to the university. Also, its good to see upgrades to the journalism building to improve an already nationally ranked program. However, with all this contruction going on, I would once again like to express my concern with the dangerous and hazardous materials that many buildings are made of these days. Everything from vinyl siding to PVC piping gives off chemicals that people do not even realize and are known carcinogens. It is important to protect ourselves as well as the environment around us.

    It is also reassuring to see the University allowing certain off campus residents the ability to park on campus, however, I as a off campus resident was never offered this priveledge, so I will be looking for that invitation in the mail. All joking aside, it is nice to see the university siding with the upperclassmen who have been pushed off campus by the gentrification of the incoming freshman. Maybe if the University can send graduating classes off on good terms instead of treating them like crap after their first year here and are stuck paying 80k, more alumni will donate back to the university in the future.

    As far as the purple line, it seems to me that people don’t know what they want. I don’t think people realize that if you put a lightrail through the most convenient place on campus, then thats gonna take away from the ability of the buses and cars to travel through campus conveniently. I think the purple line should be put through the side of campus and not in everyones way. Commuters using the purple line are still gonna save loads of time even if they have to walk 10 minutes to stamp student union.

    well thats my 2 cents, thanks for reading.

  6. In my personal view, it seems that the University has the wrong priorities when it comes to spending. The two problems that should probably be addressed first are housing and campus infrastructure and while there are some projects bending that way, their funding it miniscule compared to the costs of other unnecessary projects. Just recently in the Diamondback, the front page covered an article about how the facilities bill for UMD is currently at $620 million and will keep getting worse. In fact, the article states that the bill last year was $500 million, which means that in one year, the costs can get a lot worse. The assistant director of the capital budgeting facilities management department proclaimed that it costs $31.8 million a year to maintain buildings and yet the director of operations and maintenance stated that only $15 million is in the renewal budget this year. The architecture building faces severe structural problems and 80% of the $1 million funds reserved for it will just be spent on fixing its roof. The building apparently isn’t well insulated either and that leads to wasteful spending over air conditioning and heating systems. Housing is another serious issue that needs to be addressed more. An article from the Diamondback back in March predicted that between 300 and 1000 sophomores would be kicked off campus next year. In fact, the a Diamondback article form just yesterday spoke of a 1,145 person waitlist for sophomores seeking housing, a number higher than most previous years (besides last year’s). I myself, a freshman, grouped together with 3 other friends at a housing meeting and didn’t get to a suite on south hill, even with a great number of 728 (out of more than 3000). The only plans Maryland has for increased housing is the renovation of the Benjamin Building into a dormitory. The project will cost $130,700 and will increase on campus housing by about 500 students. Thankfully, the private sector in College park is helping to address this issue. For example, The View, an apartment complex right outside campus, will be constructing two more buildings, adding 517 beds to its current 1,000. Also, this Starview developer being talked about on rethinkcollegepark.com talks about its 500-bed housing project. And yet with these two severe problems, the University decides to fund trivial projects. Taking a look at the Construction Activity play for May of 2008, a couple projects stick out in my mind.
    The Tyser Tower renovation and expansion is something that I pass by everyday on the way to class and its mammoth construction always reminds me what a whopping $35 million will get you. Not only that, but the UMD facilities website shows that the project plans to furnish the new expansion with equipment for $760,000 dollars. This renovation will apparently become box seats for the football games at UMD but one wonders how much revenue that will turn over. First of all, Maryland’s football team is pretty mediocre, having a 6-7 record last season. Second of all, while box seats are the most expensive, they will probably only cost a few hundred dollars and that won’t be enough to offset the cost of $31.8 million for many years to come.
    Another costly and unnecessary project is the renovation of the golf course behind the UMD campus. The UMD facilities website shows that the renovation of the driving range and golf course club house will be $335,000 and $200,000 dollars respectively. I don’t see how with a serious pressing issue like a housing shortage on campus that renovating the golf course behind UMD is relevant to students.
    It seems to me that UMD cares more about the comfort of rich preppy visitors, who wont contribute that much to the campus in the long term, than about the current and applying students who want to live affordably on/close to this campus.

  7. I would like to comment on the “comings” of the East Campus Development as I believe it ties the whole Rethink College Park together as one main entity in that its an attempt to better the University and the Community.
    While the entire East Campus idea was simply a replica from a Univesity located on the side of a highway that didn’t have accessible retail, grocery, etc, College Park is a bit different from that University. While we are already somewhat equipped with the necessary shops and mostly what college students “want” to have, I don’t see why we need to develop an area that really causes more congestion, more traffic, more issues in an already expensive and busy location. Yes, I understand that students want more, but they are in college, they need to be worried about their studies and not shopping at the latest, most expensive, yet quite popular retail stores. Oh, but we must not forget, those that wear the most up-to-date and most popular brand names are the only ones that matter. We often don’t take into consideration those students who are on their own paying for school and it doesn’t matter what the tag on the back of their shirt says. East Campus is all a money making buisness outlook, as if the University itself isn’t already expensive enough in its entirety.
    Maybe the East Campus development will make the campus look better, soley because it will be located directly across from the campus and maybe it will be slightly more inviting when high school seniors visit. But what draws a future student to a school to begin with? Is it the retail and business surrounding the school, or is it the actual academic data and resources that are available for a quality education? I, myself, am a commuter and a on-my-own student who works a lot to pay for school. I have no desire to shop in the College Park area, that is why I go home and go to malls or wherever else I see fit. I don’t have mommy and daddy giving me every pretty penny they have in their pocket helping me out which is why I believe I’m set aside from others and don’t actually desire the new East Campus developments. What’s in College Park is there for college students to get by, they don’t need a specific Abercrombie and Fitch store and all that jazz when they need to worry about studies.
    Who knows? Maybe it will be completely different from my opinion. However, I hope it doesn’t actually happen until I am long gone out of there. The traffic is bad enough, the parking issues just suck. They need to worry more about building parking lots than more resturants. People complaining about having “nice” resturants closeby, go check out the brand new Varsity Grill or the Applebees right down the street. If you want somewhere really nice, go to Adele’s and quit complaining.

  8. Personally, I am a freshman student here at the University of Maryland at College Park and of all the issues presented here on the ‘Rethink College Park’ blog, I think the most pertinent issue to date is not the actual ongoing and proposed developments in the city, but rather, their effects. As a newcomer to the College Park area, I have found that the citizens, residents, students, and councils are more concerned with the overall ‘development’ of the city and UMD’s campus rather than the consequences of such immense projects. In the present time, College Park is in a period of transition. Nowadays, when people here the name ‘College Park’, the first thing that comes to mind is the university, and the second is probably a combination of nightly fun that includes bar-hopping among Cornerstone, R.J. Bentleys, and Thirsty Turtle, with a late dinner or early breakfast at Ratsies. In its presence existence, the city is limited: limited in retail, limited in eateries, limited in community-university connections, simply put, limited. It isn’t family friendly at all. In fact, I can’t even think of one place in College Park within the vicinity of the campus where I could possibly take my family for a day of enjoyment. Yes, it is shameful to say, that despite all the money that is delved into the area, the results are not seen. Take a look at our city as it is: route one is filthy, trash-ridden, and fairly dangerous, the neighborhoods within the vicinity of UMD are pitiful, barely worthy of human inhabitance, and the students and faculty of UMD are severely unaware of the citizens of the city. However, with the proposed development and beautification projects, College Park will be transformed into a city where people no longer simply come to “bar-hop”, but it will serve as a place where families can actually spend a day shopping and eating together, and students can find sources of retail without relying on public transportation to reach out of way areas, i.e. Washington, D.C. With the proposed ideas and developments in College Park existing, it will become a center of retail and social interaction accompanied by nationally recognized world-class public university. As a student, I am undoubtedly in support of the all the proposals that I am currently aware of. From the East Campus construction to the Knox Box redevelopment, I see all of these endeavors as positive aspects, but the whole problem with Rethink College Park is that few people are looking at the ‘big’ picture with the issue at hand. With so much coming along, we need to recognize that parking, traffic congestion, and gentrification will be pertinent aspects that will need addressing when the ‘new’ College Park has finally emerged. Currently, parking is already an issue: UMD doesn’t even have enough parking to accommodate the cars of campus residents and Comcast patrons simultaneously. Congestion is also an issue already that will be further agitated by the new sources of retail in the city. Is Route One and 193 to responsible for the unbelievable amount of traffic that exists already and the traffic that is yet to come? Finally, can someone tell me how we are finally going to solve the problem of the lack of personal connection between College Park the ‘city’, and College Park the “institution”? This is a pressing situation. How are we to finally bring together our student body and our citizens? All in all, I simply think that “rethink” should include “think” about current problems, as well as, future problems: that is the only way to ensure the efficiency and success of such a project.

  9. The recent housing crisis has caused quite a dilemma in College Park. Living off campus was once an option, but recently upper classmen have had no choice. With so many students being forced out of the campus residence buildings, many students have found themselves struggling to get situated for the upcoming school year. I believe the situating of the Starview Plaza is to be considered a blessing for College Park, and the students at the University of Maryland. I believe this because I long for a stronger sense of identity in our town. I feel that a growing population of students off campus, along Route One, will help expand our college town and spread the college feeling further down the road. This long for identity came to me during a recent trip, where I visited my younger brother at Penn State, University Park. Upon my arrival I noted that the campus was in the middle of nowhere. I was a little disappointed at first, but after visiting the town, I realized that the town was nearly 100% made up of Penn State students. It appeared almost as if there were no boundaries. No side of the town, that wasn’t theirs’. That this sense of identity, for a resident of University Park, was everywhere. I would like to see the population of students of College Park united along Route One.

    In addition to establishing identity, the concentrated population of students will allow for greater social capital. Social capital is an essential part of being a student. Whether it be your bonding with friends and extracurricular activities, or your bridging through majors or student organizations, the social networks you build in college can be very helpful in your life after graduation. Student life and opportunities will improve when they no longer have to resort to living in a house off in the neighborhood behind Dunkin Donuts. As the population density of students grows, our influence in the town, and our ability to network amongst fellow students will improve. A well-networked society is beneficial to all.

    After reading the entry about Starview Plaza, and thinking about my opinion on the town’s identity, I found myself stuck over my views toward the material options that would be used in the construction of the building. The film “Blue Vinyl” left me with the impression that it is wrong to support the usage of actions that pollute our planet or use up our limited resources (especially when you know that they are harmful). Also, being a strong advocate of College Park’s sense of identity, I believe the Route One Sector Plan has meaningful intentions. It is important that tradition be carried out throughout the town. By conforming to the megastore hype for modern buildings, College Park’s sense of identity would surely deteriorate. In conclusion, I believe the suggestion of using brick only on the façade of the building is a fair compromise. This possibility allows tradition to be carried out, and still reduces the amount energy used to make the bricks. I feel it is important that the county do what it can to reduce environmental damage, along with the idea the city refrains from conforming to the megastore. Though modern buildings are really cool, it just wouldn’t be the same College Park.

    And thats MY 2 cents =)

  10. Did the May meeting ever happen? Really hate to see a great site like this fall by the wayside

  11. No meeting yet. Quite a bit is happening, though. The City’s parking garage will have its groundbreaking on June 19th. The Mosaic at Turtle Creek condos should be filing its detailed site plan this summer. The Garden Suites Hotel has filed for its building permits. JPI East apartments, townhouses and retail, has applied for its building permits, Mazza GrandMarc Graduate Apartments hopes to begin construction late this year, Northgate condos (owned by Monument Realty) has had some success in appealing an FAA decision that limited its height from the approved 18 stories to only 12 stories. The FAA now says that 15 stories can be built at the site. It may become student housing. Starview student housing is proceeding with a Leed Silver student housing project. Mark Vogel has been able to put Merchant’s Tire under contract to go with other adjoining properties he purchased earlier, to build student housing. Finally, East Campus is working hard to file its preliminary detailed site plan in early July with Park and Planning. Work is proceeding with the County/City on a $180 million bond issue to be financed with a TIF. Other projects are in the early discussion stage, too.

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