The following are my thoughts and some background on the Cafritz property that I’ve put together and may or may not represent the situation. We will learn more on Saturday but this will give those interested a little briefing on the property and some of the issues before the meeting.
The original property was a little less than 50 acres. There was a residence in the center of the property and temporary housing was built during WW II. All this has been removed.
The property is bordered to the north by Albion, to the east by the rail line to the south by the National Guard and postal facility (a leg extends around the back between the postal facility and the rails) and finally on the west by Route 1. Thirteen acres along Albion were bought by Metro to build the tunnel which runs under this edge and comes out to grade at the northeast corner.
It is safe to assume the thirteen acre Metro parcel will be repurchased by Cafritz so the development rights can be used even if parts of the property could not be built on.
The underlying zoning for all the property is single family residential. It could be developed by right with housing on lots that would look much like University Park. This would yield somewhere between 170 and 220 single family houses depending on whether the WMATA property could be built on.
The Cafritz team has signaled that they are looking at a development program that would be different from the by-right option and thus would go through a public review as part of the County approval process.
Some Issues To Consider
The property is well located inside the Beltway with available sewer and water, it has good access to multiple forms of public transport and highways and is close to employment centers: the University of Maryland, USDA, NASA, etc. It is consistent with good public policy and sustainable practices that it be put to use.
It is ironic, however, that while the property is in Riverdale Park, the greatest potential impacts will be on College Park and University Park because the rail lines effectively cut it off or buffer it from Riverdale Park. The frontage along Route 1 facing University Park will have to accommodate the traffic impacts of the new development with the danger that these impacts could bleed into University Park. In addition, the property is in the area served by University Park Elementary (UPES) so the children from the new housing would attend an already overcrowded building. The tax revenues would benefit Riverdale Park.
University Park and College Park should take an active role in the process that is just getting underway. And that is the good news. This is an open process with that is just starting, with people who have good intentions. If we participate it can have a good outcome.
Right now we don’t know what might be proposed but I feel there are some issues that apply to any development.
Vehicular Access This is the big one in most people’s minds. Because there are local residential streets to the north and south and the tracks to the east, the traffic from the site can most easily enter and exit from Route 1. We should urge them to mitigate this impact by exploring other access points such as an overpass or underpass at the rail lines that would connect to River Road and thus to Kenilworth. This should be a prerequisite to any development that exceeds the by-right option.
Route 1 Buffer The wooded site along the western edge provided a pleasant relief for millions of commuters in this stretch of Route 1 for decades. It is unique to have this brief pause in the unrelenting urban sprawl and it should be retained and reinforced as part of the plan. It would serve both the old and new residents well. Allowing denser development within the site could be a trade-off that would allow this to happen.
Trolley Line Right-Of-Way The old trolley right-of-way parallels the tracks and goes through the property and is key to a pedestrian and bike connection from College Park to Hyattsville. Head south on the existing portion from College Park and you can continue on a dirt path through the Cafritz property all the way to Riverdale Town Square (a good way to get to know the property). This will be an important pedestrian and bike link to the Metro and to MARC trains and a connection to the Anacostia trail system as well. This is a no-brainer and should not be a contentious issue.
Schools Because the development will have a significant impact on UPES the County should explain how they propose to address this. In other cases developers have been asked to make off-site contributions in return for the additional development rights they are getting. UPES could benefit from this.
Development Program We don’t know enough about their plans at this point but residential, retail, office and senior living all have different impacts on the issues above and their proposals and our guidance should take this into account as we go forward.
Sustainable Development Practices All the impacts and issues mentioned above would be favorably affected if the Cafritz organization committed to incorporating sustainable practices in the design, construction and operation of the project. Using the Green Building Councils’ LEED rating for all or some components such as housing of the project would be a good way to manage this commitment.–Tom E.