Category Archives: College Park

Cafritz Conundrum

Well, the Cafritz family will be updating our community next Saturday on the status of their project. Whether our much sought “input” has been considered as they revised the project is debatable. Apparently, the number of residential housing units has been roughly halved, while the commercial space remains the same (or slightly expanded).

Mmm, those traffic guys–were they listening? Has Traffic Wizard Wes Guckert magically rerouted traffic from the failed Route 1/410 intersection to accommodate additional commercial traffic?

It is the holiday season, so everyone’s getting together and doing the “hey, long time, no see” routine. But this update’s timing is a little odd. We can hope for nice cookies and all, but why now?

Turns out the clock is ticking. The Cafritz team suddenly realized that they needed to file for a rezoning ASAP, probably January 2009. Why? Oh, it takes a little while, sometimes 18 months. Out of respect for the electoral process (2010 is a local election year) the County Council, acting as District Council, stops reviewing development projects in April 2010. So, darn-they better hurry.

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Please try to attend. But, we know (and they know), the timing is just horrendous. Here’s the Email Lady, just click to her to send a note to the Cafritz team–be sure to cc Council Member Eric Olson and Chief of Staff Dannielle Glaros of District 3. Ask the Cafritz team to post this presentation online immediately, let them know what you think of their plans and inquire about a second January presentation for the many folks who cannot attend. For your review: our past posts and the Cafritz team’s past presentations.

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Filed under Cafritz Property, Calvert Hills, College Park, Developers, Events, Public Input, Riverdale Park, University Park

Updating the Route 1 Sector Plan

Exciting summer reading!

Planner Chad Williams of M-NCPPC will make a presentation on the Central US 1 Corridor Sector Plan and Sectional Map Amendment on Monday for the University Park Town Council (event details here). The public is invited and Mayor John Tabori hopes residents of neighboring communities will attend as well.

Williams will discuss the possibility of extending the Route 1 Sector Plan’s boundaries, which encourages dense, mixed-use development along Route 1. The plan is currently confined to Route 1 in College Park but a preliminary proposal would move the southern boundary to East-West Highway/410. Williams will discuss

  • the plan’s purposes
  • preliminary boundaries
  • consultant team
  • timeline
  • citizen participation process

But the plan’s proposed boundaries will be the evening’s focus. The towns of University Park, Riverdale Park and the Calvert Hills neighborhood of College Park would be impacted by the boundary extension. What are the positives and negatives?

Would this allow Route 1 towns to better address traffic concerns? Would it involve rezoning Route 1 properties from single family to mixed use? Would it be better to pursue comprehensive planning standards along Route 1 from Eastern Ave. to 495? This might knit together our sector plans, transit districts and overlays into a coherent whole.

Williams presented a lot of information on growth in the Route 1 corridor at a crowded November gathering in College Park. His PowerPoint and the plan is available here, under Council Forum on November 2007. It provides an overview of projects already approved and in the pipeline and details the dramatic increase in housing and commercial inventory headed for Route 1.

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Filed under Calvert Hills, College Park, Community, Events, Growth, Hyattsville, Planning, Public Input, Riverdale Park, Route 1 Corridor, Route 1 Sector Plan, University Park

Last? East Campus Meeting

UPDATE: Portions of the presentation from this meeting are now available, including the PowerPoint with a look at the architecture. Check our Events page–if you missed the meeting, you have another chance. Time to start thinking about the $180 million dollar question: do taxpayers wish to foot the bill (through a TIF) for East Campus infrastructure in exchange for future tax revenues? Will the traffic and school impacts be worth it?

Did you miss the June 19th East Campus Open House? That’s OK, it was not really ready for prime time: significant building changes were made just before the meeting, no presentation or informational session took place and out-of-date architectural renderings were shared. The Gazette, Rethink College Park and Diamondback all offer reports.

But we’ll hope for the best as the East Campus public input process lurches forward with the next meeting on Monday, July 14. This Steering Committee meeting provides an opportunity to see Foulger-Pratt/Argo’s Detailed Site Plan (DSP). No conceptual site plan is needed and the DSP will be submitted for development review shortly. Then, especially if you live nearby, you can become Person of Record PDF (actually anyone can).

Folks, this is where the rubber meets the road. The committee will likely be looking for more detail on these issues:

  • LEED certification
  • Storm water management
  • Sustainability
  • Parking update
  • UMD shuttle status
  • Traffic study
  • the TIF necessary to make the project possible
  • East Campus’ impact on area infrastructure
  • and last, but not least, architecture. That’s a whole ‘nother post.

Please attend the meeting, talk with your rep about any concerns or email your rep. Unfortunately, nothing new has been posted to the East Campus site, but you can review materials from past meetings here, just click on the meeting’s topic. Previous posts here, Rethink College Park’s work here.

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Filed under College Park, Community, East Campus, Events, Public Input

East Campus Committee Update & Meeting

The final East Campus community input meeting takes place Monday, January 28 at 7:30. The group will discuss principles to guide the East Campus development. We strongly encourage members of surrounding communities to attend and to pass any questions to a community rep. Committee contact info here.

Foulger-Pratt/Argo, the developers of the East Campus project, made a number of presentations to the Committee and public during the fall and finished with a discussion of their traffic study in mid-January. These presentations focused on their schematic design and assumptions for various parts of the project: design, environmental impact, uses, parking, traffic impact, etc. The word schematic is the operative principle here; the developers have not presented much in terms of the actual design of the site. The lack of hard facts on the development posed problems for the Steering Committee since there has not been enough information to really give much feedback or approval of the total project.

In response to this dilemma, Douglas Duncan, UMD’s Vice President for Administrative Affairs and the University’s lead on the project, altered the scope of the Committee’s work to have the Committee provide principles to guide the planning, design and development of East Campus by Foulger-Pratt/Argo. After a plan is available, the Committee will re-group and review the project, likely when the developers are ready to submit their plans to the M-NCPPC.

There have been some glimmers of hope: Continue reading

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Filed under College Park, Community, Developers, East Campus, Public Input, Route 1 Corridor

Meet Mac Alpine, or Past Lives of the Cafritz Property, Part 1

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You can still see the old gate posts at the corner, hidden by a holly bush and a stand of bamboo. One post says Calvert, while the other reads Mac Alpine. They mark the entrance to Mac Alpine, the mansion once located at Route 1 and Albion Road.

I spent time in the University of Maryland archives this summer. I wanted to know more about this historic property that straddled the Cafritz and WMATA (Metro) parcels. Both are part of Riverdale Park. However, Albion is the southern boundary of the Calvert Hills neighborhood of College Park. Albion lies on a slope that crests at the Amherst-Pineway-Queen’s Chapel Road intersection and is known as Cat-Tail Hill. As recently as the 1970s, children sledded down Cat-Tail Hill. Here, the three “Parks” meet.

During my research, I was surprised to find a paper written in 1934 documenting much of the history and construction of Mac Alpine on Cat-Tail Hill.

Picturing Mac Alpine & Cat-Tail Hill
The paper includes a carefully rendered drawing (click for full image) noting an old “Indian burial ground” near the property of the Mac Alpine house at the corner of Route 1 and Albion Road. Three slave dwelling locations are also marked. A number of small outbuildings are indicated, including two well heads, several barns, an ice house and other farm structures.

What does this 1934 primary source mean for development of the Cafritz property? In 2005, Prince George’s County strengthened a key piece of historic preservation legislation. M-NCPPC now has this document in hand and will require a significant survey of the property by historic preservation professionals: specialists in archeology, anthropology, architectural history, historical agronomy, Prince George’s County culture and history. Continue reading

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Filed under Cafritz Property, Calvert Hills, College Park, Events, History, Riverdale Park

Calvert Hills: Not Just Another Link in the Chain

img_1117-small.jpgCalvert Hills is a small section of College Park situated between the famed Cafritz property and the Old Town of College Park. In 2003, the neighborhood was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The neighborhood’s defining feature is the old trolley trail, a raised berm that was recently upgraded with a $90,000 grant from the State of Maryland. Many people probably see our section of the trail as just another segment on the greater bike trail system. Plans are underway to extend the trail to the south to Riverdale and possibly beyond. With the development of the Cafritz property and points south, I fear Calvert Hills will be viewed as a potential transportation link connecting the new commercial areas. Route 1 is at capacity and it would be easy to look to other routes to connect these areas.

To Calvert Hills residents, the trolley trail path is not just a passage, but a valued destination, a “place” in and of itself. The “bike path” is one of the few spots you see kids playing.img_1112-small.jpg Neighbors congregate in the evening, walking dogs or steadying toddlers on bikes. Sometimes you have to dodge an ad hoc skate park created by neighborhood kids and there are often chalk designs drawn on the pavement. Pirate flags appear on occasion. Many of our neighborhood traditions focus on the bike path–for example, our annual summer block party and our New Year’s Eve progressive party with midnight fireworks and trumpet serenade on the path. It would be an adjustment to have strangers walking and biking through our neighborhood but I think most folks in Calvert Hills will accept the bike trail extension.

And what about the Cafritz property? That’s a mixed bag. It has languished with old broken pavement and pipes, a ratty fence, and trash strewn along Route 1. A scrappy path has been worn along the curb as a substitute for a sidewalk. On rainy days, people walk in the road to avoid the mud on their way to College Park. Homeless people camp in the woods on the property. But farther down the property there is a beautiful meadow that goes down to the tracks with remnants of old roses and herds of deer go bounding over the remains of the trolley trail. Something could be done to enhance the value of this property for the good of the community.

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Filed under Cafritz Property, Calvert Hills, College Park, Schools

Traffic & Whole Foods

whole-foods-logo-100w.jpgLet’s examine the possibility of the Cafritz Property development including a Whole Foods. Many area residents might enjoy having a Whole Foods nearby—especially for rushed weeknight dinners. But are we ready for all the additional traffic?

If we give Whole Foods the benefit of the doubt and assume that their store will be at the small end of the scale, only 40,000 square feet, let’s think about how many trips might be generated each day as people drive to this new destination. (We’ve heard it will be 42,000 square feet, but we are generous folk.)

Supermarkets do about 102 car trips per 1,000 square feet. So, if this is a 40,000 SF Whole Foods, you are looking at 4,000 car trips a day, and about 500/hour during the peak afternoon rush. The source for these two figures is the traffic impact bible for planners and engineers: Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), Trip Generation , 7th Ed., 2003.

However, Whole Foods real estate criteria and existing store data make us believe that they pull from a larger geographic area and have customers that are willing to drive a greater distance, thus would generate more trips, than say, Giant. In Austin, Texas, Whole Foods has a smallish store, only 30,000 square feet. There, over 3,800 trips are made daily.

Route 1 is already overloaded. The State Highway Administration has determined that Route 1 is pretty much at capacity and its intersections are operating at a level of service that would receive a classroom grade of an E or F. This is permissible only because the state and county hope to push Metro use.

However, Whole Foods real estate criteria make it clear that they prefer stand alone stores with parking dedicated to their customers. Route 1 and 410 are both heavily traveled roads that meet at a failing intersection–that is about to become worse with the addition of Wachovia’s drive through lanes. The Cafritz site’s proximity to the intersection should be a real source of concern.

To make this project work–if a zoning change is granted–will require something more than the transit adjacent development style that’s been deemed acceptable thus far in the Route 1 corridor. The Cafritz team will need to address the number of trips generated by future residents and a Whole Foods (or other retail). Transit oriented development should limit parking and push users (commercial or resident) towards Metro.

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Filed under Cafritz Property, College Park, Developers, Hyattsville, Riverdale Park, Traffic, University Park