Category Archives: Calvert Hills

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.


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

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


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


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

The Cafritz Candy Store’s Closed

cafritz.jpgWell, temporarily at least. The Landy and Cafritz developments have been approached very differently. But both are adjacent to communities of single family homes and will have large impacts on their neighbors. The Cafritzes invited us to dream a bit, perhaps because they wish to change their zoning. At Thursday’s summation meeting, community input was recapped with a PowerPoint, brownies were served, schmoozing took place.

First, former students and colleagues of Cafritz architects Matt Bell, a specialist in high density developments, and custom and affordable housing specialist Ralph Bennett’s are taking bets that 3 plans already exist, with 3 iterations of each. Now Matt and Ralph take our comments, see what elements work with the client’s goals and produce a plan–that attempts to build the political coalition that will allow the zoning change and eventual approval.

Second, before a zoning change or approval, as residents of the Route 1 community, we need to ask ourselves some questions.

  • Do we want a commercial area with Whole Foods (or any destination store) and the additional traffic it would bring to this area? Would East Campus be a better site for Whole Foods? It is accessible from Kenilworth and Route 1.
  • How will the Cafritz residents move (from apartments, condos, town homes) to the Metro? Will they be providing a shuttle? Is this a Transit Oriented Development with limited parking?
  • Would this development be more acceptable to its neighbors if the Cafritz family acquired an adjacent property to provide access from 410 or River Road (see slideshow)?
  • Will this be a sustainable, green development (preferably LEED Platinum) that preserves a decent percentage of green space? Continue reading

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Filed under Architects, Cafritz Property, Calvert Hills, College Park, Hyattsville, Riverdale Park, University Park

Doughnuts & the 1st Cafritz Community Input Meeting


I attended the Cafritz development community input meeting last Saturday and wanted to post an overview for other community members.

Jane and Calvin Cafritz, two members of the Cafritz family, opened with a welcome. The team members running the workshop portion were friendly and appeared interested to hear public comments. As an added bonus, doughnuts, coffee and lunch were served.

The format is described by the Cafritz development group as a workshop and, therefore, the meeting portion ran no more than fifteen minutes. During this time, the development team presented a short history of the property and an overview of the team’s values. These values included: linking the adjacent communities, creating a high quality retail area, developing a pedestrian friendly community, incorporating arts facilities, enhancing open spaces and providing a choice of diverse housing.

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

Shopping List for the Cafritz Property

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. Continue reading


Filed under Cafritz Property, Calvert Hills, Developers, Growth, Riverdale Park, Roads, Schools, University Park