Category Archives: University 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

Landy: Not Ready for Prime Time

television-small.jpgAs you very likely know, the Landy Property would be a luxury development in a fenced, gated community with security on 34 acres off of Belcrest Rd. between Northwestern High School and Toledo Terrace. Originally approved in 2001, the plan has undergone a number of revisions. The revamped plans required a lot of work and are moving in the right direction, that is worthy of note. However, our area has grown significantly in the last 6 years and the Landy project’s improvements have not kept pace with an evolving community and its needs or concerns.

The latest iteration is hard to nail down as 3-bedroom units come and go (see below) and the unit number wavers between 1216 and 1262. What is clear is that the project is not consistent with the transit oriented development that our area needs. In addition, the Landy’s massive scale would cast a long shadow, metaphorically and literally. Shadow-wise, the M-NCPPC planning file has not been updated since the original 2001 plan. But even that less bulky building would have thrown a substantial shadow. The current proposal’s two buildings with 7-story base and 16-story towers would shadow Northwestern High School all of the year and the University Hills neighborhood a good bit of the year.

Construction would be done in phases and could take 8 years depending on market conditions. The M-NCPPC staff report recommends approval with conditions. Issues and impacts of concern to immediate neighbors and area residents include: Continue reading

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Filed under Developers, Events, Hyattsville, Landy Property, Planning Board, Riverdale Park, Route 1 Corridor, Traffic, University Park

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

Where Were the Brownies?

I attended the presentation of the proposed Landy developmentcrumbs.jpg last Tuesday. And while there were no brownies or slick promotional pieces like at the Cafritz meetings, a fair bit of information was imparted to the community members.

New designs for the buildings took center stage at the meeting. Slated to house 1216 apartments, they will feature many large windows, bay windows, private balconies and rooftop areas complete with recreational facilities and trees. This will be a gated community with its own on-site parking and security. Also part of the plan is a parking garage with more than 2431 spaces.

Community concern focused on smart growth and environmental issues: storm water management during and after construction, traffic congestion and school overcrowding. In addition, questions were asked about light pollution, stream health, green spaces and vegetation. These topics were raised repeatedly by residents of Hyattsville, University Park and College Park.

I felt only the storm water management issues were adequately answered, with detailed information on buffer zones, drainage areas and a sediment pond. It sounded well thought out, but I am in no position to evaluate the soundness of their plans.

Traffic concerns were brushed aside with assurances that the location’s proximity to the Metro will minimize the traffic impact. When asked directly if the developer would consider a shuttle to and from the Metro, the response indicated that transportation of this sort is better left to municipalities. Concerns over offering two parking spaces per unit were dismissed as if this is not a negotiable point. The developer intends this to be a luxury project and that, apparently, requires two cars per unit. Continue reading

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Filed under College Park, Developers, Events, Hyattsville, Infrastructure, Landy Property, Traffic, University Park

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

Questions to Ponder

A guest blogger joins us today to pose some excellent questions. We share former Hyattsville council member Chris Currie’s thoughts on the Cafritz property and other area developments below (previously posted to HOPE list).

My views on urban planning were largely formed as a child witnessing the growth of suburban Detroit. It was a clinic on what not to do to create healthy, vibrant communities. One particular memory I have from my late teens was a newspaper report on the rapid advance of commercial blight in Detroit’s inner suburbs. At that time, experts said that the commercial dead zone was expanding outward from Detroit at the rate of one mile per decade. The primary reasons? Unrestrictive zoning and the seemingly inexhaustible supply of flat, buildable greenfields in southeastern Michigan. There was no incentive to redevelop existing retail/office districts when it was so cheap, easy and profitable to build new ones.

That reminds me a little of the prevailing conditions in the inner-Beltway Route 1 area. Look first at what EYA is trying to do. They had to buy existing commercially-zoned land at the premium price such sites command. Then they had to raze existing structures and do environmental abatement. Then they had to create a development proposal within the constraints of a detailed zoning master plan, with all of its attendant expensive conditions. Now they are trying to lure wary retailers with incentives and somehow they also have to turn a profit. (The way they are doing that is by maximizing the number of housing units, but that’s another story.)

Then look at the Cafritz property. Zero cost basis for the land. A rare greenfield tract in a developed area–a clean site almost ready to build on. The zoning is R-55 for single family detached residential, but the owners will apply to have it rezoned to fit nicely with whatever it is they want to do there.

Now it is easy to see what Mayor Bill Gardiner means about Cafritz having “competitive advantages” over Arts District Hyattsville, Riverdale Park Town Center or University Town Center (UTC). And why he–and others–are concerned about the potential adverse impacts of creating new, cheap-to-develop commercial districts in an area where the existing centers are struggling and vulnerable–particularly on Rte. 1. The laws of economics indicate that our under-served area will attract new retailers to serve the existing and emerging market. But where we will allow them will have very much to do with whether the final result is a vibrant, sustainable community or another sad rerun of the failed development patterns on Route 1 from time immemorial.

The rumors are that Whole Foods wants a location close to the University of Maryland. Continue reading

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Filed under Cafritz Property, College Park, Developers, Hyattsville, Riverdale Park, Route 1 Corridor, University Park