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New Carrollton development to move forward

New Carrollton PlansUPPER MARLBORO – Developers hope to move quickly on a mixed-use project at the New Carrollton Metro, and last week two of the agencies involved took steps to move the project forward.

At the Jan. 12 Prince George’s County Planning Board hearing, the board voted unanimously to approve the preliminary plan of subdivision for the site, a 30.1-acre parcel along Garden City Drive surrounding the Metro station. The plan legally divides the site from three parcels into 12 to allow for the various phases of the development project to be completed at different times.

That same day, the capital program, planning and real estate committee of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Board of Directors voted to approve the staff report detailing public comments on the project and to amend the joint development agreement (JDA) for the site.

Redeveloping Metro stations has been a priority for county government officials. Sherry Conner, a planner at the county planning department, said several county agencies are involved in helping the New Carrollton project get off the ground.

“This is an exciting project for the county, and staff has worked in a short timeframe to review the application and coordinate with (the department of) transportation, DPIE (Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement), WMATA and the applicant, who have all been very responsive and who have worked diligently to move this project forward,” she said.

The plan is for the area around the New Carrollton station, one of the biggest transit hubs in the county, to be developed to include multi-family residential units, office space, a hotel, and retail space. These amenities would be built in the area currently occupied by the surface park lots on the Route 50 side of the station.

According to Conner, the road network in the area would be kept largely the same, with a new access road built leading to the office building. The preliminary plan of subdivision notes that some improvements would be made to those roadways, including adding new pedestrian crossings and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps, marked bike lanes and new bus shelters. Conner said the intersections studied will all maintain “adequate levels of service” even after development.

The plan also features open space in a variety of locations around the parcel, including a wetland park.

“The wetland park is envisioned to provide pedestrian pathways and seating while accommodating stormwater drainage,” Conner said. “The wetland park is also centrally located between other planned public parks identified in the TDDP (Transit District Development Plan), including the Garden City Greenway located east of the site and the Metro core north and south plazas, which are adjacent to the Metro station.”

Planning Board Commissioner William Doerner raised questions about the cyclist-friendliness of the plan. He wanted to know if bike lockers were included in the plans, and to see if the developers could also incorporate some facilities for bike repair as well, such as exist at Minnesota Avenue Metro station.

“In redesigning these Metro stations, one thing that is often forgotten completely for the bikers – like, they put bike parking, bike lockers and everything, but there’s never any tools to work on your bike. And that’s extremely frustrating if you’re a biker,” Doerner said. “We very seldom have the ability to ask businesses or developers to put that in.”

Bill Shipp, an attorney for the developer, New Carrollton Developer, LLC, said his client would look into the possibility and convey the concerns to Metro staff as well.

Metro board members also expressed support for the New Carrollton redevelopment, particularly Malcolm Augustine, the Prince George’s County representative.

Residents who spoke at Metro’s public hearing about the project expressed support for the project, but according to Metro staff’s report, online, survey and other comments showed riders had more mixed feelings. One particular concern was the loss of parking at the facility. Between 500 and 550 parking spaces will be lost due to the development. Although riders expressed concerns about the loss (55 percent were opposed to losing parking), Metro staff said there is enough parking already available to offset it. But to be sure, they asked the developer to reserve 100 to 150 spaces in the private garage for Metro customer use.

“Staff's analysis of parking at New Carrollton is that there are over 1,000 unused parking spaces in the station area on any given day,” the staff report says. “Existing vacant spaces could absorb parking displaced from Lots 2 and 3, particularly since the developer intends to make parking spaces available to Metro commuters in the privately-owned garage to be constructed in the first phase of private development. Additionally, there are approximately 1,000 unused parking spaces at the Landover Metro Station.”

In addition to the parking lot changes, Metro will also redesign the station’s Kiss & Ride and bus loops. The board also eliminated a $2.7 million credit to the developer because the order of the project’s phases changed, with the office component now being built first.

The ground lease for the office building phase is expected to close this April, according to Metro documents. The lease for the second phase, a multifamily residential component, is expected to follow shortly thereafter, in late 2017 or by mid-2018.

Shipp told the Planning Board that the developer is interested in starting this project as soon as possible.

“You are going to see, very soon, a site plan application for one of the first phases,” he said. “This is not just an approval that’s going to sit. We’re ready to move and ready to go.”

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