COLLEGE PARK – College Park residents and Metro officials gathered in a bus to discuss potential changes to the city’s Metro station.
An elevator outage at the College Park city hall meant Metro had to improvise a bit for its public hearing on joint development at the College Park – University of Maryland station. Board member Malcom Augustine, who represents Prince George’s County, and Senior Real Estate Advisor for Metro Andy Scott hosted the meeting in a Metro bus brought to the city hall parking lot for the purpose. The topic was a proposal to remove the surface parking lot in the south portion of the station property and replace it with a mixed-use development featuring 11,900 square feet of retail and 430 residential units, as well as a new stream amenity for visitors to enjoy.
“They (developer Gilbane) are also proposing to sort of enliven the area between the parking lot and the bus bays,” Scott said. “There’s a small stream there that runs through the property, and they’re proposing to environmentally restore that area as well as creating some pedestrian amenities to really make it sort of an open space, pedestrian amenity.”
Scott said Metro’s analysis shows the development will be revenue positive for the system, with Gilbane paying ground rent and the development projected to generate new ridership. He said the loss of the 530 spaces in the lot will not affect current riders since, on average, 801 spaces are left unused each day, according to a Metro analysis.
Part of that is due to a parking garage constructed at the station in 2005. It features almost 1,300 parking spaces, and Scott said it was added with a joint development project like this in mind.
“It was actually built for this purpose, to replace the surface lot so that we can take that away and build joint development, as well as to expand parking,” he said.
About a dozen residents attended the open house before the formal meeting, where they could view renderings of the projects and ask questions of Metro staff. Three spoke at the public hearing, and each indicated support for the project.
Edward Maginnis, Jr., assistant vice president for real estate at the University of Maryland, said the university is fully behind the project.
“We’re pleased to see robust competition for this site. We’re pleased to see the marketplace responding,” he said of the competitive bid process that led to Gilbane’s selection. On the development as a whole, he added, “This project fits in with other projects the university is working on in our Greater College Park initiative. The housing it provides is part of the overall mix of bringing just a vibrancy, providing faculty opportunity and faculty and staff housing.”
College Park Estates resident Barbara Chotiner said she supports the project and thinks “it will be nice.” But she also said the decrease in the amount of parking at the station concerns her a little.
“I think you would want to be a little more sanguine about your long-term ridership,” she said. “If you can put, perhaps, if possible, to work into the final plan some additional overflow parking so that people who come late in rush hour or go in in the middle of the day or are handicapped or have small children, they can make use of this station, which is compact, convenient and well managed.”
For those unable to make it to the public hearing, Metro is accepting written comments and providing an online survey at wmata.com/plansandprojects until 5 p.m. on May 4. Once all the comments are in, staff will write a report about what the public is saying to present to the Metro board of directors, who are expected to vote on the removal of the parking lot in July.
The county will also have to approve the specific plans for the retail and residential buildings and the stream amenity before the project can break ground.
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