NEW CARROLLTON – While much of the public seems opposed to Metro when it comes to its budget, its safety and its service, they do support it when it comes to development, at least in New Carrollton.
At a hearing held at Fortis College on Monday, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority staff heard public comments about a proposal for mixed-use development on the south side of the New Carrollton Metro station that would result in the elimination of parking lot 3, the furthest one from the station. Although only sparsely attended, the hearing was full of enthusiasm for the redevelopment, which many say is years overdue.
“I really just wanted to share the unprecedented level of support and cooperation from my team and adjacent property owners,” said Dave Sislen, who owns property on the south side of the station. “I just wanted to tell you how excited we are, about not only the opportunities here, but to encourage you to take a look at this side of the station.”
He said with the amount of transit options that connect to the station, it makes sense to develop around it.
“Where you have Orange Line, the Purple Line (coming), MARC, and Amtrak, you should not have low-density development,” he said. “In 35 years the area has changed dramatically, but you still have the same buildings and infrastructure.”
The area currently serving as surface lot number three would be developed to include a 200,000-square foot office building and a 250,000-square foot multi-family residential building with 20,000-square feet of ground-floor retail in the first part of what Metro hopes will be a multi-phase project. The developer, New Carrollton JV, Llc. (a joint venture between Forest City and Urban Atlantic, who completed the Rhode Island Row development near Rhode Island Avenue Metro Station in Washington, D.C.), also plans to construct a parking garage for retail and office use that will include 100-300 spaces for Metro riders as well.
Phase one also includes the expansion of the bus loop and Kiss & Ride on the station’s south side.
Another resident, Amanda May, said while she initially had concerns about the project, the information provided during the open house and presentation Monday eased some of them, including potential exacerbations of negative SafeTrack impacts on commuters and access to the station.
“There’s going to be two new traffic lights and opportunities for traffic to stop on Garden City Drive and slow down,” she said. “That was the biggest concern that I had, because of the turbulence of that area.”
However, she said reducing the amount of parking available at the station was still a concern.
“I believe that having a lot of parking options is very important for New Carrollton, especially when one of your stated transit-oriented development goals and principles is to reduce automobile dependency. Having that much parking available at the station helps take a lot of cars off the road, which is very important for our region,” May said.
Steve Teitelbaum, senior real estate advisor at Metro, said the project would result in a decrease in parking availability on the south side from more than 5,000 spaces to approximately 4,200. However, he said there are more than 900 vacant spaces at New Carrollton on an average day, and the nearby Landover station has more than 1,000 unused spots.
May said she believes the underuse at Landover is due to the traffic on Route 50.
“Pushing on the buck to Landover station is not really a feasible option because traffic on 50 starts well before Landover,” she said. “To get to Landover is a burden in itself, and so that’s probably why that parking lot is underutilized.”
Although decreasing the number of parking spaces could result in decreased revenues for Metro, the agency believes the development project is a net positive.
“No question about it, if we eliminate parking we could lose parking revenue,” Teitelbaum said. “We also get additional ridership, according to our projections, from doing a development project like this, and we get revenue from the land transfers. So to us, this is essentially a net positive transaction.”
Metro staff will incorporate public comment from Monday’s hearing, as well as written testimony and survey responses, into a report for the Metro Board of Directors, who have the final say in approving the project or not. The vote is expected in early 2017.