Michael Theis is the editor and publisher of Route 1 Reporter. He grew up in Hyattsville and College Park. He has more than 10 years experience as a professional journalist, working for such news outlets as the Frederick News-Post, The Shepherdstown Chronicle, Patch.com and the Austin Business Journal.
Incumbents – with one exception – swept the day in College Park’s City Council races. Topping the ballot was Mayor Patrick Wojahn, who won a third two-year term at the center of the dais with 1,532 votes, or 78 percent of the 1,964 votes cast. His nearest rival, Nikesha S. Pancho took 13.7 percent of the ballot, or 268 votes, while Lazlarliani Maslawma earned only 164 votes, or 8.3 percent of the ballot. Maslawma stirred controversy on the campaign for homophobic remarks criticizing Wojahn and District Two Councilor P.J. Brennan, who are both gay. Wojahn, after the results were announced, thanked the voters of College Park for their support.
“I am excited; I am humbled; I am pleased that the residents of College Park have given me another two years to be their mayor,” said Wojahn.
Hyattsville City Council voted 10-to-one to recommend county officials impose a slew of conditions on a proposed demolition and redevelopment of the Sunoco gas station next to the Prince George’s Plaza Metro Station. The proposal is controversial from a policy perspective. The gas station is located in the heart of zoning area designed to encourage dense, walkable, mixed-use development to surround the Metro station. The entire area is marketed as Hyattsville’s second downtown, and according to city planners – as well as years of City Council policymaking – auto-oriented uses such as gas stations and drive-throughs are not permitted to be built or, for those that already exist, are not allowed to significantly expand. Hyattsville City Council’s vote came after the developer submitted a revised application that dramatically reduced the size of the planned retail and office building for the project.
New details of a planned Marriott Hotel near College Park’s Metro station have come into light as the project seeks county approval for its preliminary plan of subdivision, a procedural step where property lines are redrawn to accommodate new development.
Prior documents have revealed the broad size of the project – 126,000 square-feet – planned for a triangular-shaped 2.1-acre parcel bound by Campus Drive, Corporal Frank Scott Drive and Lehigh Road practically across the street from the College Park-University of Maryland Metro Station. The latest filings, to be discussed by College Park City Council at its Nov. 6, 2019, worksession, reveal the hotelier, through Republic Properties Corp. and its holding company New Hotel LLC, plans to build a 165-unit hotel with 8,000 square feet of retail space.
College Park City Staff recommend City Council issue a letter of support to the Prince George’s Planning Board with some conditions, including improvements to area sidewalks, and the installation of a bus shelter at 50th Avenue and Campus Drive.
Additional documents on file with county planning officials reveal the footprint of the planned hotel, which will form a kind of boomerang shape with most of the building massed along Campus Drive, north of River Road. The documents also show the developer plans to build a new road through the property, extending River Road across Campus Drive to Lehigh Road.
A (very pixelated, apologies) diagram showing the proposed footprint of a planned Marriott Hotel developers hope to build near the College Park Metro Station.
College Park voters head to the polls Tuesday to vote for new city council members. But the votes that may have the biggest long-term impact focus less on candidates and more on the city’s government structure. In College Park, voters will consider two questions designed to inform the next City Council will proceed with changes to the city charter to extend Council terms from two years to four, and to weigh the merits of staggered or concurrent terms for City Council. Currently all College Park City Council members are elected to two year terms, with every seat up for election every cycle. The ballot will contain the following language and ballot options:
The Mayor and Council of the City of College Park currently serve two-year terms. They are seeking your input on two questions: 1) Should there be two- or four-year terms?
Hyattsville City Council will consider a controversial proposal to demolish the gas station at Belcrest Road and East-West Highway so that a larger gas station can be built in its place. The proposal is controversial for several reasons. The biggest reason is that the redevelopment project is located smack dab in the center of the Prince George’s Plaza Transit Overlay Zone, a special zoning category designed to create a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood befitting the Prince George’s Plaza Metro Station.
Gas stations, as a result, are not permitted under those zoning rules. However, this gas station, a Sunoco built in 1961, is grandfathered in. An existing gas station, such as the Sunoco, would be allowed to build a small expansion, but generally cannot expand its building fooprint by more than 15 percent.
We now know a little bit more about developer plans to build a roughly 300-unit mixed-use student-housing apartment building near Baltimore Avenue and Berwyn Road in College Park. The new details are courtesy of an application for a preliminary plan of subdivision, a procedural step where developers ask for county approval to redraw property lines to accommodate their plans.
The documents reveal new details such as a breakdown of unit-types and the project retail square footage planned for the site. According to the documents, the developers plan to build 296 residential units and 1,080 square feet of retail space into the project. Plans call for 41 studio units, 24 one-bedroom units, 65 two-bedroom units, and 166 four-bed units. If you’re counting beds, that’s roughly 860 student-housing beds planned for Baltimore Avenue in midtown College Park.
Route 1 Reporter first wrote about this development in March.
The planned redevelopment of Beltway Plaza has taken another step down the road, as the mall’s owners have submitted paperwork to redraw property lines to build 211 townhomes and condominiums, the first of a planned five-phase project that would reshape the old mall into an mixed-use town center with retail, office and residential uses.
Earlier this month, mall owners Quantum Cos. filed an application seeking approval of its preliminary plan of subdivision for the first phase of the redevelopment. According to the documents, Quantum is asking for approval to divide the land into 139 townhome lots, six lots to house 72 condominium units, and 53 lots set aside for commercial use. But it also goes into great detail showing just how the mall’s owners plan to break up what is today an enclosed retail center and run a grid of roads through the property. See below:
Most obviously, the area where you today enter the Giant Grocery store from within the mall would be replaced by a large parking lot.
Another chart submitted as part of the application, seen below, shows how the developers plan to assemble their townhomes, which would be built along the parking lot in the mall’s rear, to the north.
In part because the city’s financial audits are late, plans to renovate a Mount Rainier-owned building, Potts Hall, into a civic center still seem to be a long ways off, with city officials saying it will be an uphill battle to assemble the millions of dollars needed for the project.
During its most-recent City Council meeting Mount Rainier council members discussed the proposed renovations. A key focus of the discussion was efforts to solicit funding for the project from state agencies and officials. Mayor Malinda Miles has approached the governor’s office for funding, while Councilor Luke Chesek discussed his outreach to the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development for funding. But during the discussion, it became apparent that the piecemeal approach to funding the project likely won’t add up to the amount necessary to begin work.
“When I hear you guys talk about all those buckets, to me none of those things add up to the $5 million to $8 million,” lamented Councilor Luke Chesek during the meeting. Instead, according to Chesek, the city will likely be pushed by DHCD and other officials to go after low-interest loans for the project, which is estimated to cost between $5 million to $8 million (with the significant caveat that those estimates are several years old by this point).
In a mostly-procedural – and sometimes confusing – step, Hyattsville City Council gave its conditional blessing to a proposal to redraw property lines on a 4-acre property to accommodate a planned 880-unit mixed-use residential development near the University Town Center Neighborhood. This project is unique in that developers Dewey LC and its parent Prince George’s Metro Center Inc. did not complete assembly of the property they hope to build upon before starting the development application process. This past June, Dewey LC received county approval to redraw property lines – or its “preliminary plan of subdivision” – for a 17.30-acre, horseshoe-shaped parcel of land bordering Belcrest Road, Toledo Road and Adelphi Road dubbed “The Dewey Property”. That property will hold 500 units, according to planning documents. The application considered last night by Hyattsville City Council focused instead on the formerly missing “Dewey East Parcel”, a dagger-shaped, 4.3-acre slice of land today occupied by a large parking lot.