Council to Add More Funding for Business Assistance, Work and Live Program

Home ownership

The Council will vote tonight  to introduce an ordinance allocating additional $20,000 to the FY 2012 Capital and Operating budget.

The additional funds are needed to provide funding for Sign Granting Business Assistance program and Work and Live Homeownership Grant Program, each getting $10,000.

The public hearing on this budget Ordinance is scheduled for 7:45 P.M. on Tuesday, March 13, 2012, when the Council will vote to approve the ordinance.

FY2013 Budget WishList

The challenge of making a sound budget

In last Thursday’s NCPCA meeting Council member Wojahn (Dist 1) and I were present to talk about our own wish list for FY2013 budget and listen to what other residents think the City should be doing in the upcoming fiscal year.

Here are three items we both discussed..

  • Funding to design and implement streetscape improvement plan in the Hollywood Commercial District. There is currently $25,000 in the budget to begin the design process this year, and we would like to follow through on implementing whatever the community and the designers develop.
  • Funding for next steps in development of a community center in North College Park. I’m not sure that we will know exactly what that will look like until we have community meetings later this year and complete the feasibility study that we have money set aside for in this current fiscal year. We think, though, that we would be more likely to bring Park and Planning on board for this project if the City devotes some funds towards it.
  • Rain garden near the Hollywood Shopping Center. This would be a joint project of Carrollton Enterprises, REI, and the CBE, and we may get funding from Carrollton to support it. But we would need to have the labor to put in the rain garden and the tools and materials necessary to do it. I imagine we could use past experience from the Rain Garden at Duvall Field to estimate cost.

The NCPCA voted to support the first two, and they didn’t take a position on the 3rd. They also asked to put the following on their wishlist:

  • Money to expand the tree replacement program, due to increased trimming of trees by Pepco.
  • More pedestrian lights in the Hollywood Commercial District (possibly as part of streetscape plan)
  • Directional signs pointing drivers to side streets off of the Rhode Island Ave. access road (similar to the sign pointing the way to Lackawanna and Muskogee Streets at the access point from Rhode Island Ave. just south of Hollywood ES).

Two of us also plan to have a mini town hall meting sometime before council worksessions where we will discuss the FY2013 budget more in depth about. In the mean time, if you have more ideas, please let me know.

North College Park Mini Town Hall Meeting

Mary Lehman

On this Thursday, February 16, Councilwoman Lehman is hosting a town hall for North College Park residents.

Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to learn about various County and City initiatives. You can expect to hear the latest from:

  • Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC)
  • Prince George’s Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPW&T)
  • Police District 1
  • City Department of Public Works
  • City Department of Planning
  • City Department of Public Service

Please bring a neighbor or friend.

Hollywood Elementary School
9811 49th Avenue
February 16, 2012 6:30-8:30 pm

Final US1 Sector Plan Document Now Available

Route 1

After a long wait, the final US 1 sector plan document is now available.

Yesterday, I received an email from the M-NCPPC Chief Planner Chad Wiliams telling me that the final printed version of the Central US 1 Corridor Sector Plan and Sectional Map Amendment is now available.

Hard copies can be obtained from the Planning Information Services counter in the County Administration Building at 14741 Governor Oden Bowie Drive in Upper Marlboro, MD, and will cost $12.00.

A free electronic version can be viewed and downloaded from this website: http://www.pgplanning.org/Resources/Publications/Central_US_1.htm.

31 of 270 City Businesses are Vacant

Vacant building across Route 1 in north College Park

In last Tuesday’s work session, the Council discussed some important findings from the 2010 College Park Resident Satisfaction Survey in relation to the list of the ten most wanted business types in the city.

According to the survey result, the list ranges from a grocery store to a gift card shop, provides valuable information for staff to use in discussions with property owners, brokers, developers, and business owners. With multiple retail vacancies across the city, a plan to match vacant spaces with these desired businesses is also an important step. Within the city limits, there are 270 storefront retail spaces that amount to 1,372,278 square feet.

There are currently 31 vacant retail spaces in the city, not including vacant spaces with signed leases, totaling 95,267 square feet. As a whole, the vacancy rate in College Park is only 6.94% compared to the national vacancy rate of between 9-10%. Many of the vacant spaces are small and would require significant improvement in order to accommodate some of the businesses listed.

In order to assess the interest of businesses in College Park, staff routinely reaches out to business owners and tenant brokers. Over the past few months, staff has also attended three retail conferences that included discussion panels and networking opportunities. While some of the businesses have expressed interest in relocating here, there are often obstacles, such as the difficulty in obtaining a liquor license or the lack of suitable space, that prevent this from happening.

City-University Vision, Budget Wish List at Tonight’s NCPCA Meeting

NCPCA - It's Your Neighborhood Association

Today is the second Thursday of the month and thus is the day for north College Park Civic Association’s monthly meeting.

Meeting will start with a talk by City Mayor Andrew Fellows on the City – University Partnership program. Since last summer, University of Maryland officials, local City, County and State leaders have been working towards a vision to make College Park a top 20 College town. As part of this vision, five working groups have been developing strategies towards the following issue areas: public safety, housing and development, transportation, education, and sustainability. The Council will be adopting the vision document in its next Tuesday’s council session. The Council will also voice its support for the Charter school as envisioned by this partnership program.

Members will then discuss the FY2013 budget priorities. Council member Wojahn and I will present a few of our own budget wishes, however we’re more willing to know what the residents want to see in the next budget. Two of us also plan to have a mini town hall meeting some time in future before the council discusses the budget in its work sessions. In the mean time if you have any ideas on 2013 budget but cannot attend tonight’s meeting, please let us know.

Members will also discuss progresses made by steering committees on safety, Edgewood & Route 1, Variance , neighbor outreach, CSX / Beltsville, Greenbelt Sector plan and Route 1 reengineering. NCPCA members formed these committees in their January meeting.

You can see more about tonight’s meeting agenda here on NCPCA’s website: http:// myncpca.org

As usual meeting will start at 7:30pm at Davis Hall (public works building). See you all there.

City to Continue Supporting Business Sign Grant Program

Azteca College Park

In last night’s council work session the Council expressed interest to provide additional funding in the amount of $10,000 to assist in meeting the demand for the program.

The decision will be voted on the next week’s regular council session.

Established in Fiscal Year 2010, the City of College Park Commercial Sign Grant Program has provided businesses with up to $2,500 in dollar for dollar matching grants for the design, fabrication, and installation of storefront signs.

By providing signage incentives, the City is encouraging new and existing businesses to improve their streetscape appearance with quality design and materials. The program serves as a relatively affordable way to support our local businesses.

To date, the Commercial Sign Grant Program has provided $36,463.88 in matching grants to 17 different businesses. The majority of grant recipients are located in Lower Midtown and Downtown, with 8 and 7 businesses, respectively.

Several new businesses have expressed interest in the program and are expected to apply should funds become available. Additionally, there are several deals in the works to occupy formerly vacant spaces, so there should be numerous candidates for the program. For Fiscal Year 2012, the program received $10,000 in funding, which has all been awarded to businesses. In order to continue the popular program, additional funding is needed to accommodate further applications.

Unfortunately, out of 17 businesses who took advantage of the program, only one (Azteca Restaurant) business operates in north College Park. That means, we’ll have to work harder to get more businesses in north College Park take benefit of this program.

Fiscal Year 2013 funds, if appropriated, would not be available until July 1, 2012, which leaves several months where no grants can be awarded if additional funding is not provided.

City Eyes to Make College Park Garage Free During Summer Weekends

City garage

The Council will discuss tomorrow if the City should offer free parking at the City parking garage on summer Saturdays, as a means of encouraging patronage of downtown businesses.

Currently City offers free parking during Sundays only. According to staff, the average lost revenue for a summer Saturday would be approximately $563.

Staff discussed offering free Saturday parking after Memorial Day (May 28, 2012), until 2 weekends before the UM fall semester begins on August 29. This would be 11 Saturdays, from June 2 through August 11. Therefore, The total lost revenue for 11 summer Saturdays would be approximately $6,200.

Staff is also recommending to spend an additional $500 towards at least one banner for the garage. Thus the total estimated cost of offering free garage parking on 11 summer Saturdays is $6,700.

Making the garage free might increase willingness of people to come to downtown College Park and patronize our businesses on the weekends. Please let me know your thoughts on whether the City should pursue this.

Council to Kick Off M-Square Development Discussion Tomorrow

Current M Square Master plan

After discussing much debated Cafritz and the Book Exchange developments in the past month, the City council will take yet another development in tomorrow’s Council work session discussion.

M Square development is a 13.43 acre of office space in 3 buildings and a 4 story parking garage, to be built in 3 phases, at the M Square Research Park. The property owner is the State of Maryland and the developer is COPT Development and Construction Services, LLC.

The developer, M Square Associates, LLC has recently submitted a Detailed Site Plan (DSP) to the Prince George’s County Planning Board. A hearing date for the application has been set on March 8, 2012. According to schedule, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) technical staff report will be available February 23, 2012.

The Research Park is part of the Riverside Preliminary Plan and is located within the College Park-Riverdale Transit District Overlay Zone
(TDOZ). The site is located on the east side of River Road, approximately one-half mile west of its intersection with Kenilworth Avenue. The USDA building is to the southeast of the site and the NOAA building is to the east of the site. The proposed development is located primarily in the City of College Park and partially in the Town of Riverdale Park (majority of Lot 15 and a portion of Lot 16). The Town of Riverdale Park anticipates taking a position on the subject DSP application on February 6, 2012.

The Applicant originally submitted the DSP application in February 2010 as a way to address density, trip cap, and parking
issues associated with the DSP. The subject DSP was scheduled for review by the Mayor and Council in September 2011, but the
Applicant did not proceed with the application at that time. The Applicant revised the DSP to address environmental, parking, and other design issues that were identified by City of College Park, Town of Riverdale Park, and M-NCPPC staff and resubmitted the DSP in December 2011.

The new proposed DSP includes reduced parking and more amenities for pedestrians, including a more pedestrian-friendly entrance and a focus on one side of the buildings more on pedestrian access than automobile access. The new design reduces parking along River Road and provides a wider sidewalk.

Staff recommends approval of the DSP with some conditions:

  • Move the buildings to allow for more for a larger pedestrian plaza
  • Eliminate parking spots within 40 feet of River Road and replacing these with green space
  • Add additional bicycle amenities and shower and changing facilities for cyclists
  • Assure an appropriate storm water management plan
  • Comply with trip caps and implementation of a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan
  • Fund to support a City Bikeshare program.

Apartment Fire at Spellman House

An apartment fire broke yesterday at the Spellman House on Berwyn House road. Occupants of two apartments were temporarily relocated. No injuries have been reported. The city’s code enforcement department is looking into why the apartment’s alarm system did not work. For more, please check this Fox news report.

Smart Home Energy Program Now Available for College Park Residents

Be SMART Home Energy Program

Are you looking to improve home energy efficiency through replacement and upgrading of appliances, heating, cooling and ventilation systems and whole house envelope improvements? Consider applying for a Be SMART Home Program loan.

The Be SMART Home Program offers innovative financing to improve home energy efficiency through replacement and upgrading of appliances, heating, cooling and ventilation systems and whole house envelope improvements across the state. These changes will save the homeowner money, increase the safety and comfort of the home, and add value to the home.

The Be SMART Home Program offers two types of loans: Be SMART Home ENERGY STAR and Be SMART Home Complete. Through both types of financing, home owners are able to choose their weatherization and energy efficiency professionals from a list of eligible providers whose qualifications have been reviewed by DHCD.

More information about these programs is here.

Planning Board Approves Cafritz Project

Cafritz development at Riverdale Park

The Planning Board yesterday approved the Cafritz development in a 4-0 votes.

The decision was handed after 15 hours of deliberations from residents and elected officials.

The approval came with a number of conditions, that included a January 25 consensus conditions, plus a few new ones added yesterday.

Earlier, the towns of Riverdale Park and University Park approved the project. The City of College Park did not.

The case now goes to District council, whee the county council members will decide the final fate of the project.

The Patch ran a minute by minute accounts of yesterday’s hearing, which can be found here.

Hollywood Residents Discuss Sidewalks Near School

Safe routes to school

Yesterday evening, I attended a a meeting with a group of Hollywood residents at Davis Hall. City received a federal grant that we’d like to spend on building sidewalks leading to Hollywood elementary school.

This is the third year we’ll be doing this project. In the past two years, we worked on a number of streets, all leading to Hollywood Elementary school.

The streets that we initially considered are the followings:

Laguna Road, between 48th Place and 49th Place.
49th Place, between Lackawanna Street and Muskogee Street.
Narragansett Parkway, between Lackawanna Street and 52nd Avenue.
51st Place, between Narragansett Parkway and Kennesaw Street.
Hollywood Road, between 51st Avenue and Narragansett Parkway.

Some residents preferred not to have side walks on Laguna Rd, another family also wanted to exclude 51st Place from the list, so those two streets were excluded. Instead the group proposed to extend 49th place upto Lackawanna Road and there were also a proposal to build sidewalks along the west side of Rhode Island Avenue’s west service road between Muskoge and The Nazarene Church.

The City engineer will review the proposed sidewalks and will contact the nearby residents to discuss the matter further.

Purple Line TOD Study: What is your Vision?

Purple line through Campus Drive (ReThink College Park)

The Prince George’s County Planning Department of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is sponsoring a series of public meetings to consider the future of transit-oriented development (TOD) along the planned Purple Line light rail transit corridor.

The next one is scheduled today in Riverdale, where there will be a discussion on M-Square and UMD station. The meeting will take place at the Department of Parks and Recreation Administration Building, 6600 Kenilworth Avenue, Riverdale, MD 20737 (6:30pm – 8:30pm).

The Planning Department is working with community residents, property owners, and businesses to prepare TOD plans for five proposed Purple Line stations in Prince George’s County.

You will have an opportunity to define a vision and give input on each station’s identity, streetscape, architectural character, uses, and amenities. Your ideas and comments will inform the development of preliminary concept plans for each of the five station areas.

Two more sessions are coming in the next two weeks – one on Feb 9 at Hyatsville Hyattsville Library ( 6530 Adelphi Road) and another on Feb 15 in Riverdale (Beacon Heights Elementary School, 6929 Furman Parkway). Both meetings are scheduled at 6:30pm.