Neighborhoods like Takoma Park were the inspiration for "Smart Growth" and "Transit Oriented Development" long before these terms of art were born. Some of its features are:
In March 2015, WMATA voted to proceed with a development agreement. In response to comments from our group, it agreed to consider underground parking as a way to reduce height. We will provide updates as DC planning officials vet the proposal. Below are links to a transcript of a June 2014 hearing WMATA conducted on the plan, WMATA's staff report on the hearing, and DC-MD Neighbors for Takoma Transit's comments.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE JUNE 18 TRANSCRIPT
CLICK HERE TO READ WMATA's HEARING REPORT
CLICK HERE TO READ OUR COMMENTS
OTHERS TO CONTACT:
FOR DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA RESIDENTS:
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton: 202-225-8050
Mayor Muriel Bowser: 202-727-6300
FOR MARYLAND RESIDENTS:
Rep. Chris Van Hollen: 202-225-5341
Sen. Barbara Mikulski: 202-224-4654
Sen. Ben Cardin: 202-224-4524
Sen. Jamie Raskin: 410-841-3634
Del. Sheila Hixson: 410-841-3469
Del. Will Smith: 410-841-3493
Del. David Moon: 410-841-3474
Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart:
Takoma Park Ward 1 Councilmember Peter Kovar:
PARKING PREDOMINATES: The development puts pared-back WMATA parking at street level, with the building perched above it on columns. Its private residential parking is in a large structure along the tracks. None is underground, and the pedestrian route from Eastern Ave. to the station hugs the open surface parking lot. This creates an ugly walk to the station, and all the surface/structured parking creates a much taller and bulkier building than any of the other recently built projects nearby, most of which have underground parking.
STILL OFF TRACK: The current design isn't as awful as the maze of two-car garage townhouses that EYA previously tried to impose on Takoma Park under the guise of "smart growth," but it's still too big. This time, the developer is substituting vertical overreach for horizontal sprawl. The old incarnation would have hogged all the Metro station's exterior acreage, save for a sliver of green space in front of the 7-Eleven which the company euphemistically described as a "village green." Despite that proposal's many obvious flaws - like blocking WMATA from future transit use of the property - entities including WMATA seemed eager to rubber stamp it. At that time, EYA and some purported "smart growth" groups insisted the disastrous blueprint they've now abandoned was the sort of transit-oriented development to be hailed with Hosannas. Just as they're doing now. The company hired a lobbyist and PR company called Chesapeake Public Strategies to gin up astroturf support; and EYA-funded cheerleaders like the so-called "Coalition for Smarter Growth," are peddling misinformation about the scope of the current plan.
RIGHT-SIZED, NOT SUPER-SIZED DEVELOPMENT: Neighbors of this project are open to replacing the ugly parking lot near their homes with something more aesthetic and useful, but the plusses must outweigh the minuses. To believe in smart growth, one does not have to endorse something this overbearing in scale and insensitive to its surrounding neighborhood. A well thought-out, properly designed project could improve the neighborhood, but the plan's placement of all parking above ground level makes it 75 feet tall. The four other apartment buildings that are already built or approved by the tracks are 50 feet tall - in conformity with DC zoning regulations. And none of the new buildings at the Fort Totten, Catholic University & NOMA Metro stations exceed five stories in height, even though they're in more urban neighborhoods. As with anything, the pros and cons to the community need to be evaluated. Details matter. EYA's reluctance to present such details - like a massing study that would compare the project to surrounding residences - suggests they're being withheld because they will be a big "con" that might derail their plans.
VIOLATES THE AREA'S MASTER PLAN AND WORSENS TRAFFIC:The Takoma Central District Plan was devised to let the community help set development parameters. The District of Columbia formally adopted it, and it is supposed to guide development at the Metro site. Yet, EYA's proposal conflicts with it in numerous ways. The district plan recommends construction of three to four story tall garden style apartments or town houses rather than something seven stories tall. It calls for a landscaped buffer of "not less than 50 feet" to be put between the Metro transit facilities and existing residential uses, such as the existing Eastern Avenue apartments. EYA's blueprint doesn't do that. The plan says the development should mitigate congestion at intersections. This proposal does nothing but dump more traffic onto narrow streets and overtaxed intersections like Cedar/Carroll and Eastern/Piney Branch, which are already "failing" at rush hour in that they don't clear in one light cycle. Their dubious traffic analysis doesn't factor in that Eastern Avenue is barely wide enough for two WMATA buses to pass each other and that nearby intersections are sufficiently congested to earn "F" ratings.
WHAT WE DO SUPPORT: The new building should be compatible in terms of height, bulk and design with the existing neighborhood. It should front upon existing streets to increase pedestrian safety and activity. The green space at Cedar and Carroll streets should be kept as a permanent public park and the green space adjoining the garden apartments on Eastern Avenue should remain a permanent green buffer. Most parking should be underground to reduce building's size, as was done with all of the new developments surrounding the station in the last 10 years. Parking for Metro's Kiss and Ride, for people with disabilities, and for the taxis and buses should remain on the surface close to station entrances.
WHAT'S NEXT: We are now entering a crucial phase in the review process. Now that the Metro board signed off on the plan, Washington DC's Zoning Commission and Historic Preservation Review Board will consider it in 2016. Now these groups need to hear from the entire community. Please sign the petition at the bottom of this page. We have already collected more than 150 signatures at community festivals. We'll be in touch soon about a public meeting near the Metro Station to plan the next steps in this effort. If you care about how your community will look in coming years, this is your chance to help shape that future.
In upcoming months, the developer intends to seek waivers of the site's existing zoning restrictions through the District of Columbia's Planned Unit Development procedure, which would include community meetings. We plan to monitor this development at every step to encourage public comment in hopes of improving the project.
DONATION SITE FOR HISTORIC TAKOMA'S LEGAL FIGHT VS. THE DEVELOPMENT:
This website was produced by immediate Maryland and DC neighbors of the proposed development who will live with its consequences after EYA moves on. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will update it when new information becomes available.
FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE:
TOWERS OVER SURROUNDING PROPERTIES: This massive seven-story apartment building's failure to conform to the height requirements of the area's zoning could severely impact surrounding homes, which are located in a historic district. Putting a small, 8 to 10 foot indentation atop the building to claim it's three stories tall on Eastern instead of four does not reduce the development's impact on the street, as its backers say. The section of the building on Eastern Avenue is in a residential zone with a height limit of 40 feet. Closer to the train tracks, the building is in a commercial zone with a 50 foot height limit. Without a real reduction in scale, this complex's more than 72 foot height will tower over nearby apartment buildings and smaller single family homes the way the Takoma Central building beside the 7-11 dwarfs adjacent properties (see above). The project's current incarnation is not human scale or pedestrian friendly and above ground parking is prioritized. Underground parking, which other recently built neighborhood projects offer, would greatly reduce the building's size. The developers claim it's too expensive but won't provide any detailed analysis. At the 180,000 minimum square footage the developer requested, EYA's gargantuan project will be two stories taller than Takoma Central. It is possible to build something less overwhelming on the site, but EYA and WMATA won't agree.