At its work session Tuesday, the College Park City Council brought up concerns over a preliminary subdivision plan from Gilbane Development Company in one of the first steps toward the development of two new apartment buildings adjacent to the College Park Metro Station.
Construction for the project, which would be located on 7201 River Road, is set to begin in May. It will include 440 multi-family units and more than 12,000 square feet of retail, said Gilbane Development Company vice president Robert Gilbane. The intended audience of the apartments will be young professionals, not students, Gilbane said.
At the work session, council members expressed concerns that the development might negatively impact pedestrians and the noise level in the surrounding area.
"To make sure that people use the Metro to the greatest extent possible, you need to make sure that the area around the development is walkable and bikeable," Mayor Patrick Wojahn said, adding that it "will help ensure that people feel that they can live in the development without having a car."
Prince George's County requires Gilbane Development Company to spend more than $136,000 on improvements to public pedestrian and bicycle facilities in the area, College Park city senior planner Miriam Bader said. The more units proposed in the development, the more the county requires to be spent on these enhancements, she said. Some of the proposed enhancements included landscaping, sidewalk improvements, a new traffic light at River Road and Rivertech Court and the addition of a bike-share station near the apartments, she said.
The city's planning department suggested the funds be spent on improving a pedestrian and bicycle tunnel to connect the east and west side of the Metro tracks, which Gilbane said he did not know was in the public realm until very recently. New lights, signs and paint — as well as art at the entrances — were all recommended to beautify the tunnel and make it safer.
District 4 councilwoman Mary Cook said she is concerned the development would decrease residents' quality of life by reflecting noise from the Metro. While the company said the apartments' proximity to the Metro would not make it too noisy for apartment tenants, residents feared the buildings would reflect noise from the Metro into surrounding neighborhoods. The company is in the process of studying this "very legitimate concern," Gilbane said, but he added that initial findings have shown it won't be a problem.
The city is expected to support the project under the condition that Gilbane addresses these concerns, including the new traffic light and tunnel enhancements, during development.
Although the county has final jurisdiction over the development review process, the city serves in an advisory role, Wojahn said. If the city opposes a project, it will heavily influence the county's decision on whether to approve the project, he said.
Bader said the council will draft their recommendation to the county planning board at the next city council meeting on Oct. 10.
Gilbane said this project is a collaborative effort between College Park and WMATA to redevelop the site, which has previously been attempted three times since the early 2000s. The company is just enabling that development vision to happen, he said.
"You've had since the development of the green line in the early 90s to today, so a quarter of a century has gone by and nothing has been redeveloped at this Metro station," Gilbane said. "There's a lot going on, a lot to be excited about. We're just excited to be a part of the overall redevelopment and path forward."