By Hugh Garbrick
For The Diamondback
As development in downtown College Park surges, District 1 resident Harriet McNamee said she and other residents have mixed feelings about the long-term effects of construction on the community.
The Hotel at the University of Maryland, a multi-million dollar development located on Route 1, is one of the city's newest amenities. It opened in early September with several restaurants underneath — Old Maryland Grill, Kapnos Taverna, Potomac Pizza and Bagels 'n Grinds.
Traffic is a main concern when it comes to adding more retail and restaurants in the city, McNamee said.
"If you were to look at it from the resident's perspective, most of us would say don't do any development because traffic is so horrendous, but that's not the reality of the situation," McNamee said. "So sometimes it feels like our concerns aren't being taken care of."
McNamee loves having new restaurants in the area, she said, but is worried what Route 1 will look like when The Hotel is filled to capacity, or when a convention is hosted there.
"The traffic has gotten so bad on Route 1 that I seriously have to think about whether there [is] something in downtown College Park that I want," she said. "I have to seriously think: 'Is it worth the hassle of driving down there?'"
In efforts to address these concerns, Mayor Patrick Wojahn requires every developer to complete a traffic analysis to show "their development is not going to create an unreasonable burden," he said.
Wojahn said a lot of the traffic in the city is caused by those traveling outside the city to reach amenities College Park currently lacks. The city needs to use existing infrastructure and promote walkability to alleviate congestion on Route 1, he added.
District 1 councilman Fazlul Kabir also expressed concerns about traffic, emphasizing the council asks developers to approach community members before starting a project.
"If you stop developing in College Park, it's just going to go further out, and then people will have to travel further to get to it," Wojahn said. "That's what has lead us to a lot of the traffic problems that we have now."
The Hotel will boost the city's economy and fuel support for local businesses, Wojahn said.
Although people of neighboring municipalities such as Lance Yonkos, a resident of University Park — located just outside of College Park — said it's too early to judge whether The Hotel will truly benefit the city.
Yonkos, who is also an agriculture and natural resources university professor, said he hopes the development of the restaurants will help sustain growth in the local economy.
"I think that will be kind of an anchor for some sort of development you'd like to see, rather than sprawling," Yonkos said.
Wojahn views The Hotel as a "game-changer," and some residents agree it fills the need for more upscale dining options in the area.
However, District 4 councilwoman Mary Cook said sometimes community outreach doesn't go far enough, as developers often only approach those in their "immediate vicinity."
Barb Tymann, a Hyattsville resident, said she thinks developers build however they please, without consulting with city residents or those living just outside the area.
"It seems like whenever developers come in they're just given carte blanche to do whatever they want," Tymann said. "Development is good if it is curtailed. To kind of blend in with what's here already. But I don't feel that's being done."