Editor's note: This story previously included a quote attributed to senior Jamie Conway, who was never interviewed for this story. The freelance reporter's other stories have been marked by this editor's note, and are under review. She will no longer be contributing to The Diamondback. We regret the error.
By Kate Casey
For The Diamondback
The College Park City Council introduced an ordinance Tuesday that would authorize the city to gain properties on Route 1 in efforts to expand City Hall.
City Hall is located on 4500 Knox Road, but the ordinance would allow the city to obtain properties located at 7409 and 7411 Baltimore Avenue. Subway, Shanghai Cafe, Smoothie King and a cell phone repair shop will be affected by the acquisition, according to the city documents.
With this expansion, the building would be visible from Route 1, said District 2 Councilman P.J. Brennan, and allow for more city officials to work inside of the building.
"Today, [City Hall] is at capacity, if not beyond capacity," Brennan said.
In 2014, the City of College Park and the University of Maryland formed a partnership for the redevelopment as a joined facility for city, university, and public usage. The currently offered option for reconstruction would include 45,000 square feet specifically for university offices and a building with 30,000 square feet specifically for city hall workers. The plan also includes a public plaza along the Route 1 frontage of City Hall, as well as potential rental office space for the public and retail space.
The council has discussed the expansion and improvement of City Hall in efforts to consolidate city officials for more than 20 years, according to the meeting agenda. The current public services staff is based out of an office on Calvert Road, and other City Hall workers have offices in the electrical room in the basement of City Hall, District 2 Councilman Monroe Dennis said.
"We are terribly overcrowded or at least very limited for extra space in the existing city hall," Dennis said. "In fact, sometimes, it has inhibited our expansion of City Hall staff."
In 2013, the city government deemed the expansion an "immediate priority" in its Redevelopment Concept Book. However, obtaining the additional land would require the city to negotiate with or condemn Margaret Jeanne Kurz Byrd, the property's current owner.
"The city manager and staff have been trying to negotiate with the Byrd property owners, and we are at a point where those negotiations and those discussions have not been progressing," Dennis said.
Senior Eve Sorkin, a communications major, said she regularly visits each of the restaurants along the section of Route 1, and she thinks removing them would hurt the local economy.
"If we are trying to rebuild this city, then we need all of the food and revenue we can get," Sorkin said. "All of those stores make a difference in the community, economically, and it all has a value to making College Park what is."
Sorkin said she thinks the city could find a better place to rebuild City Hall.
In 2014, the city decided to expand City Hall at the Knox Road location, rather than an alternate location on Calvert Road. However, Brennan said if the city had not picked the Knox Road location for the original development of City Hall, it would have been developed into student housing.
Brennan also said the city's downtown area has many different properties serving a variety of different purposes, adding that the city would likely work with the demolished businesses to find a new home within the area.
"College Park is diverse — we have students living here, we have single family houses, and we need to embrace that," Brennan said. "Rebuilding City Hall to consolidate the city staff in the downtown area will show that diversity is more than already represented in the area."
Citizens will have an opportunity to share their thoughts and discuss the acquiring the properties for the City Hall's expansion during a public hearing on Nov. 28 in the City Council Chambers.