By Isabel Cleary
For The Diamondback
After years of planning, the proposed site for College Park's new coffeehouse and wine bar is moving forward, with construction expected to begin in March.
The proposed establishment, located at 7131 Baltimore Ave. — formerly the location of College Park Auto Parts — was slated to open in summer 2016. However, due to permit delays, construction was pushed back, said Tony Akaras, the property's owner.
Additional issues with obtaining permits further stalled progress, Akaras said, as he hoped the space would be open by late fall or early winter of 2017. These "significant" delays arose after Akaras decided to construct a sidewalk stretching along Guilford Road.
"It is important for the residents to be able to walk up and down Guilford Road and connect to Route 1 instead of having cars backing out of there," Akaras said. "The city did not hold up the project by creating a problem, it was the process that took time."
The addition of the sidewalk will also allow for outdoor seating, Akaras said, as it creates a buffer between the road and the outdoor space.
"We needed to work with the city for the portion of the site plan that was on Guilford Road to make it more pedestrian-friendly," he said.
Despite these obstacles, Akaras said he hopes the coffee shop will open by the end of 2018, estimating construction would take anywhere from six to nine months. The cafe will have some locally sourced wine, beers and food, Akaras said, adding there will also be a designated stage area for poetry readings and other small performances.
The name of this coffee and wine bar space has previously been referred to as "D3 Coffee and Ale House," Akaras said, but the name has not yet been finalized.
District 3 councilman John Rigg said he is excited about this development on Route 1, and said residents are anxious to see it become a reality.
"As a city councilmember I feel that there are a lot of questions on the progress, or lack thereof, of this particular spot, I know that there is a lot of interest," Rigg said.
Many College Park residents are excited to have a coffee shop with "local flavor," said Stuart Adams, a three-year College Park resident and president of the Calvert Hills Citizens Association.
Adams also said he thinks this place will bring residents and students together.
"[It] might have a little upscale feel to it with a coffee and ale house," Adams said. "But I think it will be somewhere where both students and residents can congregate."
The city's mayor, Patrick Wojahn, said he's looking forward to seeing the establishment open in the coming months.
"Having additional high quality restaurants, coffee shops and places for people to gather that serve both the students and the long term residents is important," Wojahn said. "It is a hallmark of a great college town in my opinion."
Wojahn also emphasized the benefits of Akaras' added sidewalk plans, as the city council is actively working to make College Park more walkable and pedestrian-friendly.
"I think it's great, it fits in very well with our goals of increasing safety for pedestrians and cyclists all around the city," Wojahn said.
The goal of this establishment is to bring the community together, Akaras said, creating a place where residents can visit three or four times per week to work, drink coffee and socialize.
Matthew Kirschenbaum, a professor of English at this university and a resident of Calvert Hills, said he is anxiously awaiting the project's completion.
"I would love to see it happen, I think that even with all the new development, the downtown still needs basic amenities like coffee shops and places for people to socialize," Kirschenbaum said. "It would be a little bit of a community focal point."