Although College Park representatives initially opposed the Riverdale Park Station construction, the project is now underway after the Prince George’s County Council voted to rezone the land and approve necessary preliminary changes.
The project, which began in February, will create a mixed-use development area on Route 1 in Riverdale.
The project’s first phase involves building a Whole Foods grocery store, more than 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and 22,000 square feet of office space, said Jonathan Ebbeler, Riverdale Park councilman and the city’s Economic Development Committee chairman.
The second phase includes the creation of 981 residential units — 855 multi-family homes and 126 townhomes — as well as a 120-room hotel.
Calvin Cafritz Enterprises, one of the largest developers in Washington, will privately fund the $350 to 400 million project, Ebbeler said.
Cafritz owned the land since the 1950s and tried several times to develop it, but a lack of local support blocked the plans. But this year, Cafritz “negotiated a deal that was mutually beneficial both to the town and the developer,” Ebbeler said.
The finished product will connect several parts of the area, including the west and east sides of Riverdale Park, College Park and the M Square Research Park via a bridge over the CSX railroad, Ebbeler said. The development will also piece together the hiking and biking “Trolley Trail” that runs from Hyattsville to College Park.
Some College Park residents originally thought traffic problems would arise from the development, said Michael Stiefvater, College Park’s economic development coordinator, but these connections should ease potential issues.
The project also involves bringing a shuttle service to provide morning and evening access to the College Park and Prince George’s Plaza Metro stations, Ebbeler said.
Stiefvater said he is enthusiastic about the project because of the “spin-off benefit” it should present for College Park.
The development is adjacent to the city limits, and having a Whole Foods could provide an incentive for future retailers and a more convenient grocery store for residents of downtown College Park, he said.
However, this development project might not be close enough for students who don’t have access to a car, said Max Abraham, a junior Jewish studies and kinesiology major who lives in University Park.
“I’m excited for there to be a grocery store nearby since I cook all the time, but its location is not very practical,” he said. “Many of the students who live in apartments have cars already, but those who don’t can order from Peapod. If they build a grocery store in downtown College Park, it might be something to make some more noise about.”
To better this situation for downtown residents, College Park residents are also lobbying for a Trader Joe’s in the area, Ebbeler said.
Ebbeler said he hopes to see success from this desire, especially in light of results from a study the Hyattsville Community Development Corporation conducted in 2012. The study found potential for economic success in the area, but also found a variety of constraints such as stagnant income growth, unadjusted for college-aged population growth in and around College Park.
The study also examined the existing and potential future demand for retail development along the Route 1 corridor from the border of Washington to Powder Mill Road, including College Park, Hyattsville, University Park and Riverdale Park.
“[This university] is a top-20 university, but [College Park] is not a top-20 town,” Ebbeler said. “It has everything going for it, except it won’t get out of the way of itself.”
The municipalities in this area also see more attention going to Washington, he said — when parents come to visit their children at this university, they opt to stay in Washington instead of nearby areas. Ebbeler said he hopes to see the municipalities in the area use the retail potential to work more as a unit.
However, university President Wallace Loh said this project is all part of “revitalizing” the College Park area.
“It’s all coming together,” Loh said. “We should see Riverdale Park Station as part of this larger development. … As I said, three, five years from now, this whole place will look very, very different.”
Senior staff writer Ellie Silverman contributed to this report.