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Improved access to Cafritz development is a step forward

The Cafritz development along Route 1 in Riverdale Park is slated to bring the first Whole Foods to Prince George's County. While one neighboring community is trying to cut off access, another sees opportunity in increasing connectivity.

Photo by *Brujita* on Flickr.

The Riverdale Town council, at first inclined to restrict access to the project only from Route 1, may now see access to the development from the south, along Maryland Avenue, as a chance to open its own town center to additional traffic. This commercial area adjacent to the MARC station, and home to a popular farmers market, has struggled to find tenants. It could become a successful complement to the Cafritz project.

By contrast, University Park wants any new traffic signal on Baltimore Avenue at Van Buren Street to prevent traffic from crossing into its residential streets. Yet access works both ways.

Without such a light, town residents will have to use some part of Route 1 to shop at Whole Foods. And that feeling of being trapped by traffic, which residents have commented on at council meetings, would only grow worse.

Good news on access was heard at Cafritz's presentation last Thursday to the Riverdale Park council. The cost of building a bridge or ramp over the CSX line at the rear of the property is possibly much lower than the $15 million first expected. This would provide access to River Road on the the other side of the tracks, with its significant office developments.

Vehicular access into College Park to the north, along Rhode Island Avenue, may remain a dream. This means that College Park residents from adjoining neighborhoods will have to make a left onto Baltimore Avenue, and another left into the site, to get to the development.

Yes, they can use buses and shuttles, which should be integrated into the design from the outset. Or perhaps they can walk or bike along the trail that the Cafritz development will now complete. But many people who go grocery shopping choose to take their cars. Forcing them all onto arteries won't repeal this preference, but it may make traveling on those arteries more difficult for everyone.

Roland Stephen recently moved to University Park, in PG County, from Raleigh, NC, where he spent many years working on a broad range of policy issues at the state and local level. He is interested in the economic development challenges of the DC metro area. 


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I seem to recall reading somewhere that there is a pedestrian underpass buried under the tracks, dating to the original station. any chance of digging that out?

by scratchy F on Sep 27, 2011 1:38 pm • linkreport

@scratchy According to the Cafritz folks, CSX is a lot more comfortable with a bridge crossing than a tunnel because of how it impacts the trackbed and underlying soil. Apparently there's some discussion of integrating the bridge into a planned parking structure, two birds with one stone. That was persented purely speculatively, though. It'd all be part of the 'some time later' phase two, although community folks are starting to push for the CSX crossing earlier and the Cafritz folks seem open to that (the lower projected cost probably helps.)

At a community meeting, I asked about both rebuilding Rhode Island Ave and building out the street wall on Baltimore Ave. The architecht's answer seemed to boil down to 'we don't want to freak out the neighbors'. I live in Calvert Hills and I think reconnecting RI Ave is a great idea - I can hear the cries and screams already, though.

In my purely anecdotal sense, College Park (And UP and RP) residents still think of the area as fairly suburban, which shapes thinking about roads, mixed use and the like.

by Distantantennas on Sep 27, 2011 2:22 pm • linkreport

Distant - Why don't you try telling your neighbors that the evil developer is keeping them away from the store by refusing to connect Rhode Island Avenue?

Seriously, often an idea that would be rejected out of hand if it came from outside gets a hearing on the merits if it comes from within the neighborhood.

by Ben Ross on Sep 27, 2011 2:39 pm • linkreport


Great post. Where's the Maryland Avenue you're talking about? I lived in College Park for four years and I have no idea where that is.

That said, I think more connectivity, not less, is what the Cafritz Property needs. Bring a street north from East-West Highway and connect it to Riverdale Park. Bring a street west from River Road and let people walk to work in M-Square. And yes, connect it to Rhode Island Avenue and the streets across Route 1. (Even better: connect each of the disconnected segments of Rhode Island Avenue all the way up to the Beltway, giving local traffic an alternative to Route 1.)

This area has the potential to become Prince George's answer to Bethesda - not just a place with lots of office towers and expensive restaurants, but a place where people can get around without a car. But we can't go halfway on it.

by dan reed! on Sep 27, 2011 2:42 pm • linkreport

@Dan Reed! - It follow the West side of the CSX tracks from Queensbury up to the Cafritz property line, going past some of those industrial sites. You can see it on Google Maps here:,+md&hl=en&ll=38.964306,-76.932396&spn=0.006448,0.013937&sll=38.929302,-76.901507&sspn=0.025806,0.055747&vpsrc=6&t=h&z=17

It's labeled as 'Rhode Island Avenue'. In discussing this, the Cafritz architecht (whose name escapes me) said that the various maps alternately labeled the road as Maryland Avenue and Rhode Island Avenue. It certainly appears that the trail - you can see the dirt path in the overhead - follows the old Rhode Island Ave right of way, so I'd guess that what's now called RI Ave used to be MD Ave, before RI Ave got removed in that stretch.

by Distantantennas on Sep 27, 2011 2:47 pm • linkreport

@Dan Reed! - Oh, one other thing. The current thinking is apparently to put the bridge across the tracks towards the South end of the property, lining up with Rivertech Ct. just south of the old ERCO factory. That's owned by UMD, apparently, and they've got some plans for redeveloping it. Which is doubly nice, since there'll be a bunch of new offices opening up in the M-Square buildings and it might bring at least office workers over into the Cafritz and related properties.

by Distantantennas on Sep 27, 2011 2:53 pm • linkreport

That trail is the old street car line that ran to laurel..

by scratchy F on Sep 27, 2011 3:05 pm • linkreport

The street sign at the corner reads "Rhode Island Avenue" though it might have been Maryland Avenue in the past.

by David C on Sep 27, 2011 4:36 pm • linkreport

Your mentioning of UP and restricted access reminds me that they made Queens Chapel Road a local access road only, some time ago.

A Small Town's Self-Image Falls Under Metro's Wheels;University Park Wishes It Could Just Get Out of the Way
Howard Schneider; The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext); Mar 7, 1993; B.07;

2. Preview | Buy | Page Print Residents Want Road Reopened; Queens Chapel Traffic Filling University Park
Lynne K. Varner; The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext); Jul 25, 1991; m.01;

3. Preview | Buy | Page Print When a Small Town Buys a State Road
Ron Shaffer; The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext); Aug 10, 1995; J.01;

4. Preview | | Page Print Neighborhood activists driven to reopen road
Pierre, Robert E; The Washington Post; Jun 29, 1995; MDP1;

5. Preview | Buy | Page Print Neighborhood Activists Driven to Reopen Road: Seven Years Later, Closing of Queens Chapel Is Fought
Robert E. Pierre; The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext); Jun 29, 1995; M.01;

by Richard Layman on Sep 27, 2011 5:04 pm • linkreport

The closing of Queens Chapel Road always irked me, especially when I was going from my apartment in College Park to my friends' house in University Park, or to my job when I briefly worked in University Town Center. Opening it up again would be a good idea, though certainly it would need some serious traffic calming to ensure that drivers don't fly through it. (Or, at least, putting some bike lanes on it - the street is very wide - so it becomes a logical route for non-motorized traffic seeking to avoid 410, Route 1 and Adelphi Road.)

by dan reed! on Sep 28, 2011 4:48 pm • linkreport

Also, check out this article from Riverdale Park Patch showing the latest plan for the Cafritz Property, including the mixed-use/residential areas on the east side of the site and street connections to surrounding areas:

by dan reed! on Sep 28, 2011 4:49 pm • linkreport

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