BY LYLE KENDRICK
The proposal for a 210-unit residential building on the Takoma Metro Station parking lot raised questions from residents and town officials about traffic and loss of green space.
But the proposal is an improvement from previous plans because the developer and Metro officials took community input into account, they said.
Developer EYA, who proposed the recent plan, proposed a row-house development about a decade ago that would have eliminated the green space near the Metro station entrance.
Residents opposed the previous plan because of how the proposed two-car garages would impact traffic and green space.
New plan spares green
Officials from Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and EYA presented an updated proposal for a development during a Takoma Park, MD city council meeting Monday July 22. While the development lot is physically located in the Washington DC neighborhood called Takoma DC, it is across the street from Takoma Park, MD.
The development will have 0.7 parking spots per unit, said Jack Lester, vice president at EYA. The previous proposal had two parking spots per unit.
EYA’s design has a concrete podium with five floors above it and Metro parking below it on the first floor.
The plan has fewer short-term spaces but more taxi stand space, more drop off spaces and more Kiss and Ride lot spaces, Lester said.
Lester said sparing the green is one of the proposal’s big compromises.
Green worries about green
But the green space is not permanent and could be later used for Metro development, said Sara Green, chairwoman for the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, in an interview.
She said the lack of permanent green space would go against the Takoma Central District Plan.
The Takoma Central District Plan, which the Washington office of planning approved in 2002, called to keep the village character and the green space.
The plan lays out strategies for revitalization for Washington’s Takoma commercial district. It includes urban design guidelines and development goals.
Buffer to go
The proposed design would also remove a green space between Eastern Avenue and the parking lot.
This space serves as a buffer between the Metro station and residents of Eastern Avenue apartments, said Mark Sherman, who lived on Eastern Avenue for eight years.
“It was a beautiful place to sit and be among nature without being clobbered by the commotion of all the buses and everything else,” he said.
Sherman said green spaces provide a refuge from the station’s noise and fumes.
Potential new traffic is also a concern.
The new proposal is a good start but a development could congest Eastern Avenue, said Diana Kohn, a Historic Takoma member, during public comments.
“How much density can Eastern take before it suffers gridlock?” she said.
Eastern Avenue’s narrowness and how it handles buses is also in question.
“Eastern Avenue is a sausage skin and how much meat can you stuff into that skin?” Green said
Traffic analysis to come
The project is in an early analysis stage. WMATA is starting a traffic analysis this summer, said Stan Wall, WMATA’s real estate director.
The Advisory Neighborhood Commission requested the traffic analysis, Green said. She said she is grateful that Wall and WMATA reached out to Takoma DC and Takoma Park for community input instead of moving forward on their own.
“This is already a much better way of doing business,” she said.
Seth Grimes, Ward 1 councilmember, said the proposal Monday did not address traffic at all.
Far to go
The plan is still in its early stages.
Wall said the proposal has evolved significantly during the last year but still requires a traffic analysis and a compact public hearing.
In a best case scenario, the project is five to six months away from the Planned Unit Development approval process, he said.
After the parameters of the project are set, the approval process would take 10 to 12 months. The subsequent permitting process would take eight to ten months, Lester said.
“What we saw last night was not a final design by any means,” Grimes said.