GRANOLAPARK: A lot to think about

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

Takoma Park owns a lot. That’s “lot” as in “a plot of land.”

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Composite panorama of the city lot as viewed from the Coop. Carroll Avenue is on the right.

The city’s lot is in a commercial area – we won’t call it “prime,” because that’s in doubt. However, it is in an important spot and has served for many years as a parking lot for the Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op in the business district known as Takoma Junction.

“The status quo has been tested thoroughly, time to move on.” said city council member Terry Seamens, expressing the consensus council view that the lot has more potential.

There are three alternatives to the parking lot status quo.

The city could take up one of the undisclosed deals offered by unnamed parties. Our guess is that one of the unnamed parties is the Coop, which is considering “expansion of our current building or the construction of a new free-standing store.” according to a 2011 official Coop statement.

The Coop, at the corner of Ethan Allen and Carroll Avenues, rents the Turner building (once Turner Electric) next to the city lot. The 2011 Coop statement reads “Expansion of our current facility would require merging the Turner property with a portion of the city owned lot. Construction of a new store could take place entirely within the city owned lot. Expansion of the current Coop store would add about 7000 square feet of retail space in the Junction, while building a new store would add 12,500 square feet of retail in the business district.”

citylot02

The city’s second option is to solicit proposals and bids. Let the marketplace decide what’s best – and most lucrative to the city.

This is the option the council seemed to favor in its Jan. 6 work-session discussion.

As of now, nobody is sure what the lot is really worth, and how much revenue it could produce. Nobody had an answer for councilmember Jarrett Smith when he asked which is more lucrative, ‘ground lease’ or outright sale?

The least likely option is a “government build” – turning it into a park or putting a city building there.

Resident and former member of the Takoma Junction Task Force Rodger Schlegel urged the council to “think of the big picture.” He asked them to put something in the space that integrates with the surrounding residential community. He said residents want community use of the space. He says he wasn’t advocating anything specific, but he reminded the council of some of the uses suggested in the TJTF report: dancehall/ballroom, indoor marketing space, or a park.

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The lot includes this steep wooded slope overlooking residential Columbia Avenue.

Councilmember Seth Grimes asked for citizen involvement in the process. After discussing it with city manager Brian Kenne he agreed that it would be better to wait, that it would be more useful to have residents involved in assessment of proposals rather than criteria. The council was not eager to put too many criteria on the proposal solicitation.

All agreed that parking at Takoma Junction was a priority, and proposals would have to account for it. Aside from the city lot parking, there is very little parking available in the Junction, a factor that hinders many businesses in the area.

The Jan. 6 meeting was the first of 2014, and nearly the first regular meeting since the new council was sworn in. Of course, the new council is the old council. All incumbents were re-elected last fall.

Two councilmembers, Kay Daniels-Cohen and Fred Schultz were not in attendance. Daniels-Cohen’s seat was occupied by a large gold star, the same one that represented her last winter when she was recovering from hip surgery.

– Gilbert

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About the Author

Gilbert
Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.