What’s the matter with WMATA?

BY BRANDIE PETERSON

Passion ran high at a June 18 public hearing convened by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) in Takoma, DC. For years, locals have wrangled with WMATA about a housing complex slated for the Takoma Metro site.

Nearly 70 residents attended the meeting at the Takoma Education Campus on Piney Branch Rd. Most signed up to speak.

Project designer EYA was not represented.

Residents spoke to quality of life for those who live closest to the project; the willingness of EYA to work with and be responsible to the community; and the best use of the land for the proposed project, which is now a Metro parking lot next to the Takoma Metro subway station.

Many worry about how the scale of the project, which would be located in the Washington, DC Takoma neighborhood on Eastern Avenue, the Maryland border. A Takoma Park, MD residential neighborhood is across the street.

“If you build this project the way you’re proposing to build it, you’re going to be up very high, you’re going to shut out their light and air, you’re going to loom over a three story brick apartment building, said Sara Green, the advisory neighborhood commissioner for Takoma, DC.

WMATA Hearing - Sara Green

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Sara Green (photo: Brandie Petersen)

At-large Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich, a resident of Takoma Park, Md., echoed those concerns saying, “As I understand this discussion from the people that I’ve talked to they recognize that this is a good place for development, we should take advantage of it, but that in that context we really should pay attention to and be sensitive to the neighborhood around it.”

WMATA Hearing - MARC B. ELRICH

Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich (photo: Brandie Petersen)

“The city of Takoma Park and the Takoma Metro community will gladly welcome truly transit-oriented development,” said Takoma Park, Md., City Councilmember Seth Grimes,  “[but] the proposed EYA building does not qualify. I urge WMATA to reject the building and to compel the developer to create a building that instead favors transit users, integrated with rather than in defiance of the surrounding neighborhoods.”

Although in the minority, some residents favor the project.

“I think there should be residential at mass transit sites,” said resident Elise Ambrose. “Takoma Park needs more people to support its businesses, we need more business but nobody’s going to come in if there’s not enough density.”

Most residents urged WMATA to wait for a proposal that works for everyone involved.

“I think it’s possible to get a decent number of units there and still respect the surrounding neighborhood of Takoma Park,” said Elrich, “so I hope that WMATA will consider that—but I really hope that you would avoid making a deal until you’ve got a better agreement,”

“This has been going on for eight years,” continued Elrich, “so I hardly see the rush in closing the deal as the letter from the developer suggested, in the next few weeks.”

HEARING - WMATA Panel

Representing WMATA: from left, Stan Wall, WMATA director of real estate and station planning; Kathy Porter, a WMATA board member and former Takoma Park, Md., mayor; and Blair Fishburn, WMATA deputy chief financial officer. (photo: Brandie Petersen)

2 Comments on "What’s the matter with WMATA?"

  1. I suggest that you correct the misleading error, “the land for the proposed project, . . . is now a park.”
    The more accurate description for a large flat area of asphalt with painted parallel white lines is parking lot. And while the parking lot is adjacent to green space, I can not find any maps that label anything on that block a park.

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