Sept. 29 city council hearing. Photo by Bill Brown.
JUNCTION FOCUS • BY NAOMI EIDE
Some citizens and a city councilmember have called for another look at the 2012 Takoma Junction Task Force report.
Takoma Park is in the process of choosing one of four developers to redevelop the city parking lot in Takoma Junction. At the Sept. 29 city council meeting residents responding to the four development proposals questioned the developer’s lack of attention to the Task Force report.
At following city council meeting Oct. 6., Ward 3 councilmember Kate Stewart urged the council to push developers to use the task force report.
Takoma Junction – 360˚.
Ronald Weiss, speaking to the city council Sept. 29., said the Task Force recommendations are not binding, but “I don’t think the city intended for them to be ignored and I don’t think either the city or the developers want to redo all that work. So maybe they could be encouraged to re-look at their visions in light of those requirements.”
Another Takoma Park resident, Fred Feinstein, expressed similar concerns about the proposals, because they “simply don’t meet the needs of the community that were carefully and thoughtfully articulated in the Takoma Junction Task Force report. They essentially ignore many of the key aspects of what the Task Force suggested,” he said.
Former Takoma Junction Task Force member Roger Schlegel thought the actions of the city in issuing a Request For Proposal to potential developers were premature. He said the city should have put together a clear document with instructions and information regarding previous specifications that could assist the development process. Schlegel served as Takoma Junction Task Force secretary along with Jeffrey Trumzo.
In 2012, the Task Force did suggest a document for potential developers to be titled “Instructions and Information for Prospective Parties Interested in Developing or Using the C1 Parcel.”
The document would describe as fully as possible the issues involved in the parcel and include background information about the physical and environmental conditions of the properties, Historic District considerations, environmental sensitivity, allowance for community spaces and adequate parking for usage of the space.
City-owned lot at Takoma Junction. Photo by Bill Brown.
The Task Force also included many development possibilities, from traffic and parking recommendations to pedestrian improvements, like the instillation of a signalized crosswalk.
Rather than providing guidelines the city went with a blank-slate RFP and later called for corrections and clarifications to the four final proposals in response to public feedback. This is the process now underway.
The city’s RFP encouraged experienced developers to submit proposals that could act as a stimulus to the commercial district for locally owned, independent business, improve the aesthetic appeal and be sensitive and environmentally sustainable in the area.
Takoma Junction storefronts opposite the city lot on Carroll Avenue.
Ward 2 Councilmember Tim Male said at the Sept. 29 city council meeting that the RFP was meant to help create momentum for the project, though the council is not selecting a developer until next year and will not select a final project until 2016.
“For every project there are people who are for and against it. Consensus is really elusive and I think that, to me, it’s a really tough term to use…the Junction is not an easy issue. The problems of the Junction are tough. To me, this is a really slow process. We haven’t sped up,” Male said.
Takoma Junction is “fully developed right now. The question is whether we can redevelop it in ways that minimize negative impacts on the community and create lots of new benefits,” Male said.
The Task Force was assembled to address future Junction development, while offering many potential solutions under the umbrella of one clear mission.
Takoma Junction. Photo by Bill Brown.
“The junction, as a whole, should encourage people to slow down, park, relax, and shop” but will “still need to function within the road and transit networks efficiently,” said former task force member Schlegel.
The Task Force mandated that the Junction, as an area, would provide commercial opportunities to local businesses and serve as a commercial meeting point capitalizing on its location in the center of a diverse community.
The Junction would also allow manifestation of “everybody’s vision of Takoma Park as one Takoma,” Schlegel said.
The report concluded future re-development would also need to blend with existing residential neighborhoods, taking into consideration traffic and parking.
The Junction in February, 2012, around the time the task force report was released.
“Whatever happens with the Junction, it needs to be attractive, which means it would fit in with the historic district that is already designated there and also be environmentally sensitive,” Schlegel said.
The Task Force report intended “exhaustive rather than selective” elements, said Seth Grimes, former Task Force co-chair and current Takoma Park City Council member, Ward 1.
Formed in 2010, the city council appointed members to the Takoma Junction Task Force to help revitalize the area. The Task Force released the Junction report in 2012, with significant contributions to the final report from 19 constant Task Force members.
Though there were many recommendations in the Task Force report, it was “never an expectation that the city would do all of them,” Grimes said.