GRANOLAPARK: Developers’ science fair

Photo: Takoma Park mayor Bruce Williams, third from left, studies developer’s plans.


Dear Readers,

The four “finalist” developers set up in the Azalea Room – each with a table and easels, like a small  science fair.

Takoma Park residents and city officials stepped up to each to study the plans, talk to the developers and listen to other conversations. In between the tables residents and council members grouped up to compare notes.

The people who turned out for the Nov. 18 Open House were mostly those who had attended previous Takoma Junction meetings.

Our reporter’s mission was to see how the proposals have changed in response to public feedback.


The Open House.

Ability Project

Big changes.They trimmed the school-on-the-back-lot proposal, the residences, and almost everything but the co-op expansion and their Ability Project, a program for developmentally-challenged adults. They’ve eliminated a building at the back of the city lot and moved the co-op into a new building at the front along Carroll Avenue. The co-op gets a new building and the Ability Project moves into the co-op’s current space – the Turner building.

They have an underground parking level. They said their parking layout now exceeds the current parking lot capacity. Plenty for the co-op and surrounding businesses.

They said their plans remain flexible. They’ll do anything as long as they get to locate the Ability Project there.

This is personal for many of the people involved – they have developmentally challenged family members. They are on a mission.


Ability Project.

Community Three Development

They’ve made the Co-op bigger, said affable designer John Torti, and he was pleased with their plan’s 20′ “cafe-zone” sidewalk along Carroll Avenue. They would solve the loading dock problem by putting it in the basement and running the truck lane under the wooded slope. Ingenious, but the trucks exit onto Sycamore, an idea that will not go over well with the residents of that narrow street. Perhaps the trucks could exit into the parking lot on that side of the co-op?

They are holding onto their plans for a single-family home development on Columbia at the base of the wooded slope.


Community Three Development table, above, and plan, below.



They’ve had a meeting with the Maryland Park and Planning Department, said developer Bruce Levin, to discuss their loading dock plan. He called it a “loading arrangement.” There’s no dock. It’s very simple. The 18-wheelers pull up and park parallel to the Carroll Avenue curb early in the morning, offload their deliveries and pull out again. After loading hours, the curbside reverts to metered parking. This avoids building a truck-lane and turn-around space on or under the parking lot. It is similar to Takoma Old Town’s Ace Hardware store’s arrangement. Levin owns that building.

Their plan retains the full number of parking spaces, but it does so by using the auto-repair shop property next to the city lot. Levin implies he can obtain that property. None of the other developers include it in their current plans.

They’ve moved the whole building back from the street to fit the front loading/parking space. And they’ve moved their third floor back even farther so it doesn’t loom over Carroll Avenue. This is an attempt to meet Takoma Junction Task Force report’s recommendations – no more than 2 stories.


Keystar/Ecohousing’s old plan with new configuration indicated on overlay showing the building moved back from the street to make room for loading/parking area on Carroll Avenue.


New roof line indicated on overlay.

Neighborhood Development Corp

NDC has the Co-op loading dock on the below-ground level toward the parking lot rear.

They now have no development plans for the Columbia Avenue side (the single family house). And, like Keystone and Ability Project they now include a switchback trail up the wooded slope from Columbia. Nobody really knows what that will be like: paved or dirt? ADA compliant? But it is plain that the wooded slope – an unnatural feature covered with weedy brush and trees – will need to be cleared, reshaped, and replanted. That doesn’t include the less sloped plot with older, canopy growth – the plot where a  single family home would go.

Community Three, by the way, claims that building the single family home meets the task force recommendation to make the rear wooded lot “accessible.”


Neighborhood Development had their original plans on display, above. Their representatives discussed them with the public below.



There was a sideshow also, The city invited the TPSS Co-op to exhibit their plans in the community center lobby. Resident Byrne Kelly set up his own easel to present his plan, too.

More on that in our next column entitled “Salon des Refuses.”

 – Gilbert

PS. The Voice has an impressive array of Takoma Junction development news and information:

GRANOLAPARK: The big eleven – a short guide to events so far

JUNCTION FOCUS – Summary: clarifying questions and answers – a summary guide to the 11 questions answered by the developers.

TAKOMA TALES: the evolution of Takoma Junction – an historical look at the Junction, with many photos.

GRANOLAPARK: Beyond pitchforks and torches – do public hearings represent the public?

JUNCTION FOCUS – The Takoma Junction Task Force recommendations – a summary of these key points.

JUNCTION FOCUS: Task Force report revisited – appeals from the public, former task force members, and councilmembers.

JUNCTION FOCUS: Traffic – mission impossible?– a major and difficult aspect of Takoma Junction development.

City seeks public’s questions on Takoma Junction development proposals

Takoma Junction – the dilemma of revitalization – A 2008 analysis of the Junction; how we got from there to here.


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About the Author

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.