Takoma Park Divided: An overview of the conflict surrounding the Takoma Junction

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TAKOMA PARK, Md.– The Takoma City Council has scheduled a tentative vote on the development of the Takoma Junction for May 23. The Takoma Junction is the city-owned parking lot adjacent to the Takoma Park COOP on Ethan Allen Ave. The Council’s vote on the site plan is marked as “tentative” on its Rolling Agenda to let the public know the earliest date on which the Council could vote on the plan. 

The proposed plan is a roughly 50,000 square foot development that will include office and retail space. The city has already selected the Neighborhood Development Company (NDC) for the project. If the council votes in favor of the project, development will begin in December 2019.

The current development plan has been in consideration since 2001, however it wasn’t seriously discussed until 2014.

One main cause for controversy over the Junction is the concern about the future of the Takoma Park COOP. The COOP is a local organic grocery store that has become a staple in the community.

Many are worried that development could be detrimental to its future. One of the COOP’s biggest concerns is that without the parking lot they will not have space to unload their trucks.

However, Takoma Park Community Development Manager Rosalind Grigsby stated that They will not be losing off street space for unloading… the plan includes a layby which would allow the trucks to pull out of traffic.”

The COOP has also expressed their concern that the development will cost them essential parking space but according to the plans, there will be an underground parking garage beneath the development.

Another point of controversy is the potential for increased traffic in what is already one of the most congested intersections in Takoma Park.

The development will include “40 percent more parking” according to Grigsby, that she believes will hopefully prevent a huge influx in traffic.

However, at the Takoma Park Community meeting on April 25, many members of the community expressed their belief that the city had not done enough to truly estimate the effect that the Junction redevelopment will have on traffic.

Many were concerned that the intersection will become more risky for pedestrians once there are more people shopping at the Junction.

Another safety concern is the trucks pulling into the proposed layby. Community members were worried that the layby would not allow for truck drivers to pull in safely or without significantly disrupting traffic.

The last consternation raised was the size of the proposed development. The development is going to be 40 feet tall and around 50,000 square feet total.

“That is simply too large,” said Rick Vitullo an architect and long-time resident of Takoma Park.

Vitullo said that the design of the Junction is making the building appear to be roughly 25 feet tall and not the actual 40 feet.

Despite the multitude of concerns raised by citizens and the outcry on the Takoma listserve, development on the Junction does appear to have public support.

“The Junction’s current use is a waste,” said Jeanette Smith of Ward 3. “I would like to see a community hub that we can all enjoy for years to come, not an empty parking lot.” 

Beyond the appeal of putting an unused parking lot to use, many people were excited by the potential revenue that will be brought into the city through the Junction.

The Junction will bring in an estimated $100,000 per year from taxes and another $11,000 every month from the rent that the NDC will be paying on the lot.

“As our community expands we need more money to fund community programs and projects,” said Ward 4 member Beth Portman. “Those funds have to come from somewhere.” 

Note: an earlier version of this article listed the date of the vote as May 9th. 

2 COMMENTS

  1. Unfortunately you have a significant error in your description of this project. You state that it is roughly a 29,000 sf development. It is actually ‘roughly’ a 50,000 sf development plus underground parking. You really need to publish a correction. The message is vastly different when you apply the correct size of the proposed development.

  2. 1. It is unclear where the figure of $100,000 in taxes per year comes from. The City, as far as I know, has not made public any evidence of anything like this. Perhaps the author could investigate and report on how anyone determined this number – as well as if it is really accurate.
    2. According to the Schedule 1 which is attached to the development agreement between the developer and the city way at the end (https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/initiatives/project-directory/Takoma-Junction/HCD-20160801-DA-GL-wOCRScannedSignaturePages.pdf), the lease for the first 5 years is $10,000 per YEAR and doesn’t get to the $11,000 PER MONTH that the article cites until about 47 YEARS into the lease (and that is with annual escalator clauses). I’ve heard that the CoOp pays $21,000 per year for partial use of the lot now, and WITHOUT any escalator clause, this translates to $20,079,000, MORE than the $20,063,503 the developer will pay through the 99 years of the lease. A good reporter will checks fact, not just parrot (made up) information from city staff.
    3. Regarding “The development will include “40 percent more parking” according to Grigsby, that she believes will hopefully prevent a huge influx in traffic.” How does increasing parking translate to preventing an influx in traffic?

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