VIDEO: How Does College Park Fare as a 'Top College Town?'

University students and College Park residents share their views on living in the city.

While the city and the University of Maryland through the to create a vibrant college community, many say they're looking forward to seeing the results.

The partnership strives to align the initiatives of the city and the university, Mayor Andrew Fellows said. “Most great college towns have things that appeal to students—bookshops, coffee shops, things like that," he added. Read the full article, .

Patch took to U.S. Route 1 on a beautiful Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning to see how close the city's residents and students think College Park is to becoming a top college town.

Linda V. March 19, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Will someone please tell me how building owners can afford to leave buildings empty for so long? They don't need the money? They don't HAVE to rent the space until they get the price they want? There should be incentives for landlords to fill space (or disincentives to leaving them empty). What is the City of College Park doing about that?
Clay Gump March 19, 2012 at 06:45 PM
That is such a good question. Look at the Sante Fe for example. How long has that been empty? I'm guessing the owners do not owe anything on the property and therefore have the ability to wait it out. Part of the long time frame is just the complicated process involved in permitting and getting a business up and running.
Robert Catlin March 19, 2012 at 06:59 PM
There are specific detailed reasons for why almost any Route 1 property is sitting undeveloped. Many parcels had approved projects that took years to get, but are now unbuildable and so what is likely another multi-year process has to begin again on a variety of properties. For more details you can visit Rethinkcollegepark.net for the generally ugly history.
Barry March 21, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Robert, do you think the city council should place any of the blame on themselves? If so, what would you have done differently? CP has always been know as anti-business.
Robert Catlin March 21, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Some people like to say we are anti-business, but they rarely give examples. I can think of a lot of positive things we have done in supporting new businesses. The City taking over commercial zoning enforecement from the County a few years ago has resulted in some controversy because the County was long lax in enforcing County regulations and thus we had to be the bad guy.
Danny March 21, 2012 at 02:53 PM
well, i'll take the bait and will provide one example of an anti-business CP policy: enforcing parking meters on saturdays and weekday evenings. montgomery county doesn't do this in silver spring. arlington county doesn't do this. many neighborhoods outside of the CBD in DC stop enforcing meters at 6:30pm.
Robert Catlin March 21, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Most of the City's meters are on private lots. The business community wants metered parking to match the hours that the University requires payment for parking. Otherwise the space becomes attractive for people whose business is on campus and greatly restricts parking for retail. That is why we have metered parking in the evenings and on Saturdays, too. The City Council will be providing free parking on Saturdays in our parking garage this summer (June thru mid-July). The downtown business supports this initiative, which came from the City Council. From time to time the City relaxes enforcement of meters, usual for special events, that draw a lot of people downtown. The City is writing about 25% less tickets now than it did when I got on the City Council in 1997. Give me some more examples.
Linda V. March 21, 2012 at 03:19 PM
I have to give kudos to Michael Stiefvater, the city's Economic Development Coordinator. I sent my original questions to him and he answered within the hour. He helped me think differently about the situation. Regarding parking and parking enforcement - I found out that if I added money to the new machines midway into my previously purchased time, the time meter started over from zero. Is there a code on my ticket that allows me to add time? (just thought of that)
Linda V. March 21, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Robert - the video got me thinking about a business idea. Who would be the best person to talk to about doing business in College Park? Someone who can answer questions and provide information/advice? Thanks!!!
Danny March 21, 2012 at 03:49 PM
...except for the fact that there are thousands of free parking spots on campus on the weekends and after 4pm on weekdays. no need to monopolize downtown CP parking to take care of on-campus business outside of regular business hours (8-5 M-F). and is there really enough business on campus after 6pm weekdays and on saturdays to make it necessary to enforce the downtown meters? (excluding special events, of course) perhaps the free saturday parking over the summer will become successful enough to inspire the city to expand it year-round.
CP Resident March 21, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Here's an example: the City Council voted to not support development of the Cafritz project (although Robert Catlin voted for it and gave many excellent reasons for his support). If this project goes forward, it will bring a badly needed retail draw to the area (Whole Foods) and provide quality housing for people who would be likely customers for College Park businesses.
Robert Catlin March 21, 2012 at 04:44 PM
To add more time to a parking space you have to input a transaction number from the parking receipt so the system knows that you are not a new user of the parking space. With respect to Cafritz you could argue tht it is competition with College Park businesses and new business that would locate at East Campus. So a vote against Cafritz is a vote for College Park businesses. As was noted though, I supported the Cafritz rezoning and I believe the Cafritz project with the eastern connection would do a lot for the M Square Research Park and adjcent properties, which are generally in College Park.
Robert Catlin March 21, 2012 at 05:10 PM
The campus has a lot of free spaces on Saturdays and evenings. But they are not free in the variety of small parking lots that are located in the area of campus that is close to downtown College Park. In addition, many of the students who live on the southern end of campus who have cars must park them in locations that are less attractive than downtown College Park. As I stated earlier, the meter hours are what the private property owners want and were put into place before I moved here in the late 1980s. When i responded earlier I meant to say that free Saturday parking would run from June through mid-August, not mid-July.
Danny March 21, 2012 at 05:43 PM
regarding your second statement -- if residential students are the problem, then CP should enforce the meters on sundays, too. however, as it is now, there is plenty of parking in the applebee's/kinko's lot on sundays. sure, some property owners want metered parking saturdays and weeknights -- the owner of the nearly 100% leased CP shopping center, for example. but i'd imagine the landlord of, say, terrapin station with its revolving door of 6-month tenants, feels differently about the parking regime.
Linda V. March 21, 2012 at 05:53 PM
I thought it was a damn shame that CP voted "no" on Cafritz. Glad to hear that at least one CP Council member can see the bigger picture (I didn't follow the individual votes - it is all I can do to keep up with happennings in UP). Cafritz is going to help vitalize the whole area. They just need to do it up right - put in the bridge and make sure it's walkable!
Linda V. March 21, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Thanks for the info about transaction number!
Robert Catlin March 21, 2012 at 05:57 PM
I and many others commonly use free campus parking when I visit the Varsity/University View restaurtants. I notice much of the free parking is taken up by Varsity residents because it is much more convenient than the parking they pay for northeast of University View, toward Comcast. Why should the College Park shopping center have to provide free parking for his nearby competition who doesn't have any parking? The Shopping Ceter's parking lot property is subject to property tax. Note that the pay stations there are located for the convenience of HIS customers. It was not by accident that their placement works against nearby properties without parking. The tenants in Terrapin Station knew or should have known the parking situation when they moved in. At least now the parking garage is available. The tenants there have landlord issues that dwarf any issues they may have with the City. There is some residential parking in our metered lots on Saturday nights and Sundays. One has to only be there at 7am Sunday morning to realize that. It is tolerable, though, It would probably not be tolerable if it were free for 2+ days at a time..
CP Resident March 21, 2012 at 06:39 PM
The argument that a vote against Cafritz is a vote for College Park businesses is ridiculous (and I recognize, not your argument). What if all of College Park's neighboring municipalities used that argument? For example, what if Hyattsville opposed all development in College Park to try to protect the businesses in their successful arts district? In the case of Cafritz, though, Hyattsville was smart enough to see that economic development in their vicinity is a good thing and supported the Cafritz development. College Park was not smart enough to recognize this.
Robert Catlin March 21, 2012 at 07:40 PM
The rezoning of the 36-acre Cafritz tract is a very complicated undertaking and should not be viewed as simply a pro- or anti- business vote. Hyattsville was concerned about possible restaurant competition from the development and I believe got some assurance that Cafritz would limit the number of restaurants in the development, before it gave its support to the rezoning. As you may recall the Route 1 communities funded a consultant, Bolan Smart, to do an assessment of retail in the Route 1 corridor. The draft report became available in January, shortly before the Planning Board's vote to approve. The draft report was entered into evidence for the record.
Danny March 22, 2012 at 11:15 AM
yes, the garage is available now. but it requires payment on saturdays and weeknight evenings. that's why it's not business friendly (and also because, unlike the newer silver spring municipal garages, it requires PREpayment and thus allows for both ticket revenue AND meter revenue). parking tickets are even less business-friendly than parking meters. the problem isn't that there aren't enough parking spaces to meet demand; the problem is that people don't want to pay for parking to have dinner at a quiznos on a tuesday night. i didn't live here when terrapin station was being planned. did the city try to encourage the developer to provide dedicated parking?
Robert Catlin March 22, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Terrapin Station, under County Zoning for the area, was required to pay a fee-in-lieu of providing parking. The City requested the developer pay about $450,000 toward the cost of the parking garage, the developer offered to pay, $100,000, and the County said that amount was sufficient for the 50 parking spaces the new retail required by the County. The parking garage cost about $9 million to build for about 285 spaces. Someone has to pay for the garage, either its going to be the people who use it and the other downtown parking, or its going to be paid for through City property taxes. The downtown merchants had been asking for a parking garage for more than 15 years. They were happy it got built and had no complaint about the cost, 75 cents an hour. If you look at campus parking, surface metered spaces cost $3 an hour and garage parking costs $4 an hour.
Barry March 23, 2012 at 12:46 AM
If the downtown merchants wanted a parking garage why not just let them pay for it themselves?
Robert Catlin March 23, 2012 at 04:51 AM
The original subject was that the City Council is anti-business. Apparently I refuted that argument so well that now the new argment is that the City is too pro business. When my head stops spinning perhaps I will explain that the parking garage is not being funded with City tax revenues and it has reasonable potential in the intermediate future to be a money maker for the City and can serve to fund other improvements to the business infrastructure in the City.
Danny March 23, 2012 at 11:15 AM
only in "pro-business" CP would a councilman proudly write, "The tenants in Terrapin Station knew or should have known the parking situation when they moved in."
Barry March 23, 2012 at 12:26 PM
You fell right into my trap. Your said, "it has reasonable potential in the intermediate future to be a money maker for the City" Just face it, the only reason the garage was built was to make money for the city - not to help out any business. In fact if you had it your way you would have made businesses pay for even more of it.
Robert Catlin March 23, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Actually businesses don't pay for it. Business are not the property owners. The property owners suck up city assistance and don't pass it on to the business operators in most cases. Terrapin Station, for example, doesn't lower rents because they they received $500,000 of parking for only a $100,000. It adds to the property owner's profit. You two don't understand how difficult it is to help businesses who don't own their own property. I also said the parking garage could be a source of funds to provide addition infrastructure help to the business community. You fail to understand that the City's revenue are spent for the benefit of all. It is clear that you wish to argue for the sake of arguing and nothing else.
Danny March 23, 2012 at 02:41 PM
well, i can't speak for "barry," but thanks for your suggestion that the only reason for my disagreement with you is that i "don't understand." i wish i could be smart enough to be a CP councilperson. for example, i personally wouldn't have had the legal acumen to "interpret" maryland's speed camera legislation to give CP the unique privilege of enforcing its speed cameras 24/7. that particular display of revenue-snatching must have been fun while it lasted. thanks for deigning to discuss issues with mere constituents.
Barry March 23, 2012 at 03:32 PM
I wasn't trying to argue for the sake of arguing. Was just pointing out that I have been here since the 70s, well before you moved here. It has always been a struggle between businesses and the council. I think this is mainly because the council does not want the city to become a college town. Just like the businesses, the city thrives off of the students and the funds provided by the proximity of the university, but never seems to want to make it better for them. A whole other discussion is if the city is actually better off as a college town.
Robert Catlin March 23, 2012 at 03:44 PM
I have lived here for twenty years and I fail to see how the City thrives off of the students. Students and the University are both a plus and a minus to the City. If it were a substantial plus we would be the envy of all the other cities and towns in the greater Washington area.


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