July 2016 Message From the City Manager
From Suzanne Ludlow, City Manager of Takoma Park
Dear Takoma Park Community,
Before I address two major projects being discussed this month by the Takoma Park City Council, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the deep sadness I feel and that is felt across this community and country about the deaths that have occurred over the past few weeks. Peace and togetherness and community take work on the part of everyone. I am committed, and I am asking all City staff to be equally committed, to be the best we can be to help build our community with you.
Thank you to the many people who have sent flowers and thank you notes and given hugs to our police officers after the shootings in Dallas. And thanks to our youth organizations, Councilmembers, officers and others who are working to help improve our Police Department’s interactions with the residents. All residents and City staff play a part in building and maintaining a safe community where every person can thrive. Takoma Park is well ahead of many places in this effort, but there is much more to do. Let’s work at it together. Please contact me with suggestions, ideas, criticisms, or comments on what we do well and where you think we can improve. I welcome your collaboration as we move towards a better community and nation.
Takoma Junction & the Library
Several major issues are before the Takoma Park City Council this July. Two of the larger ones are the Takoma Junction redevelopment project and the Library renovation project. Extensive information on both of these is available in the Project Directory.
We are at very early stages in both projects with a great deal of community participation and process, and many decisions, yet to take place. Nevertheless, both are at places for the Council to weigh in and make sure we are on the right path.
At the Council meeting on Wednesday, July 13, staff will present an overview of the draft Development Agreement and Ground Lease between the City and Neighborhood Development Company (NDC) regarding the redevelopment of the City-owned parking lot on Carroll Avenue at Takoma Junction. The goal of the project, as set by the City Council in Resolution 2015-19, is to have a project that “would act as a stimulus to the commercial district and locally-owned, independent businesses, improve the aesthetic appeal of the district, and be contextually sensitive and environmentally sustainable.”
While the Council chose NDC in April 2015 to be the developer for the project, a contract with them is not in place. This draft Development Agreement is the contract that formalizes the working relationship between the City and NDC moving forward. More than that, the draft Agreement describes how community residents will be engaged in the development of the process used to determine elements of the project, the steps to be taken to develop and finalize the site plan and expectations of what the site plan will include, and the expectations regarding negotiations with the Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op, the adjacent grocery store that is envisioned to be the anchor tenant in the project. The City will continue to own the land once the project is built, and will receive rent payments in addition to tax revenue over the course of the lease.
After the overview presentation on July 13, there will be an Open House on Monday, July 18 from 7:00 – 9:00 PM in the Community Room of the Takoma Park Fire Station. This is an opportunity to ask your questions and provide comments about the project and the Development Agreement. On July 20 at 7:30 PM, there will be time near the beginning of the City Council meeting for additional public comments on the Agreement. Then, on July 27, the City Council will consider a resolution authorizing me to execute the Agreement. Also on July 27, appointments will be made to the Community Consultation Process Advisory Committee for the Takoma Junction Redevelopment. This committee will help ensure that community engagement and information sharing takes place effectively in developing the elements of the project.
I think you’ll find the information on the website helpful. Legal documents aren’t the easiest reading, so the Question and Answer sheet may be a good document to review.
As with the Takoma Junction project, we have for years contemplated improvements to our beloved, but aging, Library. Background on the desires of the community, as gathered through a visioning process and series of meetings, is on the Library Renovation project page.
A concept design for a renovated Library was presented to the City Council in December 2015, and was generally liked, but Councilmembers had a couple of suggestions after a walk-through with the architect. In particular, there was interest in a larger Young Adults section, a clear emphasis on books, more lounge-type space, and the opportunity to be a little larger by building over a section of the lower level police parking area (between the Community Center and Library) and expanding a bit in one section of the Philadelphia Avenue frontage. Several Councilmembers wanted the façade design to be more attractive.
As a result of these comments, architect Greg Lukmire has developed a revised design with two interior layout options. His team also created a computer-generated walkthrough of the earlier concept to give folks a sense of the possible layout of the inside of the space. We don’t have revised cost estimates yet, but should have them soon. Mr. Lukmire will present the new concept designs at the July 13 City Council meeting. I have asked the Council to consider a resolution on July 27 giving direction to staff on how to proceed with the project.
There still needs to be community input and discussions. Design-related comments can be put on the survey form on the website’s Library Renovation project page. When we receive cost estimates, those can be the subject of community discussion as well. I would like to get a sense from the Council about how it wishes to proceed before they go on recess, if possible, because tying down the costs, timing and detailed work on the design will be needed if we are to apply for and lobby for a grant from the State (a “bond bill”) to help pay for the project. We also need the information because we will need to borrow money (bond for) the City’s cost of the project, and the information on bonding will be needed to be considered by Council as well.
Decisions on whether or not the City will proceed with the project would need to come in the winter or spring and would be part of the Council’s FY 2018 budget process. If we are able to focus on one of the concept designs this summer, we can get the more detailed cost and timing information the Council needs to make a decision about whether or not to proceed to final design and construction.
Review & Comment on the Projects
Please take some time to review the information on both projects on the City’s website. You may wish to attend the July 13 Council meeting, or you may choose to watch City TV on cable channels 13 or 28 or via City TV’s pages on this website (both live and archived.) Action by the Council on the items is scheduled for July 27.
After the Council’s meeting on July 27, they will be on a much-needed recess for the month of August. I hope they, and you, have a safe and enjoyable summer!