UPDATED on 12/9: Takoma Junction Redevelopment
UPDATE: At their December 7 Business Meeting, the Takoma Park City Council voted to allow 30 more days for a Letter of Intent to be negotiated and agreed to by the Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op and the City’s development partner, NDC, regarding the Takoma Junction development. The plans presented by Adrian Washington, NDC’s President, are very exciting and will provide a good base for the community planning discussions to come. It was also wonderful to hear that NDC has signed a Letter of Intent with the Ability Project to provide a second story, 6,000 sq. ft. space in the development for adults with special needs to have a supportive environment in which they can gather and relax. The Ability Project is a great group and it will be nice to have them as a part of our community!
You may wish to watch the presentation by Mr. Washington, through which he elaborates on the content of discussions with the Co-op to date and where things stand regarding current plans and aspirations:
Text from the City Manager’s original message, posted prior to the Council meeting:
The City Council’s last meeting of 2016 will be on Wednesday, December 7. Given the number of emails and calls I’ve seen in the last few days, I would like to share some information that I believe will help address some questions and concerns.
The Council will be taking a vote that is triggered by the fact that the City’s chosen developer (NDC) of the City-owned property in Takoma Junction did not present a Letter of Intent to the City by November 29 that was signed by both NDC and the TPSS Co-op. The Letter of Intent was to be a non-binding agreement on terms and conditions of a future lease agreement, with the TPSS Co-op being the anchor tenant of a redeveloped property.
The Council, per its Development Agreement with NDC, will vote on one of these three options:
- Provide NDC with an additional 30 days to negotiate the Letter of Intent with the TPSS Co-op
- Require NDC to begin seeking another anchor tenant for the project and provide reasonable accommodation to the Co-op for the continued operation of its business in its existing location, or
- Terminate the Agreement and pay NDC an amount up to $75,000 for reasonable, out of pocket costs that the firm has incurred to date. In the event this option is taken, NDC is required to transfer its work products (traffic studies, etc.) to the City.
The emails I’ve seen raise many questions about the development process and many express concern about the potential impact on the TPSS Co-op’s operations and future.
One issue that has been raised is where, exactly, the Co-op will be located. There are two choices: the Co-op may remain in the building it is in and expand or not, or the Co-op could opt for relocating into a brand new building on the site of the City’s current surface parking lot. NDC has presented concept designs for either option. Moving into a new building adjacent to its current building has advantages in terms of the Co-op’s continuity of operations and the opportunity to occupy a space optimized for grocery use. However, the Co-op may not wish to pursue that option.
To be clear: NDC remains open to an arrangement where the Co-op is the anchor tenant AND retains their current space, while also addressing the Council’s overarching goals.
Other emails I’ve seen have asked about traffic studies and whether or not the State Highway Administration would allow a “lay-by” design for large trucks to unload in front of the Co-op. While NDC’s traffic consultant has been active in the development of options, a real traffic study does not come until later when more information is known about a proposed site plan and potential uses. At the Mayor’s request, City staff independently followed up with SHA and they have indicated that they have no objections to such a design in concept.
The goals of the City Council regarding the Takoma Junction development project remain: improve the aesthetic appeal of the commercial district and be contextually sensitive and environmentally sustainable. The Council has repeatedly expressed its concern for the well-being of the Co-op, particularly its need for continuity of operations. And, the Council is looking at the long term needs of the City’s taxpayers, by putting a key property back on the tax rolls.
The final design of the Takoma Junction project is a long way off – there is a whole Takoma Park community process ahead, as well as the site plan review process through Montgomery County. The Council will be weighing many aspects of the site plan, including design, parking, loading, community use space, and safety. As a City-owned property, the Council has final say, within the parameters of the County’s Codes.
Residents are welcome to weigh in now and in the months ahead. I’m looking forward to seeing the process unfold!