Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Takoma Junction development process and the TPSS Co-op proposal

Thanks to everyone who has been in contact about the Takoma Junction development proposals and process.

There have been questions about community involvement and openness. I'll try to tackle those topics by reviewing how we got where we are, starting with the council's 2010 creation of the Takoma Junction Task Force. But first I'll reinforce that the city has been very deliberate in exploring development possibilities and will continue to be. Takoma Junction development is not on a fast track. And I'll reiterate what you've heard from the city manager and the mayor: The city intends to accommodate co-op expansion in any development scenario. (I've provided co-op proposal information, distributed publicly by the co-op, toward the end of this article.)

History

The council set up a Takoma Junction Task Force (TJTF), which I co-chaired, in response to SS Carroll neighborhood advocacy and the recommendation of an informal Takoma Junction working group that included a few council reps. The task force minutes and materials are online. You can find minutes from meetings of the working group there as well.

The TJTF issued its report in early 2012. You can read about the TJTF's community meetings and interviews in the report.

Let me excerpt one bit of text, staff opinion on a different point. It's labelled "City staff additional information (December 2011)," on page 21:
"It appears that the City cannot engage in negotiations for the long-term use of City property without entering into a bid process. City contracts (which would include a sales contract, as well as a lease or development agreement) are to be awarded by competitive sealed bidding or competitive sealed proposals unless one of the exceptions applies. None of the exceptions to competitive bidding would seem to apply."
TJTF member Kay Daniels-Cohen and I were elected to the council in November 2011. We and our colleagues promoted development explorations and other steps such as requesting that the State Highway Administration install a crosswalk at Grant Avenue.

The city moved forward by conducting an environmental assessment of the city-owned parcel. The assessment docs are available online. City staff also had an appraisal done. I have not seen it.

The co-op had set up an expansion task force and approached the city with sketches of an expansion into the city lot. Then co-op-president David Walker presented to the council on July 30, 2012. I blogged about this a couple of weeks later: A Takoma Junction Update: Co-op Expansion Plans and Progress on Other Fronts. Subsequently, the council decided that the city's best interest would be served by inviting anyone interested to propose development or another site-improvement concept. This discussion took place at the council's October 1, 2012 meeting. You can read the minutes and watch meeting video online.

Last year, the city hired a new city manager. The individual we chose, Brian Kenner, has experience in economic development that included work, as a Washington DC employee, on reuse of the Walter Reed and Saint Elizabeth's hospital campuses and H Street redevelopment. (Washington Adventist Hospital's planned relocation to White Oak is another local challenge for Takoma Park.)

Brian developed the approach we're following and the council approved it. The city issued a Request for Proposals in January with a May 28 closing date. The RFP and other materials are online. The city subsequently met with prospective developers including the co-op. In accordance with the steps and criteria laid out in the RFP, staff selected four finalists. That down-select was made by the city manager and Housing and Community Development staff. They briefed the council on September 3; the council agreed with their selection.

And that's where we are now, on September 18.

The Coming Months

Again, the four finalists will make public presentations on Tuesday, September 23 at 7:00 pm in the community center auditorium. I plan to attend, and I hope you will as well, or you can watch the presentations, live or later, via city TV and on the city Web site.

The city manager is working on a structured way to collect feedback; nonetheless, you can relay your views to the council at any time, via e-mail to clerk@takomaparkmd.gov, or to me at sethg@takomaparkmd.gov or 301-873-8225.

The steps that follow will include a September 29 city-council worksession devoted to discussion of Takoma Junction Development Proposals and, tentatively, further council discussion on October 20. These sessions will be open to the public. There will be public comment at the start of the meetings but no public participation in the discussions.

The TPSS Co-op Proposal

Finally, the co-op posted its proposal, minus a diagram that was included in the printed version available at the co-op. I've attached a copy of that diagram to this message. Getting a proposal this way is a not the same as seeing it presented, but nonetheless, the co-op's materials will communicate to you what they have in mind.

[Update Sept 21: The co-op refreshed the posted version of its proposal, to include a variant of the diagram that was originally posted, the diagram I included below center. I am posting that additional image, below right. Click on the images to see larger versions. The additional image (below, right) does clarify one aspect of the co-op's proposal. It shows topography lines on the right side, which is the wooded lot that is beyond the edge of the current city-lot paved surface, although the drop-off actually starts just to the right of the rightmost parking row.]


5 comments:

  1. Seth, thanks for you work on the Task Force and for making all this information available here. I've lived in Takoma Park for 30-plus years, and all that time I've also been a co-op member. Though an ardent co-op supporter, I'm willing to believe the process was fair and reasonable, but I do have one question. It seems like the co-op made a proposal for expansion, then the city manager issued on RFP. Then the co-op's pre-RFP proposal was judged along with other proposals prepared in light of the RFP. Is that a fair summary?

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  2. Elias, thanks for the comment. No, the co-op's proposal was created in response to the RFP. It's very different from the expansion designs that were shared with the council in 2012, which you can view the "three options" at http://altaplana.com/TPSScoop-ThreeOptions(May2012).pdf and the co-op's presentation at http://citycouncil-takomapark.s3.amazonaws.com/agenda/items/2012/TPSS%20Presentation.pdf . (Those 2012 designs were just ideas; that the co-op pursued a different direction is not a problem.)

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  3. Your response really helps to clarify the situation. So while development of the city lot might assist a store at the Turner location, since the co-op's on private property, nothing the city does can guarantee that the co-op remains there, only that a similar store could be there. If Yes! Organic Market or Whole Foods was willing to give Turner more rent money, they would benefit from the development of the city property. Makes sense?

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  4. Elias, correct, the Turner family could rent to whomever they wish, once the co-op's lease is up, or the co-op could buy the building from the Turners, which seems to be part of the current co-op proposal, along with acquisition and removal of the Takoma Auto Clinic (Johnny's) building.

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  5. Thanks, you've addressed my concerns. I assume the co-op really wasn't able to make as thorough a proposal as the others because it's a store/co-op, not a developer. So really, if people want to attend the meeting on Tuesday to consider the Junction proposals, they should, but there is no "co-op interest" that's at stake in the meeting.

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