La Plata brings in panel to talk re­de­vel­op­ment plans

Fo­cus on area north of Charles Street

Maryland Independent - - News - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­ Twit­ter: Tif­fIndyNews

Last week the La Plata Town Cen­ter Cor­po­ra­tion spon­sored an in­de­pen­dent tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance panel in con­junc­tion with Ur­ban Land In­sti­tute Washington to dis­cuss how the town can bet­ter im­ple­ment re­de­vel­op­ment in down­town La Plata.

“We really ap­pre­ci­ate the panel com­ing to lay­out a con­cept plan,” said La Plata Mayor Roy G. Hale. “I think we’re in the right di­rec­tion be­cause we have es­tab­lished a sep­a­rate La Plata Town Cen­ter Cor­po­ra­tion to guide this project and move it for­ward.”

The panel pre­sen­ta­tion, “Im­ple­ment­ing Re­de­vel­op­ment in Down­town La Plata,” was put to­gether by the ULI Washington TAP mem­bers, Andy Brown of Stan­ford Prop­er­ties and chair of this ULI Washington TAP, Melina Dug­gal from Dug­gal Real Es­tate Ad­vi­sors, Dan Hardy of Re­nais­sance Plan­ning Group, Brian Cullen, Keane En­ter­prises Inc., Dan An­der­ton from Dew­berry, Donny James, Rev­enue Au­thor­ity of Prince Ge­orge’s County, Ju­lia Koster of Na­tional Cap­i­tal Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, Paul Moyer of VHB, and Su­man Sorg of DLR Group Sorg.

This TAP, a vol­un­teer group of ex­pe­ri­enced in­di­vid­u­als who have been as­sem­bled by ULI Washington for their ex­per­tise, helped iden­tify the best strat­egy to shape and fo­cus de­vel­op­ment in a roughly six-block study area north of Charles Street to make it a more wel­com­ing and vi­brant place with a true iden­tity. The goal of the TAP is to visit a ju­ris­dic­tion and take a look at its par­tic­u­lar plan­ning chal­lenges.

The day be­fore the panel’s pre­sen­ta­tion of its re­port, it heard from about 30 par­tic­i­pants about dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives of what La Plata needs, how to cat­alyze de­vel­op­ment, where to start, and what is im­por­tant to the town. The panel also met with many of the town staff to learn their points of view about how they en­vi­sion the fu­ture of La Plata.

Af­ter a tour of the study area and var­i­ous in­ter­views, the panel pro­vided an open press ini­tial pre­sen­ta­tion of their find­ings on May 12.

“This is one of the most or­ga­nized TAPs in terms of pre­sen­ta­tion and brief­ing ma­te­ri­als that were put to­gether by the spon­sor and one the best at­tended stake­holder meet­ings,” said Brown, chair of the panel. “The town is really at a cross­roads here. They have ma­jor em­ploy­ment an­chors which is really a pos­i­tive, be­cause there is the county gov­ern­ment build­ing, county so­cial ser­vices, hos­pi­tal, lo­cal li­brary, and the town hall. It may not all seem to function to­gether but the de­vel­op­ment area that you have cre­ated here really does ben­e­fit from be­ing in the mid­dle of these mag­net ar­eas. We see an op­por­tu­nity within this greater re­gion in La Plata to cre­ate a sense of place with a very dis­tinc­tive im­age.”

The Town of La Plata plans to im­prove its down­town area into a place that the com­mu­nity can come to­gether and en­hance the eco­nomic vi­tal­ity of the down­town area while pre­serv­ing its his­toric char­ac­ter. In 2000, the town pub­lished plans to cre­ate a town cen­ter with gov­ern­ment an­chors lo­cated just north of Charles Street. In 2002, a tor­nado cut through La Plata lev­el­ing much of the down­town area south of Charles Street. As a re­sult, much of the sub­se­quent de­vel­op­ment in the town shifted to the down­town area.

The tech­ni­cal panel noted some chal­lenges in the town such as trans­porta­tion, specif­i­cally safety, ve­hic­u­lar con­ges­tion and dif­fi­cult pedes­trian cross­ing and re­tail ex­pe­ri­ence on Charles Street and Washington Av­enue; dif­fu­sion of pri­or­i­ties for short and long term strate­gies (pri­or­i­tiz­ing trans­porta­tion), par­tic­u­larly by­pass, streetscape, and grid­ding; pass through traf­fic com­pet­ing with lo­cal cir­cu­la­tion; and ad­her­ence to the town’s vi­sion plan.

“Some of the im­por­tant po­ten­tial part­ners in im­ple­ment­ing La Plata’s vi­sion are ei­ther in con­flict, such as the hos­pi­tal, or don’t seem to be co­or­di­nat­ing par­tic­u­lar well, such as the ex­pan­sion of the pub­lic li­brary and county gov­ern­ment build­ing. The ex­ist­ing zon­ing code for the de­vel­op­ment area doesn’t sup­port or in­cen­tivize re­de­vel­op­ment,” Brown said.

The panel ex­plained the im­por­tance of co­or­di­na­tion in the town be­ing bet­ter im­ple­mented.

“The zon­ing code is a bit re­stric­tive and does not en­cour­age prop­erty own­ers to work to­gether but the de­vel­op­ment area be­ing owned by two in­di­vid­ual cor­po­ra­tions, the ex­pan­sion of the county gov­ern­ment build­ing, and the li­brary are all pos­i­tives,” Brown said.

“A lot of the prob­lems in the town are from the frag­mented own­er­ship,” Dug­gal said. “There are a lot of em­ploy­ees in the area who don’t have a lot of op­tions to live here and there’s a lot of of­fice around. The town can also pro­vide town­houses, of­fice space and hos­pi­tal­ity, which is lim­ited. Re­tail is also lack­ing in the area. Re­tail­ers like a lot of traf­fic and to be near other re­tail but there are so many em­ploy­ees here so you can get some bou­tique re­tail and restau­rants in the down­town area.”

“One of the things we heard a lot about is the traf­fic on Her­itage Green Park­way, Washington Street, and there is a lot hap­pen­ing to the north­east, so we looked for more abil­i­ties to cre­ate a se­ries of streets or by­passes to help dis­perse traf­fic in La Plata,” Hardy said. “The town also needs to im­prove ag­gra­va­tion and walk­a­bil­ity on Washington Av­enue. We in­cluded some ideas to re­duce speeds on Charles Street so that peo­ple will drive slower and that will help get peo­ple across the street. There are a lot of streets where park­ing is lim­ited so the town should foster a shared park­ing en­vi­ron­ment, some­thing where there is struc­tured or­ga­nized park­ing.”

The tech­ni­cal team stressed that the town be very flex­i­ble in its con­cept plan and vi­sion. Brown said the first step would be to de­velop the mas­ter plan as well as the zon­ing code that in­cen­tivize the kind of de­vel­op­ment that the town wants to see.

“We also spent a lot of time talk­ing about the li­brary and the op­por­tu­nity they have such as site ac­qui­si­tion and fund­ing to con­struct a li­brary so there’s fund­ing there,” Dug­gall said. “The town should work with the Charles County Com­mis­sion­ers to fig­ure out a good spot for the li­brary and not let that op­por­tu­nity pass this area by.”

Hale said the plans to move the li­brary are only par­tially funded right now by Charles County but he would like to see more ideas as to how to go about re­ceiv­ing more fund­ing for the li­brary’s re­lo­ca­tion and added that he is look­ing for­ward to see the TAP re­port.

“One of the most in­ter­est­ing com­ments we heard was that we should not be that locked into our plan that was de­vel­oped many years ago,” Hale said. “We just need to un­der­stand what the first steps are and we were given a lot of ideas and we look for­ward to view­ing the re­port. Trans­porta­tion is key, specif­i­cally how we move traf­fic through and around La Plata. I think the town as a whole and com­mu­nity is ded­i­cated to mak­ing it the best town that we can. We’ve shown re­siliency to be able to come back, keep the county go­ing and move in the right di­rec­tion.”


On May 11, the La Plata Town Cen­ter Cor­po­ra­tion spon­sored an in­de­pen­dent tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance panel in con­junc­tion with Ur­ban Land In­sti­tute Washington to dis­cuss re­de­vel­op­ing down­town La Plata. The panel heard from more than 30 par­tic­i­pants about dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives of what La Plata needs, how to cat­alyze de­vel­op­ment, where to start and what is im­por­tant to the town. The panel pre­sented its find­ings the next day, May 12, at La Plata Town Hall.

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