Metro shifts gears on Takoma station plan

Metro is reworking the development agreement for its Takoma station in the District, swapping a plan to build almost 90 town homes for a condo project of more than 200 units after members of the community called for a project that would make better use of access to the station.

For more than a decade, the transit agency has been eyeing development of the parking lot at its Takoma station, located along the Maryland border between Piney Branch Road NW, Cedar Street NW and Eastern Avenue NW. It selected EYA, based in Bethesda, in 2000, and in 2007, Metro’s board approved a plan for town homes on the site with new parking and bus bays for the transit service.

But EYA never began work, and residents continued to register complaints about the project, saying the plan would hinder access to the station. They also contended that the proposed town houses, with their two-car garages, would not exactly encourage use of the Red Line station. Takoma Park City Council Member Seth Grimes and two Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners in D.C., Faith Wheeler and Sara Green, wrote Metro to raise concerns about whether the transit agency was properly incorporating the community’s concerns.

Stanley Wall, Metro’s director of real estate and station planning, responded to the commissioners with a June 26 letter saying the agency had made changes to “incorporate desired transit services and other amenities.”

In an interview, Wall said part of the reason for the change was to address the community’s concerns about the town home plan. But he also said that the original plan was no longer feasible because the cost to replace Metro’s facilities on the site had gone up considerably since the first plan was approved.

“There really wasn’t enough density to replace the cost of our stuff,” Wall said last week.

The reworked plan preserves more open space for future transit access. The D.C. government is planning a streetcar line that would run north from downtown along Georgia Avenue and terminate at the Takoma station, and Metro may need to provide space for a streetcar stop and turnaround.

In part because of the controversy, Takoma has become one of Metro’s longest delayed projects, but Wall said he hoped the new plan would allow it to get back on track. Metro’s board is expected to review the new plan July 8 and could vote on it July 25.

The project is one of a number that will be contemplated by Metro’s board this week, including the possible future sale of the Royal Street Bus Garage in the northern end of Old Town Alexandria.

Metro is building a replacement garage in Franconia, and Wall said that ideally Metro would plan the sale of its Alexandria garage to coincide with the opening of the new garage, likely in mid-2015. The city of Alexandria has pushed Metro to make the garage, which occupies an entire block at the corner of North Royal Street and Pendleton Street, available for redevelopment.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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