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Whole Foods project hits rough patch, at least temporarily, near College Park

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The proposed mixed-use development near College Park that is expected to include a Whole Foods has been withdrawn, at least temporarily, by the developer.

The Prince George’s County planning board staff recommended late last week that the board reject the plan because of what it said were deficiencies in the proposal, including problems with bike path design and a bridge across a CSX railroad track.

The planning board had been scheduled to review the proposal for the mixed-use town center south of College Park at its regularly scheduled meeting Thursday in Upper Marlboro.

The proposal also is being scrutinized by the American Center for Physics, which wrote mayors of nearby towns surrounding the proposed development that it had misgivings about aspects of the mixed-use town center.

While the physics organization had previously endorsed the proposal, its chief, Beth Cunningham, said in a letter that the group had concerns about the elevated bridge across the railroad, which is proposed to cross the center’s property. The group said it could be several months before it could assess the impact of the proposed bridge, which would carry vehicles.

The development, which Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) had promoted, has been controversial in the surrounding communities. The Prince George’s council held a marathon multi-day review last spring before approving it.

The Cafritz family needed council backing to rezone land that has been set aside for single-family residential homes and turn it into a zone that would allow for significantly more density. The project would allow for the construction of 995 units of multifamily housing, a 120-room hotel, 22,000 square feet of office space and 168,000 square feet of retail on a 36-acre parcel, a spokesman for the family said.

Opponents of the plan have pointed out that the county planning board in February agreed to allow the developer to build on a larger swath, up to 201,840 square feet of retail and flex space.

Baker, who has been eager to show that Prince George’s is ripe for commercial expansion, had said that bringing a Whole Foods to the county would send a positive signal to other retailers.

Opponents have said that the development would jam an already congested area and overburden nearby communities and their local governments.

Attorneys for the Cafritz project did not return repeated requests for comment.

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