My Two Cents: All about Whole Foods? Two views of the proposed Cafritz development

September 10, 2011

One of the big issues people are discussing these days is a proposal to build a large mixed-use development in what is now a wooded area on Route 1 just north of Hyattsville. located in Riverdale Park and across from University Park, the parcel is owned by the Cafritz Corporation, which has announced plans to put retail stores, apartments and town homes there in the not-too-distant future. The anchor would be a Whole Foods store and would also include 160,000 feet of additional retail space, 640 apartments and 100 town homes, among other things. The parcel is currently zoned to allow for about 250 single-family homes, so a zoning change would be necessary.

The issue is proving divisive among Hyattsville residents, with strong opinions on both sides. Below, two residents make their cases.

 

whole foods logoThe residents of the Arts District Hyattsville neighborhood are joining in united support of the Whole Foods development proposed at the Cafritz property in Riverdale. In light of the economic downturn over the last few years, many of us have seen the effects of decreased property values, closed or foreclosed retail ventures, delayed openings in our own Arts District, among other things.

Through all of this Arts District Hyattsville is proof that if a neighborhood is supportive, involved, and determined that it can prosper and become a lively, walkable community. We have seen the benefits firsthand of a well-planned and well-executed community come to fruition – even in the midst of a recession (and possibly second downturn). It is because of this that we support the well-planned community WF and Cafritz is proposing.

Bringing healthy, wholesome shopping options to our area, less than five miles from DC, is a great benefit to the residents and community. Hyattsville, Riverdale, University Park and College Park deserve to have these opportunities and as your neighbors we applaud your project.

— Excerpts from a letter sent to local elected officials on August 26. It was written by Arts District Hyattsville resident Kristina Iverson and it was signed by other ADH residents. 

 

No Whole Foods
It’s not about Whole Foods. If Whole Foods wants to come to Prince George’s County, there are many places that are zoned for something other than residential housing that would almost certainly embrace their arrival.
The developers of the Cafritz property in Riverdale Park are seeking to expand the boundaries of the College Park Transit District Overlay Zone (surrounding the Metro station) to include their property, which is currently zoned for around 200-250 homes.  Underlying zoning provides a way for a property owner and a surrounding community to exercise their rights as to their ability to develop and determine the character of their neighborhood.  It should not be taken lightly and significant changes should only happen after thorough review from the entire community.

Unfortunately, the developer has come to the community with admittedly outdated market studies, plans lacking in detail for the residential portion of the project and statements such as “something needs to be done about the [Route 1/MD 410] intersection,” which is currently failing. Yet, they want the county to approve their request for a zoning change for the entire 36-acre parcel in short order.

There are other, established TDOZ’s in the area from Greenbelt to West Hyattsville that are under-developed and could benefit from this type of development and Whole Foods could consider them. With the anticipated East Campus development at Route 1 and Paint Branch Parkway, Hyattsville’s Arts District and the Prince George’s Plaza TDOZ all within a mile or so of the Cafritz property, how is such a significant zoning change justifiable to the community? How can the developers show that their request will not harm what has already been established by many years of planning and community development work at the municipal and county levels?

Using current market studies would be a good place to start.  The Hyattsville City Council is now considering commissioning such a study, ideally in conjunction with neighboring municipalities. This would be done in order to both determine the impacts of the potential Cafritz proposal and other current and proposed developments in the region as well as to plan for future development capacity and character.

One specific retailer should not be the primary consideration driving this zoning decision and, in fact, the Whole Foods is only a small portion of what is being proposed.  What is being asked for will affect the community through demands on our infrastructure and market capacities in big ways and small, known and unknown. It seems, though, that the topic is being manipulated to “how do we get Whole Foods into our community now” where it might be prudent to not “jump first” and figure the rest out later.

— City of Hyattsville Councilmember Tim Hunt (Ward 3)