Takoma Junction Timeline

Original concept submitted by NDC with truck parked in loading zone at rear. City chose NDC based on their proposal including this plan.

It may be hard to see the full arc of the proposed Takoma Junction development process, a process unfolding over many years now. So here, we provide a preliminary timeline of events with linked documents, over the past 30 years. This is a draft, so we welcome suggestions.

1992. Takoma Park Historic District, including the Junction, established to protect against “unsympathetic alteration and insensitive redevelopment.”

1995. After residents “violently resist” proposed chain drug store on the empty Takoma Junction lot, City buys lot, hoping to attract Co-op to Junction.

1998. Co-op moves to Junction. City begins renting a portion of lot to Co-op for parking, storage, and loading. Co-op begins sponsoring public use, eventually including Earth Day, movie screenings, weekly concerts, and in the pandemic, hands-free grocery pickup, Farmer’s Market, non-profit food distribution, and Black Lives Matter protest.

2009. Independent study commissioned by Old Town Business Association (OTBA) identifies Co-op as the Junction anchor, recommends “every effort be made to encourage” its further development, and recommends 10,000 sf expansion of Co-op and addition of Co-op cafe.

Feb 2012. Takoma Junction Task Force Report issued. Mentions community desire for small town charm, food trucks, expanded community use, pavilion, playground, support for local businesses.

2011. Co-op membership votes to authorize Co-op Board to pursue expansion.

Jan 2014. Under a short-lived City Manager who now works for Amazon, City puts out Request for Proposals, effectively pre-ordaining choice of a commercial developer and excluding Co-op’s expansion and open public space proposal. City Councilman Seth Grimes later laments, “The city made a mistake in not providing detailed, clear guidance on community preferences” and that “none of the proposals” meet City needs documented by Junction Task Force.

2015. City chooses Neighborhood Development Company (NDC), based on their concept showing residential and commercial, a loading zone behind the building (no lay-by) and presumed expansion of Co-op as the anchor tenant.

March 2015. City Councilman Tim Male opines that plan is too big, says, “I have a hard time imagining…a 33,000 sf building…on that spot.”

July 2016. City signs a Development Agreement with NDC, laying groundwork for choosing new anchor tenant if they cannot agree with Co-op on expansion.

2016. First of at least three petitions opposing the development. Over 1300 unique signatures gathered by 2018. Majority of public comments oppose plan at numerous City Council meetings over multiple years. City refuses to survey residents or hold referendum to document opposition.

2017. NDC and Co-op fail to reach agreement for Co-op expansion as anchor tenant. City authorizes NDC to seek a new anchor tenant.

2017. NDC makes deal to acquire adjoining auto clinic, increases plan to over 50,000 sq ft, does not use that “new” space to add any public use back in, releases a three-story glass design received as “Bethesda style.”

April 2018. Community Vision hosts a packed Town Hall with State Highway Administration. Residents and Fire Chief express concerns about safety and traffic issues created by plan.

April 2018. NDC submits revised plans with funkier facade but maintaining 50,000 sf size. Images portrayed from a high vantage point continue to minimize perceived size of development.

May 2018. NDC and Co-op, unable to reach a plan for Co-op accommodation during and after construction, agree to mediation funded by City.

June 2018. Two Junction traffic studies issued. They find multiple problems: new traffic will create a “failed intersection,” road reconfiguration will induce demand and create more congestion.

July 2018. City Council votes on a resolution, 5-2, to let NDC submit site plan (over 50,000 sf) to County.

Sept 2018. Ground lease goes into effect. NDC begins paying rent to City. Co-op begins paying more to NDC to sublet the lot than NDC is paying the City. So NDC is now making money on the lot. City is now getting less per month from NDC than they got directly from Co-op to rent just part of the lot. Nevertheless, the Co-op begins providing free parking for the whole Junction on the lot they are paying for.

Oct 2018. NDC abruptly shuts down block of small businesses in NE DC. BlackLivesMatterDC leads protest march to home of NDC’s owner. Civil rights lawyer represents businesses against developer.

Oct 2018. Mediation between NDC and Co-op concludes. Co-op prohibited from any further protest in return for ability to rent lot from NDC until construction, other accommodations.

Feb 2019. After failing to convince surrounding businesses to sell them “transferrable development rights,” NDC reduces plan by more than 10,000 sq ft to attempt to comply with zoning. NDC submits plan to County.

March 2019. First review by County’s Development Review Committee (DRC) finds lay-by unacceptable, exit onto Carroll unsafe, inadequate emergency access, plan is bad for walkers and bikers and public transit, other issues.

2019. NDC has three Preliminary Consultations with County’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC). In May and August, staff and Commissioners critique size, shape, lay-by, public space, public input. Mayor, City Manager push back. HPC backs off, but asks NDC to return with Columbia (“rear”) facade.

Presentation to HPC, October 2019. Private balcony added. “Rear” facade pushed out toward Columbia. Note how small the Co-op (grey roof) still looks next to the development.

2019. All but one retail spaces in Junction currently rented, and public parking lot is frequently full now, undercutting City’s original stated intention to “revitalize the Junction” with a large development.

Nov 2019. NDC asks for a second 3-month extension to July 2020 for responding to the DRC’s comments, because they are waiting for the SHA’s Junction Vision Study on roadways and traffic.

January 9 2020, Montgomery County Planning Board votes to approve NDC’s extension to Sept 30 2020 instead of July, since the Planning Board will be out of session for the summer in July 2020.

May 8 2020, State Highway Administration releases a letter to the NDC’s traffic consultant, stating that four different SHA departments have reviewed the project and that the development would increase traffic, cannot be built without reconfiguration of Junction roadways, and there is no state money for reconfiguration through 2025. It also questions many other aspects of the plan.

May-July 2020 Residents get wind of backroom negotiations by the City to try to figure out some other way to accommodate the Junction development. Resident Andrew Strongin asks to see communications on this topic for the six-week period after the SHA’s May 8th letter. A month later, the City Attorney writes back that there are indeed over 200 communications on the Junction in this period, but that it will cost $985 to have him review and possibly redact the documents (due to “attorney-client privilege” or “executive privilege). A GoFundMe campaign raises the funds in a matter of hours, due to public outcry.

July 2020 At a series of City Council meetings, residents request that the City re-evaluate the Junction plan in light of the pandemic, the recession, Black Lives Matter, and the climate crisis. The City declines, saying they will look at and vote on the plan only immediately prior to the final Planning Board vote.

July 20 2020 Developer submits to the County’s DRC the revised Junction plans (here and here) responding to the March 2019 DRC comments. This sets in motion deadlines leading to the final County vote. New drawings finally depict the Columbia/Poplar facade, leading to public outcry:

August 2020 Under persistent pressure by attorney and resident Andrew Strongin, the City acknowledges three documents that were not originally posted anywhere. One is a July 14th response from the developer’s traffic group to the SHA, stating that they are assuming in their plans that the C0-op’s entrance from 410 will be closed, and all entrance and exit to and from the Co-op’s Sycamore lot will be from Sycamore. A second document is the “Justification Statement,” a narrative piece describing the newly revised plans. A third document is a technical drawing of the stormwater management plan.

Still to Come (Not Chronological):

  • SHA Vision Study (on traffic, safety, and any reconfiguration at Junction) was due out in winter 2020, reportedly complete, and shared with various interested parties, but faced political pressure from the City and is not yet officially released.
  • A fourth preliminary consultation with HPC on the Columbia Ave facade was requested by the HPC but NDC chose to ignore this.
  • The DRC will write a final report.
  • The City must then consider changes made to the plan since 2018, whether the Co-op is accommodated, and vote up or down on a recommendation to the Planning Board, before the Planning Board vote.
  • NDC must get financing for the development, and find tenants.
  • Montgomery Planning Board vote.
  • NDC will then request a Historic Area Work Permit (HAWP) from HPC.
  • City must review the plan separately for stormwater and tree conservation plans.

Community Vision Takes Stand on Cell Tower Safety at Local Building

Colleen Cordes delivered a letter on behalf of Community Vision for Takoma this week warning of predicted “alarming” cell tower radiation from multiple antennae on a Takoma Park apartment building, and the racial equity issues of this potential health threat. The City weighed in to demand more information before a new antenna is approved. The issue, and Colleen, ended up on the local news. Here is our letter:

Funding an Alternative Plan

There is great interest in the community in any number of alternative plans for Takoma Junction, with either more public space, smaller commercial space, or both. The developers maintain that they cannot afford to give us the smaller 34,000 sq ft from their original drawing, or more public space, or space for proper off-site unloading in the back of the development.

One response would be for the City to recognize that some of the open public space has great value to the community for multiple reasons (just as we recognize that the wooded slope has great value), and that the City can and should include significant public open space, even if it isn’t “cost neutral.”

But there are also lots of sources of funding out there for visionary and transformative community space–for innovative open space, city placemaking, hubs and incubators–for a design that would benefit more than just people who can afford upscale retail. Ideas that have gained traction include a food hub, a crafting/maker hub, a job training hub, and a small business incubator.

Below are some possible funding sources other than commercial developers. This is a crowd-sourced document. Please email additional resource ideas to tjcommunityvision@gmail.com.

1. State Funding

  • Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund – direct grants and low-interest loans are available for developments and infrastructure
  • Economic Development Opportunities Fund (Sunny Day fund) – grants and loans especially for projects that incorporate employment training or creation for populations with high unemployment
  • Maryland Industrial Development Financing Authority – taxable and tax exempt bonds to the city for development of particular projects including those related to clean energy
  • Community Development Block Grants
  • Maryland Venture Fund – if we included a Impact Hub for start-up small businesses
  • Maryland Economic Adjustment Fund
  • Maryland Industrial Projects Fund – if we created a partnership with University of Maryland with our Impact Hub focused on food businesses
  • Maryland Jobs Now – investing in workforce oriented projects (think a training program for lower income residents interested in business start-ups in landscaping, composting, backyard gardening, home based graphic design, etc.)

2. Philanthropic support

  • Annie E. Casey – for Impact Hub focused on environmental problem solving start-ups, from tree care to composting
  • Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation – for workforce development for high  unemployment pockets of Takoma Park
  • Abell FoundationThe Abell Foundation encourages initiatives that attract resident investment in neighborhoods, promote sustainability, increase economic development opportunities and nurture entrepreneurial talent to increase the livability of neighborhoods, the number of residents, the number of jobs and the size of the tax base.
  • Town Creek Foundation

3. Impact Capital (non-profit investment firms)

4. TPSS Co-op members 

5. Other funders interested in community building and placemaking, such as those listed here: https://www.pps.org/article/innovative-funding-programs-for-placemaking. 

6. Community crowd-sourcing and other forms of resident investment, including IOBY

Sign the Petition

Whether you are primarily concerned about traffic congestion, pedestrian and biker safety, gentrification from rising rents at the Junction, or the threat to the Co-op, now is the time to take action. We only have a few weeks until the final Council vote.

If you only have 30 seconds, please sign the PETITION to ask City Council to reject the current plan. It is time to reclaim the Junction as public land for the public good, and come up with alternatives for best use of this community space.

On the sidebar on the left, you can see a whole list of additional ways to communicate to our elected officials on the Junction situation in the final weeks before the final vote.

Please sign the PETITION here.

Then, send the link to friends, and post on your facebook page, and on your neighborhood listserve.

Now is the moment to insist that elected officials represent the community.

 

Welcome

Welcome to Community Vision for Takoma, an informal network of over 1000 Takoma residents and nearby neighbors, who want a Takoma Junction revitalization that uses public land for the public good. We also work on other issues relating to health, safety, and economic well-being, structural racism and gentrification, and transparency, accountability, and increased public participation in local government.

We are concerned that plans for the development of the publicly-owned property at the Junction–land that was secured for the purpose of benefiting the residents of the community–have evolved into a developer-driven project that will not be affordable for small, locally-owned businesses, or inclusive of all Takoma residents, exacerbating  racial and socioeconomic segregation. We also believe that the plan would: exacerbate the Junction traffic congestion and related safety concerns; eliminate space for community activities and public gathering; drive up rents in a commercial neighborhood of businesses owned by Black people and people of color; and threaten the survival of the community-owned grocery store which is one of the largest employers in the City and the only unionized service business.

What We Stand FOR at the Junction:

  • Visionary placemaking at the Junction to create a town square open to all
  • Use of public space that is inclusive and welcoming without requiring consumption
  • Preservation of affordable retail spaces
  • Support for innovative, local, independent small businesses
  • Pop-ups, coffee shops, food trucks & Union-Market-style business incubator space
  • Respect for the “low and open” small town neighborhood architecture
  • Prioritizing innovative programming over building massive permanent structures
  • Prioritizing pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport
  • Continued support for our only downtown grocery store
  • Optimized use of public space for public events, music, and art
  • New landscaping and preservation, improvement, & expansion of green space
  • Celebrating a commercial neighborhood where a majority of business-owners are people of color
  • Highest environmental standards
  • Improvement in Junction traffic
  • Improvement in Junction safety
  • Development prioritizing public good rather than maximum income