An Alternative Plan for Takoma Junction


Revitalization of Takoma Junction by development can take many forms. Here is a lighter, less dense version that creates public space for events, outdoor markets, or community use, and preserves Co-op functioning, while adding a coffee shop, pub, food hub, and/or business incubator/worker training components. This plan provides for off-street unloading, and eliminates underground parking. It utilizes “flex space” with thoughtful design and timed usage programming to accomplish more with less:


takoma junction_comm vision_img2 (2)


Takoma Junction - Site Plan - A4b (3) (1)


This plan was based on a Community Vision for Takoma Junction group concept, and created by local design and construction professionals Joseph Klockner and Rick Vitullo. It is adaptable for multiple uses, is less expensive, and more sustainable.


We invite your comments and suggestions on Facebook or at

The Reality of 40-Feet High

In which resident Roger Schlegel writes about the true size of the current development plan at Takoma Junction: just one of many reasons to build a smaller development on this lot.

This is the image that the developer (NDC) wants the City Council to fixate on in considering the proposed new building at the Junction:

Rendering of NDC Building from Spring Mill(1)

Source: NDC revised site plan presentation to Council, April 4

NDC does NOT want the Council, or the public, to look too closely at this required elevation drawing:

NDC front elevation drawing(1)

Source: NDC revised site plan presentation to Council, April 4

Why? Because NDC’s proposed building is over 40 feet tall. Use the scale at the bottom and measure for yourself. The gray section of the building rises to just under 40 feet, but the elevator tower reaches above 46 feet, and the arching facade surpasses 42 feet in height. Even the first-floor awning is at least 17 or 18 feet off the ground.

The project is ostensibly a two-story building, but this is a totally different animal, unlike any other two-story building in Takoma Park’s historic district. Typically, a 40-foot mixed use building includes three stories. Do a Google search on “2-story mixed use” “40 feet high” and you won’t find anything that fits the bill.

Aside from the Fire Station, there are just five other two-story commercial structures in Takoma Junction. (The Montessori School, Takoma Framers, Richardson School of Music, the Animal Clinic, and Suds Laundromat.) None of these comes close to the scale of NDC’s proposed building.

The historic character of a place is devastated when you drop an out-of-scale structure into the setting. To get an idea of what this looks like, take a look at this image from Woodley Park/Cathedral Heights in NW DC, where the Cathedral Commons development landed next to Cactus Cantina three years ago. The building on the right is about 35 feet high — 5 to 10 feet lower than what NDC proposes at the Junction — but you start to get the idea:

Cathedral Commons East view(1)

An out-of-scale building can also change a place’s character by casting huge shadows across the streetscape. This may not be so evident in the photo above because the building faces east, along Wisconsin Avenue. NDC’s proposed structure would face north, across Carroll Avenue. So, staying at the Cathedral Commons development and walking around the corner, this midday Google Earth image from 3700 Newark Street NW (looking east) gives a pretty good idea of the kind of shadow a 35-40 foot tall building creates. The building on the right, about 35 feet tall, faces north, similar to the orientation of NDC’s proposed structure.

Cathedral Commons - Newark St. (north) side(1)

So in viewing the artist’s renditions in NDC’s proposal, be sure to make these two mental adjustments:

  1. Don’t be fooled by the windows. Recognize that you’re looking at the equivalent of three- or even four-story building.
  2. Fill in lots of shadows since the sun would rarely be shining on that side of the street.

Our Response to the Latest Plan

Below are initial responses to the developer’s “draft/final” plan unveiled in April 2018

Design Issues

  • The building fills nearly the entire lot, with almost no public open space.
  • The only public space is a sidewalk strip and concrete apron, separated from the highway by “scrappy” vegetation, with pedestrians and bikers passing through.
  • The lay-by was moved back. Workers will now travel almost the length of a football field with handcarts and pallets in order to get deliveries to the Co-op. This will significantly lengthen the time trucks are there unloading.
  • The elevator is at the opposite corner from the Co-op. Co-op shoppers who park in the garage will push grocery carts more than the length of a football field across the entire development to get to the elevator, and leave carts in the garage.
  • The rooftop open space is apparently now private space.
  • Space for storage and pickup of waste and recycling, including dumpsters, for the Co-op and the new businesses in the development, remains unclear.
  • We know nothing about how an underground garage would be kept safe and clean–a challenge for any garage.
  • We have multiple alternative designs for revitalizing the lot with green/arts/public space, and ground-level coffee/brewpub/pop-up local businesses. There is no current City process for considering alternatives.

Lay-by Issues

  • The Co-op cannot control the size of trucks (including 18-wheelers) or timing of deliveries. On an average morning, three or more trucks arrive simultaneously.
  • The lay-by does not have space for simultaneous delivery by more than one large truck.
  • The lay-by has eliminated the bus stop and bike share currently at this location. They must be moved to some undetermined location.
  • The developer suggested that waiting trucks drive around the block on a predetermined neighborhood route if the lay-by is occupied. Truck drivers have publicly stated that this will not happen, because it would set them way off their schedules. Trucks will either be backed up along Carroll, or double-parked blocking traffic, or simply drive away without delivering.
  • It is unclear what would stop a taxi or uber, or a motorist picking up a cup of coffee, or dropping off a friend, from stopping in the lay-by. There should be a required zone for this kind of stopping.
  • Trucks in the lay-by will impede sight lines, and block visibility for pedestrians, bikers, and other cars. Impatient motorists will pull out past waiting trucks, which already happens frequently with buses at the Junction.
  • The Fire Chief has expressed concerns on getting emergency vehicles out quickly with a lay-by.

Other Traffic and safety issues

  • Traffic congestion will get worse with new drivers to new offices and retail.
  • Students walking to and from school already face hazards. The hazards will multiply with trucks and buses blocking traffic on Carroll and Ethan Allen.
  • With increased traffic, how will cars safely enter or exit the garage into traffic on Carroll? If they can only turn right on exiting the development’s garage, they will have to drive through residential streets to return to Carroll going west.
  • Because it will be so difficult to enter or exit the garage onto Carroll, cars (and trucks) will seek parking in the adjacent residential streets.
  • People who don’t want to pay for parking or deal with the underground garage will try to park in the Co-op’s small lot on Sycamore.
  • Increasingly frustrated through-traffic motorists will speed through the residential streets, including the very dangerous Columbia Avenue, to avoid Junction congestion.
  • Where is the bus stop going to go? Will the new crosswalk be there? Both are absent or unclear in NDC’s drawings. Where will the bike station and bike lane go?

Economic Issues

  • The Co-op may not survive the disruption of business during construction, loss of off-street loading, and loss of public surface parking in the lot.  The Co-op is currently one of the largest employers and economic enterprises in our city.
  • Increased retail rents, too expensive for local businesses, will drive gentrification.
  • The City requires that the new spaces be rented to “predominantly” local or regional businesses. Will that be 51% regional chains and 49% national chains? Will a local franchise of a national chain be considered local (State Farm, for example)?
  • With a private garage, will there be any “public” spots, versus spots for specific businesses? And we don’t know the prices for parking there. Why would people pay private garage prices to shop here when there is plentiful public garage parking in Silver Spring and Bethesda?
  • This project gives control of the last flat, open, available public land in the heart of our City to a private developer who needs to maximize income on the building.
  • Public land should be used for the public good.