This article, originally published at 5:52 p.m. July 27, 2023, was updated at 12:02 a.m. July 28, 2023, to correct that Peter Kovar is a former Takoma Park City councilmember and now just a resident; and at 1:06 p.m. to correct that Ashley Evans Brookshier lives in Ward 3, not Ward 6.
A controversial development project next to the Takoma Metrorail station on the D.C.-Maryland border was approved by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) on Thursday.
The project, led by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and Bethesda-based development company EYA, proposes to redevelop the surface parking lot at the metro station into a mixed-use development with an two-level underground parking garage, outdoor seating area and green space. It will also remove up to 144 existing parking spaces at the metro station and bring a roughly seven-story building next to Takoma Park’s historic district, which has caused some residents on the Maryland side to oppose the project.
“If development creates traffic problems that prohibit that access, it will very significantly reduce my activities and spending in the city,” Maryland-side resident Steve Whitney said in an email to MoCo360. “…Although added congestion at the Metro site would certainly spark business development on the Maryland side, there will be a long period of transition that may or may not really work out.”
The D.C. Historic Preservation Review board reviewed EYA’s full project proposal and heard testimony from Takoma Park residents and non-profit group, Historic Takoma.
Jennifer Martin, a board member of Historic Takoma, testified that the project design was “wholly uncharacteristic” of the Takoma historic district and urged developers to design the building to be more in harmony with the surrounding historic neighborhoods.
“Many residents have written the HPRB stating this proposed development is completely out of scale and undermines decades of protections of this historic district,” she said.
Two weeks earlier, the D.C. Zoning Commission approved the development on July 13 much to the dismay of some Takoma Park residents on the Maryland side. These resident have several concerns with the project, including the height of the building being too tall; the removal of parking space; traffic and stormwater management; pedestrian safety; and removal of trees from the site.
Barbara Rosenblatt, a Takoma Park resident, wrote in an email to MoCo360 that as a regular user of the Takoma Metro station, the new development would “negatively affect” she and her husband’s use of the metro station.
“My husband and I are senior citizens who frequently park our car at the lot and travel into D.C. by train. We are distressed at the plan to severely limit parking spaces at the Takoma Station,” Rosenblatt wrote.
Not all residents are in opposition to the project. As of June 14, the D.C. Zoning Commission received 101 letters of support and 73 letters of opposition to the project, according to zoning documents.
Supporters see the development as an improvement to the neighborhood in that it will bring additional affordable housing and retail opportunities to the community and make use of an otherwise underutilized open green space next to the metro.
Ashley Evans Brookshier, who lives in Ward 3, commented on a Takoma Park Facebook group that she was excited about the project. “This project will allow many more neighbors to enjoy the Takoma Park that I love, and with lower carbon footprints enabled by proximity to metro,” she said.
At the HPRB meeting on Thursday, EYA also provided updates on the building design after a June 1 meeting with the review board. Updates include simplifying the building’s façade by reorganizing the windows, removing a horizontal frame on the roof, adding more brick and warm colored building materials, and including design elements that are inspired by other buildings in Takoma Park.
During the review board’s deliberations, board members said the updates that EYA implemented were an improvement and agreed that the size and height of the building was appropriate due to it being at a transit center.
“I know that’s been a big source of much of the comments from the community, but I think the board has moved beyond that and is in agreement with staff that this site can support this mass and density,” said HPRB board member Marnique Heath.
According to the project website, once complete WMATA will own the bus-loop and transit facility and EYA will own the residential mixed-use building, approximately 17,000 square feet of retail space and 1.8 acres of public open space. The building will be about 76 feet tall with a penthouse that adds an additional 18 feet, the project website said.
Additionally, plans propose a two-level parking garage partially below grade that will be available to residents and will also have metered parking for commercial use.
The mixed-use building will include between 430 to 440 units and 15% of units will have affordable rents. Of the affordable units, 3% will be three-bedroom units for families earning 30% of the area median income, the website said.
Existing trees on the property will remain within the public open space and the plan proposes the space have shaded lawns and decks, outdoor seating, a vertical vegetated wall, trees planted next to the sidewalks and a shared-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists, according to project plans.
Proposed changes to the parking and bus areas include, relocating the bus loop and Kiss & Ride, adding a drop-off only bus stop, removing 144 parking spaces and adding a traffic signal on Carroll Street NW at the entrance to the bus loop and Kiss & Ride, according to WMATA.
EYA did not immediately respond to MoCo360’s request for comment.
Across residents in Maryland and D.C.’s Takoma Park communities, the reaction to the development project has been mixed.
Peter Kovar, a former Takoma Park City Councilmember for Ward 1 – which is directly across the street from the proposed development – said he is not entirely opposed to the project but believes it needs changes that are more “compatible” with and meet the needs of the surrounding neighborhood, he wrote in a testimony to the D.C. Zoning Commission in June.
In the written testimony Kovar said, “I believe the Takoma Metro site would be much improved if it had an apartment building with mixed income housing and a modest commercial/retail component, while continuing to serve as a valuable transit hub.”
Kovar insisted EYA and WMATA conduct ongoing consultations with Takoma Park residents, businesses, and the municipal government throughout the approval process, and argued the project should include a larger percentage Metro parking spaces and the building not exceed four or five stories.
Kevin Collins, a Takoma D.C. resident commented on the Facebook group that he was very excited about the development as it would bring new affordable housing to the area and new neighbors.
“But perhaps most exciting, replacing an underutilized surface parking lot with first floor retail will help connect the retail corridor on 4th [Street NW] to the retail corridor in Takoma Park MD, creating a well-used, continuous stretch of retail that will both serve neighbors and contribute to a sense of public safety in the neighborhood,” Collins wrote.
Other commenters brought up that they were concerned that the development would remove native trees already growing in the area and hoped that there would be plans to protect the existing mature trees that are included in the plan. Now that the HPRB has approved the plan, the project team will work through additional refinements to the site plan and design.