RE-ENVISIONING THE HEART AND HISTORY OF BLADENSBURG
University of Maryland combines heritage, development and design in presentation for Bladensburg's Market Square
COLLEGE PARK, MD - A walk-able town center, diverse restaurants, innovative housing options, and better access to parks, the Anacostia and downtown Washington are all visions of two proposed redevelopment projects for the Market Square area of Bladensburg, MD, created by an interdisciplinary team of students from the University of Maryland. The teams presented their proposals to the Bladensburg City Council and Mayor Tuesday night.
Originally presented to the city administrator in December by the projects' financial supporters, The Aman Memorial Trust and Prince George's Heritage, Inc., Tuesday's meeting allowed an opportunity for the project teams to provide a snapshot of each development plan to a larger audience, starting a dialogue about the future of the city. In attendance was Bladensburg Mayor Walter Lee James Jr., as well as council members Cris Mendoza, M. Charlina Watson and Walter George.
"We are so pleased that the Mayor and City Council, along with the City Administrator of Bladensburg, have taken such a strong interest in the creative, yet financially viable, ideas for a core six block area of downtown Bladensburg," said Margaret McFarland, director of the Colvin Institute for Real Estate Development at Maryland, and one of the faculty sponsors of the project.
"I was particularly pleased when Mayor James noted that this was the type of work that the Town expects to receive from professional consultants," said Dr. Donald Linebaugh, director of the Historic Preservation Program, the project's co-sponsor. "I was repeatedly struck by the quality of presentation and professional demeanor in answering questions posed by the Mayor and Council members."
The semester-long project was a collaboration of 15 graduate students, split into two teams, from multiple University programs including Real Estate Development, Historic Preservation, Community Planning and Landscape Architecture. Together, under the guidance of professors from each discipline, the groups set out to re-think the Market Square area of Bladensburg; envisioning a more sustainable, pedestrian friendly, live-work area fostering the community, while recognizing and celebrating the significant history of the area.
"Because the proposals-to use student slang-‘mashed up' the expertise of students and faculty from multiple disciplines, we believe we have a model going forward for providing terrific educational experiences for students while offering practical, implementable concepts for redevelopment to our neighboring communities along the Anacostia," added McFarland.
To get a better grasp of the project landscape, the teams took to the streets, talking with people who both live and work in Bladensburg. Combined with extensive research of the areas historical records, census information, infrastructure, market data and financing that might be available, as well as numerous site visits, the teams were able to decipher the best opportunities for enhancing the area.
The end result: Two unique plans that play up the strengths of Bladensburg, such as its rich history and abundance of parks, while shoring up areas where the teams, through their research, found weaknesses, including traffic circulation and community engagement. The first proposal, "The Heart of Bladensburg", focuses on the six block area around the historic Market Place at 48th and Annapolis Road, offering the addition of an international market as well as new apartments convenient to retail, an internet café and other local business. Following phases would bring in rental and for sale townhomes as well as a financially viable way to fund the restoration and public use of Bostwick House, a historic house not far from Market Square. "Crossroads Market," the group's second development plan, focuses on public improvements to Annapolis Road and Peace Cross by adding significant tree coverage for a boulevard feel. The plan also adds senior housing, a new library and open park at the Market Square site, bringing greater integration and prominence to the historic Market Master's house.
Each development plan provides Bladensburg officials with a phased framework for implementation, including detailed financial plans. The proposals can be applied in pieces or as a whole, giving the city greater flexibility. Some of the programming, like the heritage trail programs proposed by both groups of students, can be executed almost immediately.
Says Linebaugh, "This project provided the ideal learning environment: a real world problem and client, motivated and engaged students from several disciplines, and a creative and flexible faculty to moderate and mentor the process."
Part of Tuesday's discussion focused on the future of existing local businesses, an important issue for the city. Both plans provide incentives for local businesses to improve existing space or relocate to proposed new buildings.
The Mayor and City Council now have the opportunity to read through and study each proposal in more detail before deciding next actions.
"It was exciting to have our student proposals for Bladensburg be considered by the council as they plan for the town's future," says Lauren Schizik, a graduate student in the Historic Preservation program. "The opportunity to address practical, real world issues and then have them be seriously considered is terrific."
The School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at the University of Maryland is home to four academic disciplines: architecture, urban planning, historic preservation and real estate development. Committed to educating its students and community about the importance of sustainability and smart growth, the School practices an interdisciplinary approach to education, research, creative work, and community and professional service. For more information, please e-mail us or call 301.405.8000.
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