Takoma Park Recreation Center on New Hampshire Avenue

Takoma Park needs a great Rec Center replacement that’s green and maximizes the housing opportunity

On September 28, Takoma Park City Manager Jamal Fox announced pending release of a request for proposals (RFP) for New Hampshire Ave Rec Center redevelopment. That’s excellent and shows that community advocacy is paying off. Takoma Park needs a great new Rec Center, serving Ward 6 and the entire city.

The city council kicked this project off in 2014-5 with two studies, a Recreational Needs Study and a Zoning Analysis and Concept Plans. Five concept plans were studied: Mixing Recreational, Commercial, and Residential uses. The Residential + Recreational Use Concept has 5 stories of apartments over 2 of Rec for part of the building and 7 stories of apartments for part. It envisions 125 market-rate apartments and 31 MPDUs (moderately priced dwelling units). The proportion of MPDUs is above the county-mandated minimum, which provides “bonus density” that allows the building to exceed nominal zoning height and other limits.

We need the best possible new recreation center, and we can and should also use the opportunity to maximize the housing opportunity, in keeping with Takoma Parks October 2019 Housing and Economic Development Strategic Plan. (As of October 2022, we have zero multi-unit buildings under construction or even in the planning process.) The Takoma Overlook condo apartment building immediately behind the site has 12 stories of apartments (plus underground and surface parking). An additional 3 stories of apartments above the Rec Center could add 50 units and maybe mean a greater Rec Center investment.

A Letter to the City Manager

So I wrote a letter to City Manager Jamal Fox on October 7. (I didn’t include advocacy for creation of a satellite library facility within the Rec Center because that design element doesn’t need to be part of RFP responses.) Here’s my letter:

Would you please consider several points for inclusion in the pending Takoma Park Rec Center RFP:

  1. Bidder may offer an alternative based on inclusion of land adjacent to the current Rec Center parcel, currently a lawn area, north of the Rec Center parcel, that could be purchased from the Takoma Overlook Condominium Association for inclusion in the project. Purchase of this land would require subdivision of the property with address 7333 New Hampshire Ave. Note CRT-2.0 / C-0.5 / R-1.5 / H-130 zoning of that property. [See the area zoning map, below.]
  2. Bidder may offer an alternative based on rezoning of the Rec Center parcel, whether to match the CRT-2.0 / C-0.5 / R-1.5 / H-130 zoning of the adjacent apartment building properties or some other zoning.
  3. Bidder is invited to take advantage of provisions of the Montgomery County Zoning Ordinance that allow “bonus density” and building height exceeding the nominal zoning limit in exchange for providing all-affordable housing or an above-minimum proportion of moderately priced dwelling units (MPDUs), public open space, or other community benefits.
  4. Bidder is asked to propose a “green” project that meets criteria for the highest-possible score for each applicable LEED rating system including for building and interior design and construction (D+C) and for operations and maintenance (O+M).
  5. Bidder is asked to propose a project that relies on electricity or geothermal for HVAC, cooking, water heating, etc., with strong stormwater-handling and flooding-avoidance measures that contribute to area-wide needs.
  6. Bidder is asked to consider “circular economy” principles for reuse and recycling of materials from the current facility and the use of sustainably-sourced and recovered and recoverable materials in new construction.

Regarding the second point, an alternative based on rezoning of the Rec Center parcel:

Takoma Park’s March 21, 2017 Solicitation for Letters of Interest for Development Partner did state, “The City is seeking to identify a Development Partner who will work collaboratively with the community to advance the recommendations of the Takoma Langley Crossroads Sector Plan.” That sector plan sought to “create a 15-year vision [for] land uses.” It was adopted in June, 2012 with a zoning map approved in April 2011. Our community’s thoughts on land use have evolved significantly in the intervening eleven and one-half years, and under the best of circumstances a project could be completed within the fifteen years since 2011, hence the suggestion that bidders be invited to offer an alternative based on rezoning.

Thanks for your consideration

The zoning map for the area around the Takoma Recreation Center on New Hampshire Avenue
The zoning map for the area around the Takoma Recreation Center on New Hampshire Avenue

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