When Melissa Blain moved to North College Park five years ago, she liked her house, but wasn’t sold on the area.
“I feel like North College Park is like the forgotten stepchild of College Park,” said Blain, owner of local business Posh Cycling and Fitness. “There’s not much love given to us over there.”
Blain wasn’t the only one who thought the community needed renovating. District 1 Councilman Fazlul Kabir said action on multiple city projects comes after many years of community members “asking and crying and begging” to see more development.
And with seven development projects taking place simultaneously, the city is trying to answer these cries. District 1 council members — and many of their constituents — say they’re excited to see long-expected growth in the area.
The seven projects, which include the construction of parks, bike lanes and sidewalks, don’t all have a set price tag at this time. Rough numbers indicate they will cost nearly $10.5 million, factoring in the estimated $5.5 million Kabir said could be spent on Duvall Field, and leaving out the undetermined cost of the Odessa Road playground.
Two projects are set to be finished by the end of this year: the long-anticipated Hollywood Gateway Park and a feasibility study and design project for the construction of a sidewalk along Hollywood Road.
At least another two are estimated to be finished by the end of 2020 — one, a public dog park, and the other, final design plans for protected bike lanes along Rhode Island Avenue. According to the city’s website, a planned park on Odessa Road could also be finished by the end of next year, though it might carry into 2021.
Timelines on the last two projects are more nebulous. Though the Hollywood streetscape— a project aimed at making the Hollywood commercial district more vibrant — is slated to finish by 2021 at the latest, construction on the project will not begin until next summer, Kabir said.
The city’s website does not list an expected completion date for Duvall Field, a project paused earlier this year to allow time for research into what kind of turf surfacing would best fit the field.
District 1 Councilwoman Kate Kennedy stressed the city’s solid financial standing while undergoing these developments.
“I don’t think it can be emphasized enough that were doing all of this development — all of it … and we’re not increasing taxes,” Kennedy said.
The council members said most of the residents they’ve spoken to have responded positively to all the development in the district.
“It’s been building for a long time,” said Erin Meyer, a 13-year resident of North College Park. “This is a lot of change, but it’s really been the result of a lot of years of hard work on a lot of people’s part, and I think it’s fantastic.”
But that doesn’t mean every resident fully supports the developments; Meyer said she’s seen posts on message boards such as Nextdoor that don’t express the kind of support she said she would like to see from the community.
“I just hope that people can give it a chance. It’s a lot of change, but it’s positive change,” Meyer said. “This benefits everyone. So, you know, it’s a community. Let’s try to act like it.”
And among the residents who do support the development, there are some who are concerned about how they feel the city is prioritizing projects.
Blain said she’s anxious to see movement on the Hollywood streetscape. The promise of the streetscape, she said, was a major factor in her decision to put Posh in its District 1 location — and she’s frustrated to see construction on the project hasn’t begun yet, she said.
“I’m kind of disappointed with that,” Blain said.
The current renovations are a positive sign though, Blain said, and she doesn’t want improvements on the Hollywood commercial district to end there — she’d love to see the area’s facades and storefronts repainted, and its streets beautified with some flowers.
Her husband, Antonio Haileselassie, agrees with her. Going forward, he’d be interested in having a water feature, like the one that was discussed for the new city hall, added to the streetscape project instead.
While the community is making strides to improve District 1, Kennedy said it needs to maintain the momentum even after these developments are completed.
“We need to keep moving, yes,” Kennedy said. “Always improving!”