By Jenna Bloom
The property on the corner of Route 1 and Melbourne Place, currently home to Town Hall Liquor and Bar, the Campus Village shopping center and a gas station, was purchased several months ago for $36 million by LV Collective, a real estate developer based in Texas. LV Collective is interested in building a student housing complex, with retail on the ground floor, on the site.
Some residents of Lakeland, a historically Black community in College Park, are wary of any proposed development changes in the community, seeing each as a reminder of the urban renewal initiative that the city undertook from the 1960s through the mid-’80s.
Another property in Lakeland, the Alden-Berkley Townhomes, on Lakeland Avenue, will be undergoing a round of upgrades soon. This property is qualified under the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, a federal initiative that provides tax incentives for property owners who wish to refinance and renovate eligible properties.
“Lakeland lost two thirds of its land, and of the third that’s left, these two properties probably occupy at least 40% of that,” said Robert Thurston, president of the Lakeland Civic Association.
Thurston emphasized that he would like to see multigenerational housing on the Alden-Berkley site, which is adjacent to the property purchased by LV Collective.
Todd Alexander, a representative of Renewal Housing Associates, the company in charge of the Alden-Berkley renovations, said in an email that they were open to “exploring the possibility of adding affordable housing units,” and he indicated that the needs and concerns of current residents would be taken into consideration during an evaluation process.
Terry Schum, director of the College Park Department of Planning & Community Development, said it would be ideal for these two property owners to collaborate. “And they should listen to the community,” she said. “Of course, all of that is part of the development review process.”
Alexander noted in her email that there are no formal plans at the present time to collaborate with LV Collective.
Schum is currently overseeing a review process at another location, also in District 2. RST Development LLC is in talks about their proposal for a mixed-use development at 9113 Baltimore Ave., a building currently occupied by the Days Inn.
Representatives from LV Collective approached the Lakeland Civic Association and met twice with a number of community leaders. The firm floated a number of recommendations, including adding a community space for Lakeland and offering a tax incentive to the community, although no details of what that tax incentive might look like have been made public.
“It’s critical that Lakelanders and the Lakeland diaspora are involved in this redevelopment,” Thurston said, noting that LV Collective reached out to the community even before they were required to do so as part of the development process.
“I’ve seen it happen far too often where we’re hearing about it after the plans have been submitted … but in this particular case, they’re coming to us,” he added.
Residents who are interested in these projects and other community concerns in District 2, are encouraged to participate in civic conversation. Along these lines, the Lakeland Civic Association invites residents to attend a virtual meeting to discuss these issues; the meeting will take place on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. The Zoom ID is 83950713325, and the passcode is 193028.