HABS NO. MD-1216 Page 15
The initial plan for Springhill Lake attempted to exploit the 1962 opening of the Baltimore- Washington Parkway and the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495), in 1964. In addition, improvements to roads like state route 193, Greenbelt Road, facilitated the movement of autos to suburban Maryland. However, these expressways, despite alleviating problems of traffic congestion and offering economic development to the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, caused problems within Greenbelt. The Springhill Lake complex was completely severed from old Greenbelt by the Capital Beltway. There was one road that crossed the Beltway in Greenbelt after the opening of I-495, and residents had a difficult time getting across that bridge to go to old Greenbelt for work, entertainment, or shopping. In addition, traffic out of Springhill Lake into surrounding communities was difficult. Anticipating the Beltway that would run along the eastern edge of the community, Cohen Haft’s road plan only offered two exits from the residential development, each on the western edge.40 Of the two roads, Gentry Drive (now Cherrywood Lane) was anticipated to have lower traffic and had not been constructed to withstand the substantial traffic generated by the thousands of drivers who were residents of the community and soon deteriorated into undrivability. Thus, traffic on Edmonston Road was terribly congested and became a politically sensitive point in Greenbelt. In addition, the city had not created any new polling sites within the city for voting during local and national elections, provoking the ire of Springhill Lake residents. In a special registration, over 500 voters from the complex joined the voter rolls, validating citizen concerns that Springhill Lake held untapped political resources.41 The city reluctantly created a new polling site on the city’s west side, facilitating the political participation of Springhill Lake residents.
The combination of transportation issues, inequitable distribution of local resources, and seeming marginalization of Springhill Lake energized the electorate to vote Joel Katz, a resident of the development, onto the council in 1969.42 Gil Weidenfeld, a Springhill Lake resident and law student at George Washington University, ran for city council in the 1971 election. He also made Springhill Lake issues high priorities, including the amelioration of traffic problems and the construction of a city-operated recreation center. Weidenfeld was elected and two years later became Mayor of Greenbelt, holding the longest mayoral tenure in the city’s history.
Despite the difficulties of integrating Springhill Lake into the larger Greenbelt community, Community Realty made significant efforts to establish a sense of community within the development; the spatial layout of Springhill Lake facilitated that. Most notably, the social director at Springhill Lake planned and coordinated activities that attracted many members of the community. Fountain Lodge, overlooking the man-made Springhill Lake, was located on one of the two main roads through the area, Springhill Drive. As noted, two swimming pools were located near clusters of townhomes in two different sections and two sets of tennis courts were located in sections 5 and 7, in the northwest and central areas, respectively, of the development. Additionally, the most attractive features within the community, the retail shopping center and the elementary school, were planned and built in the center of the development. Every day,
40 Because of excavation in the development of Beltway Plaza, immediately south of Springhill Lake, grading was not sufficient for another exit from Breezewood Drive. Holtz, interview. “Springhill Lake Chataqua.” Greenbelt Museum. Mary Lou Williamson, ed. Greenbelt: History of a New Town. (Virginia Beach: Donning Co., 1997): 196. Ibid. 41 42