HABS NO. MD-1216 Page 5
residential sections. The units were exclusively rental apartments, catering to the emerging market desires of young families. Where veterans returning from World War II sought small detached suburban houses with government financial aid, this next generation of young professional families in the Washington region sought rental housing while they saved for a down payment on their own houses. 4
The apartment buildings of Springhill Lake are load-bearing brick units of two and three stories in a contemporary architectural style, joined in offset pairs and trios. The buildings all have pitched, asphalt shingled roofs. All buildings include a balcony, which in most cases is made of prefabricated concrete, extensive use of glazed windows, and wood trim. The buildings are arranged in several patterns – linear, L-shaped, “Z”-shaped, and C-shaped -- throughout the development. Buildings are frequently placed to address a Springhill Lake road on one side, and an interior courtyard on the other. Parking lots are kept from between the buildings; rather, they are segregated at the perimeter of each section to maximize the interior space for green space. Springhill Lake has only one cul-de-sac, Springhill Terrace, and is bounded by three roads, Cherrywood Lane, Breezewood Drive, and Edmonston Road.
Though the plan and architectural design earned local and regional praise, the perimeter street layout and the community’s relationship to the rest of Greenbelt created tension in the community. Springhill Lake residents felt a sense of isolation from the larger city; as a result, many early residents became active in Greenbelt politics. The size of the enormous development helped elect a council member – who subsequently became mayor – because the voting rate was so high. This representation in city government led to several public works projects facilitating community interaction, recreation and transportation connectivity—all improving quality of life. The Springhill Lake social director, based in the Community Center, also served to promote community activity and promote neighborliness in the development.
However, since its opening as a self-styled affordable luxury community for young and middle- aged families, Springhill Lake has seen a shift in the profile of its tenants.5 University of Maryland-College Park students now make up an estimated third of Springhill Lake residents. Their transience presents a challenge to maintaining a community character and to asserting political power in the city. In addition, changes of ownership and the deferment of regular maintenance and upgrades have taken their toll upon the buildings.
In 2003, the real estate investment trust (REIT) AIMCO, the latest owner of the Springhill Lake apartment complex, hired New Urbanist design firm Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company to make a transit-oriented redesign of Springhill Lake. The firm proposed a plan that would see the total demolition of the Springhill Lake community through a multi-phase redevelopment.
The city of Greenbelt was one of three green towns planned and built by the federal Resettlement Administration (RA) in the 1930s. Established as a means of providing the urban poor with a more affordable and healthful environment, the green town program was administered by the
Brenda Cooley. Personal Interview. 6 July 2005. Greenbelt, MD. “Springhill Lake Chatauqua.” Classified Ad. Washington Post and Times Herald. March 16, 1963: C6.