HABS NO. MD-1216 Page 8
family residences had slackened, the consortium decided to shift their focus to an apartment complex.15 The proposed apartment development found some opposition in the community by those who feared the size of the complex would alter the character of Greenbelt. The initial scope of the project, 4000 units, could yield more than 12,000 new residents for Greenbelt, more than doubling its population.16 Without a measured integration of new residents into the community and possibly lacking a cooperative spirit, residents feared that new residents would overwhelm the city and, eventually, Prince George’s County.17 The consensus emerged that Greenbelt would have to take a strong position in advocating for sensitive expansion.18 As a result of several differing opinions on how to achieve this goal, the debate regarding the final approval for the requisite zoning change from industrial to high density residential was contentious. Dozens of residents protested the size of the new development, while the Greenbelt City Council approved of the required rezoning. The Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission then voted against the plan for thousands of new rental units in Greenbelt, wanting to maintain the industrial zone.19 However, the County Commission, which had final authority over the proposed project, went against the MNCPPC recommendation and approved the project. 20
Community Builders, Inc., selected a known architectural firm for this development. The developers had partnered with Cohen Haft AIA & Associates on previous projects in Maryland and decided to do the same for the residential complex.21 The firm’s principals were Jack Cohen and Leonard Haft. Cohen was an architect who had been educated at Catholic University, earning a bachelors degree in architectural engineering. Haft also studied architecture at Catholic University, earning his bachelors degree. The Cohen Haft firm had been recognized for several different types of residential architecture before their work on Springhill Lake. Tilden Woods, a suburban development of detached single family residences in Bethesda, won honors from American Builder magazine, McCalls, and the American Institute of Architects and House & H o m e m a g a z i n e , a m o n g o t h e r s . 2 2 C o h e n a n d H a f t a l s o s e r v e d a s l a n d p l a n n e r s f o r t h e The firm had designed several other garden apartment complexes in Maryland, complex.23
though none so large.24 Community Builders, Inc., began to develop an identity for the complex around the concept of a new, man-made lake near the center of the development. This body of water, Springhill Lake, gave the complex its name.
The firm devised Springhill Lake in such a way as to mimic many of the traits of old Greenbelt. The master plan called for an elementary school to be built by the Prince George’s County
15 Jack Cohen. Interview by the author. 8 June 2005. Washington, DC. “Today’s Best in Apartment Design.” House & Home. v. 19. August 1963: 96. “Greenbelt Gets Plan to Double Its Housing.” Washington Evening Star. 10 Feb 1959: A17. “24 Air Opposing Views in County Zoning Fight.” Washington Evening Star. 10 Feb 1959: A17. “An Election Platform.” Greenbelt News Review. 14 May 1959. “Planners Oppose Greenbelt Projects.” Washington Post and Times Herald. 8 Feb 1962: B5. “Planning Board Denies Rezoning Bid.” Washington Post and Times Herald. 14 Feb 1959: D1. “County Board Rezones Lots at Greenbelt.” Washington Post and Times Herald. 19 Feb, 1959: 28. The complex, during the course of construction, was victim to arson on two separate occasions. Bart Barnes, “Arson Is Suspected In Second Fire at Greenbelt Project.” Washington Post and Times Herald. 24 Apr 1965: B2. Notable examples include Wheaton House in Silver Spring, MD, and Tilden Woods in Bethesda, MD. Cohen Haft AIA & Associates. Promotional Brochure. 1960. “Over All Site Plan.” 24 Mar 1965. City of Greenbelt Planning and Economic Development. “Apartments: A Report on Architecture for Living.” Architectural Record. v. 137. April 1965: 197-215. 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24