Yesterday, Joann Prosser and Gene Ferrick each reclaimed an hour.

They’ll be doing that every weekday, now that the married University of Maryland staffers—who’ve had a “not bad” commute from Bowie for two decades—have moved to College Park, shaving up to 60 minutes off the round trip.

“It’s amazing how much time you gain back in your day, not having to fight beltway traffic,” said Prosser, director of assessment and research for the Department of Resident Life, who is switching to a 10-minute walk to work.

They were helped in their move by the College Park City-University Partnership’s homeownership program, which provides a $15,000 incentive for full-time UMD and municipal employees to buy a home inside city limits. The program earlier this month welcomed its 50th buyer (it now counts 52), and past purchasers point to a growing sense of community as more university employees spend evenings and weekends taking advantage of a burgeoning list of amenities making Greater College Park a great place to live and work.

Gene Ferrick and Joann Prosser pose in front of their new home in College ParkThe program’s first buyer—who moved with his wife from Berkeley, Calif., and wanted a similarly walkable, bikeable environment—has seen attitudes about the city change markedly since 2015.

“I remember some colleagues, when I told them I was moving here, saying ‘Are you sure? What about looking at some other areas?’” said Mark Fuge, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering who lives in the Berwyn neighborhood. “Now, a few years in, they’re seeing things opening—like entertainment venues, restaurants and stores—and College Park is a lot more attractive to them.”

One reason that the program, which is funded by the Maryland State Department of Housing and Community Development, along with UMD and the city of College Park, is able to pull in new buyers is the $2 billion redevelopment of the Baltimore Avenue corridor, known as Greater College Park, which is adding new amenities such as retail and restaurants. Another is the enthusiastic reviews from earlier purchasers, said Eric Olson, executive director of the College Park City-University Partnership.

“They become ambassadors,” he said. “They tell them about the farmers markets and places to shop, the great friends their kids have made, the parks and playgrounds, and all the other things College Park has to offer.”

As the number of university-connected purchasers grows, the city benefits from greater stability in neighborhoods and more economic activity, along with reduced traffic and pollution by turning car commuters into walkers and bikers, he said.

Ferrick, director of operations in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, said the $15,000 incentive helped he and Prosser decide to finally make the move they had been talking about for years, so they could live on the same street as Prosser’s mother and other family members.

They purchased the house in southern College Park in September—the program’s 42nd buyers—and recently finished a first round of renovations.

"We would have done it anyway, but this program just made it that much easier,” he said. “I’m excited about turning in my parking pass.”