Southern Gateway, One of Region’s Biggest Projects, Starts With Safety Precautions Amid Coronavirus Crisis
Construction has started on Southern Gateway, a project that will help transform the Baltimore Avenue corridor in College Park with nearly 400 apartments and over 60,000 square feet of street-level retail space.
Work on a development that will transform the Baltimore Avenue corridor in College Park stirred to life in what the project’s partners say could be the biggest construction start in the Washington area since the pandemic began.
Site preparation work has begun for Southern Gateway, an ambitious mixed-use project on the site of the former Quality Inn and Plato’s Diner that will feature 393 apartments and 61,000 square feet of retail space along with outdoor gathering areas and an extension of Calvert Road. Tenants are yet to be announced, but will include a grocery store and fitness center, along with other outlets.
Final permitting and financing were completed in late March after many businesses and the University of Maryland had switched to mostly online operations to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, said Ken Ulman, UMD’s chief strategy officer for economic development and president of Terrapin Development Co., one of the partners in the project that also includes Bozzuto Development and Willard Retail.
But with construction classified as an essential activity by the state of Maryland and deep buy-in on the project by all involved—particularly the city of College Park, Prince George’s County and state officials, Ulman said—crews were given the go-ahead to proceed.
“Moving forward with a project of this magnitude at this uncertain time is a real validation of the efforts put into Greater College Park, and a demonstration that there’s a willingness to continue to invest in that vision of continuing with high-quality projects like this,” Ulman said.
Scheduled to open in 2022, the project aims to provide home base for UMD faculty, staff and alums and professionals who are commuting elsewhere in the area from nearby Metro and Purple Line light rail stops. The residential buildings with street-level retail will be linked by a pedestrian bridge featuring co-working spaces that leads from an art-filled lobby to a pool courtyard.
“The apartment experience will be extraordinary, on par with the best urban properties in D.C.,” said Jeff Kayce, senior vice president and D.C. region managing director for Bozzuto, picked by the university in 2016 to redevelop the site at 7150 Baltimore Ave.
Work is proceeding with a close attention to virus safety, with construction workers following all state and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Kayce said.
“This is a tough time, but from a work standpoint, it’s been fortunate timing, because the site work activities we’re starting now (with workers in vehicles and otherwise spaced far apart) do allow for effective social distancing and safety” Kayce said.
By the time members of the UMD community who don’t live in College Park return to the city for work and school, the south side of downtown will look markedly different, Ulman said.
“Each of our projects, whether this one, or the public plaza at the new City Hall, or the little pocket park going in next to the Hall CP, is focused on place-making,” he said. “It’s really important to create places people want to be—to sit in outdoor seating at restaurants, to stop and have a cup of coffee—and that’s what we’re increasingly bringing to College Park with projects like this.”
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