Unprecedented Redevelopment Reshapes College Park
By Lauren Brown
Illustration by Kelsey Marotta and Jesse Wu
The College Park of your Maryland days? Admittedly, not so great.
But nearly 20 projects, such as the Hotel at the University of Maryland and the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation, are under way or on their way, through partnerships between UMD, the city and private developers.
“Greater College Park,” as it’s called, links the university to new amenities on Route 1, and to a growing research enterprise that extends past the campus’ traditional boundaries.
“We are building a community here,” says UMD President Wallace Loh. “If we are to recruit and retain the world’s best faculty and staff, we need housing options, stores and restaurants, green spaces. And we need to intrinsically tie together our academics and research with our surrounding communities.”
Other goals of the initiative are to strengthen the economy and communicate UMD’s values and strengths.
“If we have students who are totally disengaged from the community around them, how can we say we are graduating a student body that is engaged in solving the world’s problems?” says Omar Blaik, founder and co-CEO of the firm U3 Advisors, which is working with the university and city. “In your four years in Greater College Park, you will be part of a vibrant, walkable, diverse community—that is part of your learning. It’s not happening just in the classroom. It’s happening all around you.”
Recently announced business additions include a high-tech battery company (founded by UMD researchers) with 60 employees at the old Terrapin Trader site.
Housing projects are designed to attract some of the research park’s 4,000 employees, UMD’s 9,000 workers, and staffers at incoming startups and other firms. Others will bring green space, such as the mini park planned for the site of the long-shuttered Little Tavern. Still others will provide attractions, such as the Whole Foods Market plaza and the “art house” performing arts venue.
Long-term work continues with the College Park City-University Partnership, Prince George’s County and the state on transportation (Purple Line, Route 1 widening), safety (expanded police patrols) and education (College Park Academy).
In the short term, Ken Ulman, UMD strategist for economic development, is working with all of them to turn student and faculty entrepreneurs into College Park business owners, and to match university researchers with venture capitalists and growing companies.
“The more people who are working at interesting, innovative companies, the more people who will choose to live here and support great shopping options, restaurants and music venues,” he says. “You’re adding to the ecosystem that creates an amazing college town.”
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