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How We Picture Greatness

See Greater College Park’s Transformation in Before-and-After Photos

By Annie Krakower

Collage showing the Iribe Center and The Hotel over 1930s

The view near the Campus Drive entrance is now dominated by the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering and The Hotel at the University of Maryland.

Contemporary photos by John T. Consoli; archival photo courtesy of University Archives

For Terps who haven’t been back to campus in a while, driving on Baltimore Avenue might be more of a journey of discovery than a trip down memory lane.

It’s impossible not to notice the towering hotel across from the University of Maryland’s main entrance, a gleaming apartment complex is rising where Plato’s Diner used to be, and—wait a minute, is that one, two, three new grocery stores?

Since its launch in 2015, the $2 billion public-private partnership known as Greater College Park has revitalized the community surrounding UMD as new businesses have taken root, housing options have dramatically expanded, and retailers have set up shop.

While some recent establishments, like The Hotel at the University of Maryland and Vigilante Coffee, quickly became community fixtures, others, like the College Park City Hall and the landscape-altering Aster College Park complex, are just popping up as the transformation continues.

“All of it is part of a plan to be the great college town—the place that students, staff, faculty, parents and alumni want to be a part of,” said Ken Ulman, UMD’s chief strategy officer for economic development and president of the Terrapin Development Company, a partnership between the university and the University of Maryland College Park Foundation that is leading several Greater College Park projects.

We’ve assembled idyllic historical images and vibrant modern-day scenes for a simultaneous look back and peek forward at the blossoming Baltimore Avenue corridor. Read on to see just how much “greater” College Park is becoming.

NEAR CAMPUS DRIVE ENTRANCE

Collage showing Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering and The Hotel over archival photo of area
Archival photo courtesy of University Archives

The view over the old circular drive in front of Ritchie Coliseum—framed by a two-lane road, fencing for an under-construction football stadium and rows of corn—is now dominated on the right by The Hotel. The 297-room, four-star hotel and conference center opened in 2017 as an anchor of Greater College Park, and now houses the Visitor Center. On the left, at the corner of Campus Drive, stands the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering, a hub for virtual reality, robotics and artificial intelligence since 2019. Still in the picture? Turner Hall, now home of Conferences and Visitor Services’ welcome desk and, yes, Maryland Today’s offices.

COLLEGE PARK CITY HALL

Collage showing archival photo of Albrecht's Pharmacy, then the Bagel Place, and Little Tavern's cheap burgers, plus the new city hall: Stores and restaurants coming here
Archival photo courtesy of city of College Park

This shopping plaza might look familiar—even if most of the storefronts have changed—but the big difference can be seen on the right, where a gleaming new city hall now stands. It houses city offices, council chambers and meeting rooms on the first two floors, with UMD occupying the third and fourth. Retail space will start filling up soon, highlighted by Shop Made in Maryland, which will sell art, jewelry and home goods crafted in the state in order to support local businesses.

BALTIMORE AVENUE AT COLLEGE AVENUE

Collage showing archival photos of Book Exchange No. 1 and Book Exchange No. 2 with a contemporary photo of the Landmark Apartments: convenient apartments, where to buy Bics and bananas
Top archival photo courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration; bottom photo courtesy of city of College Park

An Esso gas station and the old Maryland Book Exchange made way for the 843-bed Landmark Apartments and Target Express building, which opened in 2015 to provide quick and convenient shopping for Terps. Also coming soon to that area is Union on Knox, a project by Terrapin Development Company and Greystar Real Estate Partners to build nearly 800 student apartments and 21,000 square feet of retail where Marathon Deli and 7-Eleven used to be. (Don’t worry—Marathon just moved around the corner to face Baltimore Avenue and is as popular as ever.)

DISCOVERY DISTRICT

Archival photo of M Square showing American Center for Physics, and a contemporary photo of the Discovery District: Your startup here, pocket park for workday open-air breaks

The 150-acre research park formerly known as M Square left plenty of room for budding innovation, and since 2017, the area now called the Discovery District has flourished as a magnet for new knowledge and entrepreneurship. Spaces such as IonQ and the Quantum Startup Foundry reinforce UMD’s reputation as the “Capital of Quantum,” and companies like The Shed, a rehearsal studio space; Medcura, a biomedical device developer; and Cybrary, a cybersecurity startup, contribute to the region’s growing business enterprise. If all that inspiration makes you hungry, stop by The Hall CP for a bite on the patio.

BALTIMORE AVENUE AT CALVERT ROAD

Archival photo of Howard Johnson's, future home of Plato's Diner, and contemporary photo of Aster College Park
Archival photo courtesy of city of College Park

The Quality Inn and Plato’s Diner were demolished in 2019 to make way for Aster College Park, a Terrapin Development Company and Bozzuto project bringing nearly 400 residential units and 62,000 square feet of retail, including a much-anticipated Trader Joe’s. Leasing now, the complex will also feature outdoor dining and gathering spaces with plenty of greenery, as well as a pedestrian bridge linking two buildings.

Greater College Park by the Numbers. $2B public-private investment. 60+ companies, organizations and federal agencies. 2m+ square feet of office, retail, residential and research space. 150-acre research park. 6,500+ Discovery District employees. Housing under construction for 4,000+ students. 62 acres of trails and parks

TERRAPIN ROW

Archival photo of Knox Boxes: Weekend keggers here? And contemporary photo of Terrapin Row: Amazon package pickup, game lounge and golf simulator inside
Archival photo courtesy of Diamondback Photo Morgue

Many Terps fondly remember ... well, many Terps at least remember the Knox Boxes, two-story brick, budget-friendly apartment buildings on the south side of campus near Guilford Drive. The last well-worn box finally folded to make way for Terrapin Row, a student apartment building that opened in 2016. The complex features nearly 1,500 beds, along with retailers like Dunkin’, Amazon and Seoulspice.

NORTHERN BALTIMORE AVENUE

Contemporary photo of Tempo: Perks include a makerspace. Contemporary photo of Lidl: cheap groceries. Archival photo of Burger King: Had it your way until 2020
Top right photo courtesy of city of College Park

Up where the Clarion Inn used to be, discount supermarket Lidl debuted in 2019, adding to College Park’s growing list of grocers that also includes recent additions Whole Foods, MOM’s Organic Market and Target Express. Just across the street, another project is reaching new heights: Gilbane Development Co. is constructing Tempo, an eight-story, 299-unit student housing, parking and retail complex. Opening in space once occupied by Burger King, the building will include a swimming pool, fitness center and podcast/video studio.

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