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Momentum Carries Greater College Park in Pandemic

New Student Housing, Retail, Other Construction Projects Continue in Community’s Revitalization

By Liam Farrell

Rendering of Knox Road Project

Rendering courtesy of Terrapin Development Company

Terrapin Development Company and Greystar Real Estate Partners are planning to build apartments for nearly 800 students and more than 21,000 square feet of retail at the intersection of Knox Road and Sterling Place. The project is one of several in Greater College Park, where redevelopment has continued amid COVID-19.

Anyone back on campus after a summer of being cooped up has surely already found that sense of suspended animation didn’t extend to Greater College Park, where redevelopment has continued with a major student housing project on the way and a beloved landmark soon moving down the block.

Terrapin Development Company (TDC) and Greystar Real Estate Partners are partnering to build apartments for nearly 800 students and more than 21,000 square feet of ground-floor retail at the intersection of Knox Road and Sterling Place. The goal is to turn Sterling Place into a pedestrian-friendly street that can bring a festival atmosphere to College Park. TDC and Greystar, which manages nearby apartments The Alloy by Alta and The Varsity, haven’t set a start date for construction.

Marathon Deli, a decades-long tenant in the shopping center that the complex will eventually replace, is in the final stages of opening its new home around the corner at 7412 Baltimore Avenue with striking murals displaying the restaurant’s Greek heritage on the outside and its UMD connections—with Testudo in a toga—inside.

George Soldatos, Marathon’s owner, said the past five months have been challenging for every business in the community, but the return of some students and the continued progress of Greater College Park—a $2 billion public-private partnership launched in 2015—gives him optimism. TDC is assisting him in relocating, and has offered to help other tenants who will need to move as well.

“Everything is nice and brand new,” he said, “(with) new restaurants, new ideas.”

Ongoing significant construction projects include a new city hall and public plaza at the intersection of Knox Road and Baltimore Avenue, with offices for UMD and retail space scheduled to open in Fall 2021. In addition, the Southern Gateway development from TDC and Bozzuto Development Co. continues on the site of the former Quality Inn and Plato’s Diner, with about 400 housing units and 62,000 square feet of retail estimated for completion in Spring 2022.

“Our development partners remain bullish,” said Ken Ulman, the university’s chief strategy officer for economic development. “What’s going on now has impacted everyone, but long-term we are really excited.”

The Southern Gateway development has found a lot of success in early talks with retailers, said Jeff Kayce ’03, senior vice president and managing director for Bozzuto, and has already secured grocery and health and fitness tenants as future anchors.

“It really took the past several years to decidedly make Baltimore Avenue a town-and-gown environment,” Kayce said. “Now is exactly the right time to be investing in College Park.”

One new amenity that UMD faculty, staff, students and College Park residents can enjoy right away is a public park next to The Hall CP restaurant and entertainment space, with ample tables, lights, pergolas for shade, Adirondack chairs and wireless internet—everything needed for a socially distanced meeting, get-together or study session.

“It’s an example of the really cool outdoor areas we are going to be doing more of,” Ulman said. “Even in these challenging times, we have some things moving forward.”

College Park businesses quickly pivoted to meet COVID-19 health guidelines and tried to make do with carryout, delivery and gift card purchases. The city received $1.5 million from the federal CARES Act and as of early August, its relief programs had dispersed 43 small business assistance grants worth about $59,000, with another 23 grants of $11,000 for individual and family financial assistance. 

A lot of uncertainty remains, said College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn, but the pandemic took root during what is often a lean season for college towns and construction projects were able to continue.

“So far, a lot of our small businesses have been able to get through. Bigger picture, we’re in a position to emerge stronger from this crisis,” he said. “People are seeing beyond what’s going to happen with the pandemic.”

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