If you work on campus the University of Maryland wants you to live here. The Gazette is reporting on a study being performed by UMD to determine what folks are looking for in a neighborhood to better market the surrounding area to faculty and staff.
We’ve profiled Live Near Your Work programs before which have a marginal success rate at best. Currently only 33% of faculty/staff live in Prince Georges county. What is really needed is a radical change in the perception of the area among potential homeowners. Although College Park was voted the Best Place to Raise a Family in 2011 by Bussinessweek, there are still several factors that push people to Montgomery, Howard, and even farther out in Prince Georges county. Concerns about public safety, the consistently low performing public schools, and high taxes are high on potential homeowners minds when they look to settle in the area.
So why is it that more faculty/staff do not live near campus?
For Dan Thomas it was affordable housing in the 1970′s:
Dan Thomas would have liked to live closer to the University of Maryland, College Park, where he works as a research analyst. He and his family tried, in the 1970s, to find a home in College Park. “Unfortunately, there seems to be a limited supply of affordable quality housing in the College Park area,” Thomas said, adding that he has been in his Bowie home since 1978, a commute that takes him about a half-hour five days a week*. “It could just as easily have been College Park. We really tried back then.”
However, from the University perspective, the benefits of having more Faculty/Staff living in College Park are obvious. University Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Robert Specter:
For the university, keeping faculty close to campus means a more engaged and cohesive community. It also means a smaller carbon footprint if employees are close enough to walk, bike or use public transportation.
This is a topic that is near to this authors heart. In 1999 my wife and I made a decision to move into College Park. Since we both worked for the University it was important to us from a quality of life perspective to have a short commute. We also felt that although the area had a overall poor reputation there was enough positives that pointed to a turn around for the area. In the 13 years since I have seen positive changes as well as some serious setbacks. However I continue to believe this area has more upside potential than those who only see the sketchy parts of Route 1.
For me personally now that I have children (age 5 and 2) staying in the area or not will all come down to schools. The public middle and high schools in the area have challenges to overcome. The upcoming College Park Academy charter school should be a large step in the right direction.
Another issue is the availability of family friendly housing nearby. This is something that current development hasn’t directly addressed. Here are thought from Mr. Thomas again:
I may be wrong, but other than the new student apartment buildings, I’m not aware of any significant addition of nearby family housing in many years. Perhaps the relocation of students away from the residential neighborhoods of College Park and into apartment buildings designed for them will be a good thing in the long-run — making those neighborhoods more desirable for campus employees. Hopefully, the efforts currently being made will help College Park to invite employees closer. By the way, put me down for a new 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo within a couple miles of the campus.
It is empty-nesters like Dan Thomas, and myself in about 16 years but who’s counting, with a long affiliation with the University that can really help a college town thrive.
What are your thoughts? Do you work for the University? Where do you live and why did you choose that location? Did you consider living locally? Why or why not?
Sound off in the comments section.
* For the past 5 years Mr. Thomas has been using the Shuttle-UM service from Bowie for his now twice weekly commute.