A Rethink College Park Holiday Wishlist

In the spirit of the holiday season, we—the contributors at Rethink College Park—discussed some of the things that we’d be delighted to find bestowed upon our city this year. What follows is our wishlist, a collection of things that might not happen, but that we’d gladly welcome were they to appear.

Sidewalks That Make Sense and Infrastructure for Bikers: We want new ones, and improvements upon the ones that already exist. College Park is dense enough that walking through it is a reasonable option, but the infrastructure to do so is dangerous. Usable, possibly widened, sidewalks up and down the entire length of both sides of Route 1 would support pedestrian traffic. Likewise, as easy as it should be to bike from campus to M-Square, or M-Square to the View, or the View to North College Park, it just isn’t. We want clearly demarcated bike lanes on and off campus that provide a safe passing for those who elect not to drive their cars.

The Purple Line: We know there’s still a ways to go until the plan becomes a reality, but we just can’t wait! Very simply, we’d like to see a resolution of the ongoing alignment conflict that has plagued the UMD administration, students, and residents of College Park so that the project can move forward.

Entertainment Venues: There are currently zero places within walking distance of any point in College Park to see a movie or a live music performance. Though it’s not hard to head to P.G. Plaza, why should one have to do so to catch a matinee? We’d love to see venues of both stripes in College Park. There’s certainly enough audience to support them, between the families, young professionals, and students in the area. And, when not providing a nightlife scene, those spaces could be used by the community for events, meetings, and presentations.

Better Dining Options: There’s no limit on the places we’d like to see sit-down restaurants serving quality food and providing a nice atmosphere. Downtown is a given, of course (though Ledo’s deserves a nod), but what about “midtown,” around the View, and the immediate area surrounding M-Square? College Park could easily accommodate new restaurants, bars, coffee shops, spots for a quick lunch, an ice cream shop, and perhaps even a grocery store that’s accessible on foot…the list goes on. It would be even better if we could attract not just the chains that populate the College Park Shopping Center, but locally-owned businesses, too.

Graduate Student Accommodations: Graduate students have woefully few living options in College Park. Graduate Gardens is the closest to campus; otherwise, it’s off to Adelphi or wherever one can find a place to live. Graduate students deserve well-built, attractive housing options with easy access, whether via bus, bike, or walking, to campus. It would be ideal if graduate student housing could also accommodate a childcare center, which would be beneficial to not just those parents who also need to attend to their studies, but to others in College Park with children.

Some Attention to North College Park: Though this list is skewed toward downtown College Park, we don’t want to forget about those who live just slightly north. Two things that we’d like to see in North College Park are the demolition of the former Mandalay Restaurant building, perhaps to make room for a multi-use structure, and the extension of the Paint Branch Trail to Little Paint Branch Park in Beltsville.

A Good Relationship with President Loh: The city of College Park’s relationship with the University of Maryland did not flourish under former university president C. Dan Mote; while town-and-gown relations weren’t bad, they were generally nonexistent. Now that Wallace Loh has taken the reigns of what’s often called the Maryland University System’s “crown jewel,” we hope that he’ll open a dialogue with the world that lives just outside of academia. College Park could be a great college town, but it needs the college in question to respond, integrate, interact, listen, and even offer requests or suggestions. One of our contributors described the ideal relationship as an “honest to goodness partnership for the good of the whole city,” and that’s precisely what we’d like to see. And while we’re talking local officials, how about a trustworthy county executive? Rushern Baker is off to a good start, so let’s hope he keeps it up.

Two More Requests: We’d really, really like to take down the “livable community” sign at the entrance in North College Park…and we’d love it if the state adequately plowed Route 1 this year.

We enjoyed putting together this list and did so in a lighthearted manner. We certainly don’t expect an massive, imminent overhaul of sidewalks, for example, even if we think it’d be great for College Park. Sometimes it’s just useful—and fun!—to consider wishes, however unattainable they might be.

This year, what would you wish for in the city of College Park?

3 thoughts on “A Rethink College Park Holiday Wishlist”

  1. Great list. Just finishing up a stint as a grad student at UMD College Park, living in, yes, Graduate Hills, so I can totally relate to all of this. More amenities on Route 1 would be great, especially since all that new housing is going in; for me it’s a mile and a half to the Giant, to the horribly faux Universitye Towne Centre (did I get enough “e”s in there?) and to Prince George’s Plaza (although why you’d want to go there is another question, except that they have movies), and there’s no bank — at least not my bank — or dry cleaner (no, that crappy place on Route 1 does not count) and, as you say, no decent dining or drinking in the area unless you count Franklin’s, which you need need to drive to.

    I’ve lived in really great college towns before, so I admit I had high expectations. However, even given mediocre expectations, College Park has some work to do.

  2. Great list. I’d add improvements for pedestrians crossing Route 1. As is, the wait for a walk signal is far too long, so many people wind up crossing against the light.

    Also, I’d rephrase “an honest to goodness partnership for the good of the whole city” as “honest to goodness partnership for the good of the whole city and the university.” To be a real partnership, it has to be good for both partners. Of course, much of what is good for the city is good for the university, and vice-versa — but not everything, so it’s important to focus on the things that benefit both.

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