College Park Development Update – March

The Development Update is a bi-monthly newsletter prepared by the City of College Park Planning, Community and Economic Development Department covering development activity in the City. This edition features updates on the City’s Community Legacy application, Domain at College Park, and East Campus. If you have any questions or would like to subscribe, please feel free to contact Michael Stiefvater at (240) 487-3543 or

City of College Park – 2012 Real Estate Roundtable

The city is hosting their first Real Estate Roundtable in nearly two years on Thursday, March 15, 2012 from 8:30 AM to 10:30 AM at the Clarion Inn. The event provides an opportunity for local stakeholders to receive updates on major developments and to discuss future plans that will shape the city for years to come. The keynote speaker for the event is Rob Specter, the Vice President for Administrative Affairs and Chief Financial Officer at the University of Maryland. Mr. Specter was appointed to these positions in July 2011 with more than 25 years of senior leadership experience in higher education. Mr. Specter will discuss the University’s plans for the first phase of East Campus, development plans at M Square, and the ongoing faculty housing study.

Additional speakers will include the City of College Park’s Planning, Community, and Economic Development Director, Terry Schum, and Economic Development Coordinator, Michael Stiefvater. The event, which is free of charge, will begin with a breakfast buffet and time for networking.

To RSVP, please contact Michael Stiefvater at 240-487-3543 or by March 5th.

Is the Sun Finally Rising on East Campus?


The on-again/off-again East Campus project that was stalled after the original developer pulled out is heating up again. The Diamondback reported on Thursday that plans for phase I of the East Campus project are being released. The City Council recently voted gave the approval for $3.3 million in state funds to be released to the University to clear off the old facilities on the site.

The first part of the plan is to include a hotel with ample conference space, grad housing and almost 60,000 square feet of retail. Stay tuned for upcoming public forums to discuss the types of retail should inhabit this new location. We seem to remember already having a series of public forums on this very topic.


November College Park Development Update

The College Park Development Update is a bi-monthly newsletter prepared by the City of College Park Planning, Community and Economic Development Department covering development activity in the City. Please feel free to distribute this information as you see fit. Questions or comments can be directed to Economic Development Coordinator Michael Stiefvater at (240)487-3543 or

Graduate Housing in East Campus: We’re Glad we were Wrong!

We’re happy to report an important error in our post on the Nov. 30 East Campus Forum. Although discussions at the meeting suggested that graduate housing was no longer a priority for East Campus, we have since learned that graduate housing remains a central component of the project.

Ann Wylie, UMD’s Vice President for Administrative Affairs, said, “Graduate housing has been our number one housing priority from the inception of this project.” Blake Cordish, Vice President of the Cordish Companies, wrote “Everyone will gain from a graduate population in East Campus.”

There are no plans to include undergraduate housing in East Campus Phase I.

Wylie is a former Dean of UMD’s Graduate School, and has been a strong advocate for affordable graduate housing in the university’s new town center. As described in the university’s April 2010 request for proposals for the project (p. 5), an ongoing possibility is that the graduate housing could be financed through tax-exempt bonds from the Maryland Economic Development Corp (MEDCO), one of various ways to ensure affordability for the graduate housing. MEDCO bonds have been used previously to fund UMD undergraduate housing, totaling around 2900 beds in recent years.

The East Campus graduate housing could be built as a separate building. The April 2010 RFP suggests Block F in the schematic (see below) as a possible location, adjacent to the proposed site for the Birchmere music hall (Cordish have already made it clear that they prefer to break up the development into smaller blocks).

An interesting alternative possibility is that the graduate housing could be intermingled with the market-rate housing. This could be an excellent way to use the new development to foster integration of students and city residents.

In contrast to the sturm and drang that accompanies most proposals for new undergraduate housing in College Park–and is currently surrounding the Maryland Book Exchange development–graduate housing in East Campus seems to be an all around crowd pleaser. There are good reasons for this:

  • Grad students have really boring parties. Residents love this.
  • And they drink far too much coffee. Café owners love this.
  • Grad students tend to be year-round residents. Much better for local businesses than students who are gone away for close to 6 months of the year.
  • The campus needs to be a more appealing for grad students. The university’s ambitions depend heavily on its ability to compete successfully for top grad students.
  • They tend not to have cars, and want to live in a place where they can walk to the grocery store. Good for parking and the carbon footprint.
  • A grad student who lives in East Campus could save up to $150/month over commuting from Columbia Heights, in metro savings alone (peak rate).
  • Some grad students have young children. This is good for diversifying the community.

East Campus Public Forum Builds Hype, Leaves Questions

Around 150 people filled the bleachers in Ritchie Coliseum on Tuesday night to learn about what the Cordish Companies and the Design Collective (C-DC) plan to do with East Campus. There was a mix of anticipation and weariness, as many in the audience were veterans of the ultimately aborted East Campus planning process led by Foulger-Pratt (FP).

Did the new guys in town have better ideas? Had they done their homework? Do they have what it takes to get the project off the ground this time around? The answer is a definite “maybe.” C-DC have a good track record and some clear ideas of what they want to do, but their plans remain embryonic and it is not clear how much thought has gone into the unique features of College Park and the East Campus location.

If you’re new to this process, or if your memory is as shaky as mine, you might want to check out RTCP’s digest of East Campus articles and RTCP’s list of East Campus talking points. And, check back soon for conceptual drawings (we hope!). Read on for more specifics.

The forum was led by Blake Cordish, vice president of the company that his great grandfather founded. Together with two colleagues from C-DC he gave a brief presentation on the background of the company and the goals for the project. Most of the goals were fairly familiar: building a sense of community, integrated architecture, mixed-use, pedestrian and transit friendly, etc.

Most revealing were some pointed criticisms of the plans that Foulger-Pratt had developed for the project. This gave the clearest insight into what C-DC sees as most important. The presentation was rather short, and most of the forum was used for break out discussions with C-DC staff – the kind with slick posters and easels where people can write about their pet peeves or favorite wine bar.

Cordish Companies and the Design Collective are closely related Baltimore companies that have coordinated redevelopment projects locally and around the country, some much smaller than East Campus, others somewhat larger. Some of their work can be found here; it includes the Inner Harbor Power Plant in Baltimore, a small but effective redevelopment on the Johns Hopkins Campus, and larger projects such as Kansas City’s Power and Light District. A note: The company has an alarming habit of naming developments “X” Live!” At least 5 projects have the same name. Let’s hope that this won’t turn into “Route 1 Live!”

Like Foulger-Pratt, Cordish emphasized that the company owns and manages most projects that they have developed. This is reassuring, as it encourages long-term investment. Cordish claimed that the long-term strategy made it attractive for them to use high-quality building materials, suggesting an upgrade over the materials in the Foulger-Pratt plans. Cordish said that his team’s goal is to change the way that people perceive the area, and they would like to create a “nationally acclaimed” college town development.

The scope of the new project is smaller than the earlier FP plans. It includes the north part of East Campus, covering all of the area to the north of Rossborough Lane, plus one line of buildings on the south side of Rossborough Lane. Plans to demolish and replace Leonardtown and surrounding areas are not part of the current plans, but could be added in the future. Within the current area, the plan is to first develop the area closest to the Route 1/Paint Branch intersection, as that will be the first to be empty, and the area closer to the Power Plant/Service Building will be built out later.

C-DC strongly believes in smaller street blocks and good sight lines from the exterior. They were critical of the large blocks in the FP plans and the unbroken façade that had been proposed for the Route 1 frontage. The concept sketch shows one new east-west street north of Rossborough, and 3 new north-south streets in the development. Additional pedestrian/bike only routes will further break up the buildings. The centerpiece of the development is a new open space/town square, roughly one city block in size, towards the northern tip of the development. The northern focus of the development is apparently motivated by the development schedule and by the noise of the power plant. This also means that the new center of activity will be as far as possible from College Park’s existing downtown, and surrounded by major roads, green spaces, and parking lots. It’s not clear how this could foster synergistic development of a unified downtown College Park.

Rossborough Lane will be kept wide, to allow for Purple Line trains.

The concept designs included a variety of mid-rise buildings, with residential only on the east of the project and a mix of retail/office and residential on the west side of the project. As in the FP design, C-DC plans an anchor hotel at the corner of Route 1 and Paint Branch Parkway. Plans for the retail/office component were not yet developed. The developers made the standard nods to a mix of national and local retailers, but it’s not clear whether they had thought through the reasons why so many businesses fail in College Park. Amenities for childcare and other family-attracting features were not yet in the plans.

The housing plans sounded like a departure from the FP plans. Instead of a mix of market-rate and graduate student specific housing, C-DC only has plans for market rate housing (i.e., catering only to those precious young professionals and undergraduates with deep-pocketed parents, but no graduate students). The emphasis on bringing a year-round graduate student population into the center of College Park was a well-conceived part of the university’s original vision, and it’s disappointing to see this idea dropped. UMD is currently working to provide 650 graduate beds on East Campus through a state bond, but details on that project have yet to emerge.

The Birchmere Music Hall still appears in the concept plans, but it remains unclear whether this part of the development will move ahead.

The C-DC team emphasized their seriousness about sustainable building practices, and noted that around a third of their staff are LEED-certified. They claim to have a record of innovation in the use of sustainable materials. Many readers will be eager to see more details in this area.

Moving Forward
The plan to first build out the northernmost tip of the development is questionable from the perspective of integrating College Park, but it does suggest that C-DC is eager to move ahead quickly. They plan to seek public tax increment financing for some aspects of the project (see RTCP’s TIF 101 guide here). That process has the potential to delay the project, depending on the politics of the new Baker-led PG County Council.

No specific plans for future meetings or updates were given at the meeting, but you can read about them here as soon as they are available.

Cordish Companies to Host Public Forum on East Campus

The new developer of the proposed East Campus mixed-use development project will host a public forum to solicit citizen input and ideas on Tuesday, November 30 at 7:00 PM in the Ritchie Coliseum. This is a great opportunity to weigh-in on a project that will change the face of College Park. In July, the University named Cordish Companies as the new lead developer for the long-anticipated project that will offer much-needed amenities and graduate-student housing to College Park. The mixed-use center will develop around the proposed Purple Line light rail running from Bethesda to New Carrollton. Below are earlier renderings of the development. The latter is from the previous developer, Folger-Pratt/Argo, who ended their relationship with the University last year.
East Campus Concept
Proposed East Capus Plaza behind existing power plant

University Chooses the Cordish Company to Develop East Campus

On Friday July 23, 2010, the University of Maryland announced it had begun exclusive negotiations with The Cordish Company to develop the East Campus site.   The negotiations are expected to lead to a formal partnership with the Cordish Company becoming the project’s master developer.

Read more about this story at:

For more information about the Baltimore- based Cordish Company, use the following link:

UMD Forges Ahead With East Campus – Begins to Court New Developers

East Campus Concept - Massing
UMD issued a new phased East Campus Request for Proposal (RFP) Wednesday and will select a developer for Phase I of the project by the end of July. With $5 million in hand to begin relocating their facilities on East Campus to the former Washington Post plant, UMD appears to be forging ahead with a realistic phased implementation plan that takes into account difficult economic conditions. The proposed full build-out of the site plan remains substantially the same (aerial rendering) as the one developed over the course of the past couple years…. although it is subject to further changes to be worked out between the selected developer, UMD, the City and County.

—> See our “10 East Campus Talking Points” to read what RTCP thinks should be incorporated into the project.

Proposed East Capus Plaza behind existing power plant