Developer’s East Campus Vision Emerges

Potential StreetscapeFoulger-Pratt and Argo Investment Company, the University’s selected development partner, presented their vision for East Campus last night. The presentation included conceptual drawings from their winning proposal, details on the number of housing units and amounts of retail space as well as answers to audience questions. Though they stressed that their plans are only preliminary conceptual drawings, the crowd was nonetheless impressed.

The developers were optimistic about the site’s development potential, commenting that the University’s own market research underestimated the possible retail opportunities in such a project. They added that College Park has “a strong underlying market of students,” thus better insulating the town from the fluctuating demands of business cycles. On that note, they explained that non-student housing (that is, all housing except the planned graduate housing) was necessary on the site to ensure a year-round demand for a strong retail sector.

To allay concerns that East Campus will replicate the flaws of the developer’s Silver Spring project, the development team asserted that the special circumstances of college towns and of the current investment climate are far more amenable to mixed-use development. They explained that when the Silver Spring project was planned, mixed-use suburban development was considered too risky; fortunately, attitudes have since changed. “We’re not looking to redo Silver Spring here again,” they said, possibly referring to the previous project’s lack of housing. Bryant Foulger added that they are careful not to make East Campus look like an ersatz Disneyland, as many critics have described their work in Silver Spring.

Fortunately, the team also said it was conscious of the community’s desire to retain and recruit local businesses to the development as it had done for its Silver Spring project. Their drawings, though purely conceptual, show the proposed Purple Line running through the site.

For our readers who demand numbers, we can tell you that the Foulger-Pratt vision includes:

  • 2000 housing units (not to be confused with beds)
  • 400,000 sq. ft. of retail space (For comparison, the McKeldin Library‚Äôs seven floors and basement add up to about 200,000 sq. ft. total)
  • 350 new beds on North Campus to compensate for the loss of Leonardtown.

So when is the groundbreaking? Though today’s freshmen probably won’t get to stroll through an East Campus plaza until their graduate years, the time line depends heavily on the approval process, which involves future public input sessions, City input, County approval, and University approval. Only once the developer clears these hurdles can they start to build the college town the University of Maryland deserves and desperately needs.

Check out these conceptual images! (N.B. These are conceptual drawings, not the final plans).

Proposed East Capus Plaza behind existing power plant

10 thoughts on “Developer’s East Campus Vision Emerges”

  1. The concept drawings are a great start – especially with the light rail running through. If the university chases that away, it should be prepared to cut this project in half. Otherwise traffic will not move on Rt. 1.

  2. It’s not clear how dense development would gridlock traffic on Route 1. In fact, providing more housing within walking distance may reduce the number of commuters and thus the amount of traffic. Ballston in Arlington County increased sharply in density and population without experiencing much of an increase in traffic.

    Additionally, considering that the developers intend to include amenities on site that are currently only accessible by car (movie theater, grocery store), the development may eliminate the current need for students to drive just to buy basic groceries. In fact, today I went by car from my room on East Campus to buy fruit at Giant on Greenbelt road, when I would have been much more willing to buy it within walking distance on an East Campus grocery store that does not yet exist. This is a common story among students: having to get into a car and drive elsewhere just to buy groceries.

    Also, from a regional perspective, the Washington area needs more close-in, dense, infill development to lessen the even more burdensome traffic demands created by far-removed sprawl.

  3. Is there any talk of this being a LEED certified project? I realize its early in the design phase, but the earlier something like that is brought into the discussion, the better it can be implemented. Any ideas?

  4. There was only a brief mention of environmentally-conscious building standards. I’d imagine their lack of detail is due to the fact that the project is in such a preliminary stage.

  5. Jane and Joe

    Eric is absolutely correct. The market fundamentals all point to how this (and Knox Box Redevelopment) make sense from all points of view. Economic, environmental, etc.

    I have said this before: I think we would be shocked if we knew how many vehicles on Rte 1 were student residents (o Univ affiliate residents) of Old Town, Knox Boxes, Berwyn, etc going up to G’belt to get their groceries.

    Then the next largest percentage are the ones forced to live up in Columbia or over in Montgomery County. If we provide more housing options and basic services (sorry – student budgets cant handle doing full grocery shopping at a CONVENIENCE store- note word convenience, that means you pay more for the CONVENIENCE) closer to the campus in a hip, cool, happening setting closer to campus, you will actually reduce student reliance on automobiles

  6. It is certainly true that many new residents of east campus will do more walking to stores and the main campus. However, 400,000 SF of retail is dependent on a far broader market area than campus and either its immediate vicinity or braoder “transit-shed”. This is not downtown Princeton or Hanover New Hampshire – that is not what these guys do. They want people to come often, stay a long time, and spend lots of money. Nothing wrong with that, per se, as long as the elements that really complement a major research institution are highlighted in the project. In terms of auto dependency, there is no point arguing the point since the proof will be in the pudding – specifically what rate of parking they ask for and are granted and whether it is reduced at all based on the mixed use composition and transit upgrades in the area. In addition to the Purple Line, which should serve the project directly, College Park needs bus service up and down Rt. 1 with very high frequency so all the students and staff who move into the many projects moving through the pipeline really see transit as a viable alternative to driving their cars one or two miles to campus.

  7. I live approximately 1 miles from RT 1 and haven been watching all of the development news closely. Not only for property value reasons, but for the reason to stay here and not move elsewhere. I am excited about University Town Center, Metropolitan Shops, and the East Campus project. I’m a 30-something and would enjoy riding my bike (my house sits 200 feet from the Northwest Trail) with my wife or children to catch a movie and eat a nice dinner at some of these new places.
    What I hope is achieved is an environment like Berkley, CA. Yes, I know it took decades to create that atmosphere, but we seem to be headed in the right direction with the Arts District and EYA, etc. Having said that, it would be nice to have entertainment considered for East Campus. Perhaps one or two live music venues. Maybe a Blues club and a Jazz club with open mic nights. This would draw artists from the Arts district as well as a few big name artists which would then draw people from the DC area to see these artists. College students and 30-somethings like me love live music and it should be a part of every college town. Can you imagine headlines about the “College Park Jazz Festival”? And and jazz albums recorded at a venue in College Park?
    Stores and restaurants are nice. But it would be great to have a few great entertainment spots that would also put College Park on the map.

  8. To Adelphi Resident- we used to have places like that but their doors were closed long ago. (Anyone remember Planet X? No?) It seems like College Park planners are more interested in courting the big name, “plastic” stores/franchises/shops.

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