Foulger-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’s 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).