How Do You Build a College Town?

That’s the question towns from Columbia, Ohio to Mansfield, Connecticut are pondering as they construct new city plans — and multi-million dollar projects – to build vibrant towns for their Universities. While we’re skeptical huge projects alone can build a great college town, we applaud these cities for their vision. How will College Park measure up?

After the state committed to spend more than $2 billion for improvements to all its campuses, the University of Connecticut decided on a sweeping project at its main campus in this hamlet in the still-rural town of Mansfield. Working with local officials, it plans to demolish the meager downtown, which looks more like a makeshift set for a Hollywood western than a New England college center, and build a town from scratch.

Construction of the development, called Storrs Center, is scheduled to begin next year. The project will include up to 300 market-rate rental housing units, up to 500 residential units for purchase, about 200,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 40,000 to 75,000 square feet of office space and 5,000 to 25,000 square feet of civic and community space. A town square will be at its core, mimicking the greens at the center of hundreds of New England villages.

New York Times: “UConn Decides to Build Its Own College Town

Baltimore Sun Predicts Regionwide Housing Shortage

A Baltimore Sun analysis in a pair of articles forecasts that Baltimore City and its five suburban counties (including PG County) will be 20,000 homes short in four years and 100,000 by the year 2030. This provides significant concerns over affordable housing and fears that workers will be pushed further into the outskirts; lengthening commutes or pricing out workers from the area all together. These trends in large part, according to Sun researchers, are because of continued economic expansion brought on by the area’s proximity to the nation’s capital and concurrent residential growth restrictions.

The study, likely brought about by the UMD Center for Smart Growth’s Reality Check Plus, adds to a growing body of awareness that much of the land in the Washington-Baltimore area is already developed. Local planning bodies have to balance often-revenue losing residential developments and revenue generating commercial development with traffic, jobs-to-housing ratios and affordability concerns. Local political pressure to limit growth only compounds the greater regional problem.

 Here is a quote from the article:

“There seems to be an assumption that metropolitan growth patterns are the result of a free market,” said Robert Puentes, a fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. “Nothing can be further from the truth. It’s the regulatory regimes in place that are actually causing this development and growth to happen. … There is a real opportunity to do something different.”

>Baltimore Sun(7/26/06): “Searching For Solutions

>Baltimore Sun(7/23/06): “The Coming Housing Crunch

City Council Rejects 1-Story Bank

The College Park City Council has voted unanimously to oppose a proposed 1-story Commerce Bank. The proposed building would go at the site of the abandoned Showcase Furniture building on Route 1 between Calvert Road and Guilford Road. This quote is from the Gazette story:

College Park resident Leo Shapiro was one of many to speak out against the proposed bank. ‘‘This does nothing at all to move us toward our vision for College Park and it would be an enormous and shameful waste of an opportunity,” said Shapiro, adding that the single-story single-use structure would not be consistent with the Route 1 Sector Plan. ‘‘Here’s an opportunity not to waste this space on a bank.”

> Gazette: “City opposes using property for bank

Welcome

Welcome to RethinkCollegePark.net! Watch this space for more information about College Park development.

Interested in what we’re doing? We’re looking for writers, people with technical and graphics skills, and people to help us plan community events. Email us at rgoodspe (at) umd.edu or ddaddio (at) umd.edu.