UMD Continues M-Square Transit Dis-Oriented Development

Taking cues from 1980s-style office parks, UMD is forging ahead with the next phase of M-Square (see interactive map) – its suburban office complex steps from College Park’s metrorail Green Line station. Not only does the proposed three 150,000 square foot building, 1,114 parking space development ignore its relationship to the Green Line, it fails to acknowledge a planned Purple Line light rail station directly at its front door. The plan misses or puts off indefinitely several opportunities to make critical pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicle connections in the area. The College Park City Council will discuss the plan in Tuesday’s work session and the Prince George’s County Planning Board will hear the application March 8th.


While the proposal conforms to the 1997 College Park-Riverdale Transit District Development Plan (TDDP), it stands in direct contradiction to the University’s sustainability goals. The design is completely legal and within the bounds of current zoning, but it abandon’s UMD’s moral obligation to Prince George’s County, College Park, and Riverdale. UMD should immediately remove this detailed site plan from consideration and wait for the completion of TDDP update (which will begin this summer) and M-NCPPC Purple Line TOD Study. According to M-NCPPC, these studies seek to address several issues confronting this area of town:

  • Most of the properties near the station are within the Aviation Policy Area (APA) 6 portion of the College Park Airport, and are subject to certain height and notification requirements.
  • Existing and proposed development in the M Square research park is not transit oriented or supportive, and lacks cohesive pedestrian- and transit-friendly design.
  • Federal tenants (FDA, NOAA, Center for Advanced Study of Language) require secure compounds detrimental to pedestrian and bicycle connectivity.

See the current M-Square Master Plan HERE.


10 thoughts on “UMD Continues M-Square Transit Dis-Oriented Development”

  1. I have always felt that they could do better with M-Square. It seems as though they are treating M-Square as if it exists outside of the smart-growth/transit-oriented realm. They should take a cue from the proposed Life-Sci village in Montgomery County adjacent to the FDA campus. They have NO mass transit near that project and yet, they are envisioning a walkable community of researchers and scientists. As close as M-Square is to the Green line and proposed Purple line, I find it odd that more mixed-use has not been planned. Why can’t people live, eat, or shop at M-Square as well as work? It seems like an awful waste of space and with the huge surface parking, encourages people to drive when there is a Metro stop within walking distance. It seems odd that College Park can vehemently oppose a project like Cafritz while they allow the continuation of the suburban sprawl-like planning for M-Square.

  2. It was zoned to be a typical medium density suburban ofice park about 1997. Building heights are low because of the airport and uses are restricted because multifamily housing is considered bad by some for surrounding property values and concerns about traffic, also. Some mixed use development could take place on the WMATA property or the industrial/warehouse parcels northeast of the Metro station.

  3. First off as I’ve been saying for 5 years, for the love of God we need a decent place to eat over here. It is insane how often folks from M-square hop in a car and drive right down route 1 for lunch.

    Part of the “sprawl like” development is due to the security requirements of some of the research partners that require limited access.

    Most of the space however really should be rethought. Building what is essentially a suburban office park right next to a metro station is incredibly short sighted in my opinion. I would much prefer to see less surface parking and more utilization of the parking garages that are already on the site plan.

  4. I agree with Clay. The two closest decent places to eat (the Peruvian chicken place fairly nearby and Poets and Bus Boys in Hyattsville are still miles away).

    A starbucks at a minimum would make a world of difference (and the plan to build restaurants on the road to NOAA seemed to have died a death).

    Although the latest I heard (in the Gazette I think) was that Whole Foods was moving behind the American Center for Physics. So you’ll have lots of car traffic bang next to the propose Purple Line stop. Capital thinking!

  5. I agree with all the above comments. (1) There are enough people (USDA, two M Square buildings, the new NOAA building) to support restaurants and other amenities — should be obvious. (2) Those of us who use Metro would greatly welcome a more direct walking path than River Road, which, in addition to being a very long way around (curving away from our destination at M Square) is very exposed, with no trees to shelter from the heat of the sun on concrete — bad in a semirural area and for people wearing office clothes. (3) Site orientation so far has shown no knowledge of how to make a building energy efficient or to make natural light (much preferred to artificial light) more available to tenants. (4) The vast parking lots, unshaded benches and tables, and insecure bike racks show indifference to, bordering on willful disregard of, tenant “green” choices or sustainability.

    Come on, UMD and College Park — you can do better, much better.

  6. I think it would be better to attempt to put retail along River Road. Push the offices to the street with a wide sidewalk with retail on the ground floor. Put a parking garage in the back. I’m surprised they haven’t tried to make River road a walkable BLVD with ground floor retail and offices above. Is there still a chance to change these plans?

  7. The current zoning only supports office use I believe. The only way to get something decently better on this site in terms of mixed use is to work through the issues to get worked through in the TDDP update (which will begin this summer) and M-NCPPC Purple Line TOD Study. If the community shows enough opposition maybe UMD will step back and reconsider this plan.

  8. @David

    Perhaps we can start a letter campaign to the university to at least help them to realize the great opportunity to create a professional workplace that’s walkable, fosters collaboration, and creates a sense of community between the workers and researchers? I used to work in the Konterra office park off of Rt. 1. in Beltsville. It was unfortunate that the workers in every office building in the park had to hop in a car and drive as far as Contee Rd. or south towards Costco to grab a bite to eat or to do some shopping. M-Square won’t be as bad with East Campus, but that would still seem to me as a bit of a hike if traveling on foot or bike. I’m not suggesting that the M-Square looks like Downtown Silver Spring, but it would be nice for the highly skilled workers to have a nice area to work in.

  9. I watched the presentation last night and when questioned about the lack of dining or retail options the developer said that the proposed buildings have the potential for retail on the ground floor but it is demand driven. There is nothing about the design that precludes retail on the ground floor.

    So we are left with a “chicken or the egg” problem.

    They also mentioned that southern section of M-Square has an underlying zone of “I3” which is industrial. The plan for rezoning will start later this year and take around two years.

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