University Spends $12M on Washington Post Plant for East Campus Relocation

Washington Post Plant
Washington Post Plant

The University announced today that they plan to purchase the abandoned Washington Post site for $12 Million with the intention to use the site to house facilities currently on the East Campus site.  This is a clear victory for those who were opposed to using the Wooded Hillock site  for relocation as was previously recommended.

The Washington Post site is 18.5 acres with 315,000 square feet of space available. A good portion of the indoor space is 2 1/2 stories tall and could be converted to seperate floors if needed.

Is this a good plan? Brilliant move? Waste of money? What are your thoughts? The Campus press release is after the break.

Also see  Post to Abandon College Park Printing Plant


College Park, MD — The University of Maryland College Park recently reached agreement on terms expected to lead to a purchase of the Washington Post’s production plant, located in College Park, MD. The plant, with approximately 300,000 square feet on 18.5 acres, will provide the flexibility Maryland needs to create a multi-phased relocation of services currently housed on the East Campus site. The purchase, estimated at $12 million, must still be approved by the state’s Board of Public Works, which will consider the issue at its February 10, 2010 meeting.

The acquisition also helps the University address a significant recommendation from the students and the University Senate to explore off-campus relocation options to the proposed use of the on-campus Wooded Hillock area.

“We were very excited when the Washington Post made this critical space available,” said Ann G. Wylie, vice president for administrative affairs. “This facility provides the space we need to strategically and cost-effectively phase in our East Campus relocation projects, minimize environmental impacts to campus woodlands, and limit disruption to our critical campus services.”

Wylie notes that “flexibility” is the key word associated with purchasing the property. According to her, owning the Post’s College Park plant will allow the University to package relocation projects in cycles by renovating selected production plant spaces, then moving University services, allowing development of specific sites within East Campus to proceed. Such a plan permits the University to secure developer interest and identify partners for smaller parcels within the larger East Campus site while continuing to move the entire project forward.

Despite a tough economy, the opportunity to purchase the plant and begin to clear the East Campus of existing service operations is key to implementing the initiative for a new urban center. “Purchasing the facility is a long-term investment in one of our top goals of the Strategic Plan,” said Wylie. “We know that offering a world-class educational experience is not enough to attract the best students and faculty. To be truly competitive with the best universities around the nation, we have to also provide world-class facilities and resources. It’s critical that we continue to offer top students in the state and across the nation the best residential, retail and entertainment resources if we are to be a world-class university. Partnering with the community, the county and the private sector will help make that happen.”

“The East Campus Redevelopment initiative remains at the forefront of our efforts to build a world-class research institution for the residents of Maryland,” said Wylie. “We are confident that a multi-phased development approach that recognizes and responds to current fiscal conditions will lead to a timely and successful development of this vitally important project. When complete, the development will bring a new urban character to College Park by creating a vibrant district of retail, residential, office, hotel and entertainment uses that also will serve to stimulate downtown revitalization.”

15 thoughts on “University Spends $12M on Washington Post Plant for East Campus Relocation”

  1. I think it’s great that the University acquired this property. It certainly appears to fill a need in the short term, and may prove to be an interesting parcel in the long term.

  2. What’s not to like? Let’s see:
    – the University spending $12 MILLION that they didn’t have to (I’m assuming it would have cost some portion of that to build new buildings on the original preferred site) Guess who’s paying for it? That’s right, tuition and taxes.
    – University vehicles will now add traffic 193/University Blvd while heading to campus, instead of being on campus to begin with. It may only be a mile, but the U has lots of vehicles.
    – The City loses out on the property tax revenue that would have been retained had the Post plant been utilized for private industry, not to mention the jobs that would have been created by whatever moved into the facility. Guess who gets to make up the difference? That’s right, higher property taxes for the rest of us.

    Seems like a bad deal all around to me.

    1. I agree with Pat. I still think they should consider using property they already own before forking out $12M from an already tight budget. How can this be justified when everyone on campus has been furloughed? I still feel the existing 18 acre Golob property is just as feasible as the Washington Post.

      Golub is 2.5 miles from the Student union and does not require a trip down already congested route 1 to enter campus. The Post plant is 1.8 miles coming down 193 to route 1. Yes Golob it is a old facility that would have to be torn down and/or renovated, but $12 million buys a lot of renovation.

      I am desperate to see East Campus get moving but I think the Post Plant purchase is a bad idea. Just my opinion.

  3. @Pat, Where else was the University going to put the facilities? The environmentalists killed the idea of them remaining on campus. Also, the East Campus project will bring in more revenue than the Washington Post plant would have if it was still occupied by the Washington Post. You can’t have everything. Something will have to give. Do you sacrifice the East Campus project? The Hillock? Or an empty newspaper plant that might not have been occupied for another 3 years due to the economy. Greenbelt Station is across 193 for goodness sakes and it hasn’t seen one brick laid. There’s more urgency to start on the East Campus project. Which was teh reason for the purchase. Too many times progress in this county has been killed because of people who want everything the way it is, but complain about the quality of life. There is no other alternative. This way, the environmentalists have their trees, facilities has a place to move, and the East Campus project can move forward. (which means more tax revenue). Do you have another alternative that works for all parties involved?

  4. PS

    Rt. 1 is going to be more crowded anyway with three new housing projects with retail being constructed. Not to mention restaurants and retail now being built in the Arts District.

  5. Agree with Pat and Clay wholeheartedly on this matter…. especially on the matter of putting people that maintain campus way off campus. Hopefully they’ll save a good bundle of money that would have been spent to clear the hillock and build stuff from scratch. Also, UMD staff can use 193 to get from the post plant to campus.

  6. I don’t understand why it’s a problem to have maintenance facilities off campus? I think campus real estate should be reserved for important university facilities that need to be accessible by foot (lecture halls, labs, student unions, offices, sports venues). It is OK if UM employees are getting paid by UM to drive to and from campus and the maintenance facilities.

    We all agree that the east campus location is too valuable to have maintenance facilities on it. It is right next to campus and will be a great mixed use area for shopping, entertainment, housing and so on.

    Golub would not be a good location for the maintenance facilities; I agree that it should be used for M Square. In the link in Clay’s post, David Daddio says this about the idea:
    “David Daddio Says:
    October 5th, 2009 at 6:35 pm
    Golub is in a transit area. It is extremely close to CP Metro and even closer to a proposed purple line station. Why would we put a low density, car-oriented facility whose occupants will constantly be commuting to campus at such a site?”

    Hillock is not an extremely valuable wooded area, but I see no reason to raze a forest just to put up maintenance facilities which can be placed nearly anywhere.

    “Spending” $12 million — are you upset when the UM endowment “spends” $12 million on stocks? Land tends to appreciate over time; this is an investment. John is correct about how much revenue East Campus will bring in so the city tax issue is a wash. Also, why will this bring so much traffic? This won’t be rush hour traffic because the people using this facility will be making trips during the workday.

    Maintenance facilities should not take up valuable land on campus or near public transportation when it will mainly be accessed by employees using university vehicles during the day.

  7. I’m not sure I like this move. The University is going to ask the City of College Park, i.e. homeowners and taxpayers to fund via TIF bonds. The taxes from the EAST CAMPUS Development and all that money will go to pay off the bonds that helped fund the development. Payback in 30 years???? While at the same time taking the Washington Post property off the property tax roles for the city. Also, when I went to school part of it’s responsibility was to house it’s students on it’s own property. Right now College Park real estate property that should be contributing to the tax roles is now being “annexed” by the University to house it’s students while removing more revenue from the city.. or am I wrong? If I am would someone please explain that to me? Thanks…

  8. Couple things to think about Bob:

    a) with the economy the way it is and manufacturing at an all time low, that plant likely would have been empty for years.
    b) TIF money goes towards basically public infrastructure in the project like garages, streets, etc.
    c)the new student housing complexes on route 1 are privately owned and will pay a ton of money to CP for taxes. forget how much the View pays, but it is substantial.

  9. City property taxes from new privately owned student housing comes in at about $300/bed per year. 2,500 new beds in 2010-2011 equals $750,000, plus about $100,000 in rental licensing fees, plus a small amount ($15,000?) of personal property tax (on furniture). If the retail space has tenants and generates rent, perhaps an additional $40,000 in property tax, too.

    So possibly a $900,000 revenue increase for a City budget that was about $12 million a year.

  10. Thank you for some welcome information on the tax revenues….from David and Bob…I’m glad to hear that about the income from the student housing being built in the City. Are those rates for all the units being built, including Mazza GrandMarc and others?

    I’d still like to know what the payback time is estimated on the TIF bonds and what happens if the tax revenues fall shorter than projected? Who is on the hook for the difference? CP residents or the University? or would it be a shared obligation?

    Thanks to all for their quick responses to my previous questions….

  11. As of now their are no TIF bonds proposed for the project. If bonds are proposed down the road, I am sure that they would be of a much smaller amount then were being discussed in 2008.

    Any TIF bonds issued by the City or the County would be the responsibility of the project. If revenues were not sufficient to pay the bonds a special property tax would be levied on the project. If that were not sufficient the project may go into default.

    TIF bonds are not GO (general obligation) bonds that the City has to find a way to pay. A reason why the marketplace today would not be an easy sell for such TIF financing.

    Mazza GrandMarc should pay lower level of property taxes, than housing next to campus, because of greater cost of high-rise construction and higher land values there, but I expect it would still be in the $225-$250 range per bed.

    Mazza is building structured parking space for each bed, while projects adjacent to campus build only parking for about one-third of residents. So that is one major thing Mazza is building that enhances the cost/value of the project.

  12. Yes, of course, there are pros and cons to any decision. The full implications of the Washington Post plant purchase will be eagerly awaited by the many tax paying property owners of College Park.

    Will a deal be cut so the City does not lose all the revenue it might have otherwise been entitled to ?

    Will the University acknowledge its impact upon the City and actually pay for all the extra traffic and congestion, or will they continue to expect local property owners to forcibly subsidize the great new commercial development from which the University will receive its percentages ?

    Whatever happened to the great and wonderful Argo Pratt ? Why did they bail ? How much will the University have to pay for their beautiful plans ? What about all the processes that are supposed to be followed through PG County and MNCPPC ? Will that get bull-dozed ? Will the community have a chance to comment ever again ?

    What if the University decides that it does not need the entire plant ? Will it lease to other government agencies, or to private businesses ? Who gets that rent ? What about taxes on those operations ?

    Yes, it must be worth $12 million to save some trees and buy an existing industrial building, but the financial implications appear to be more of the same where the University ignores the local residents who have to tolerate and pay for the abuse of the neighborhood bully.

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