Tonight the first meeting of the East Campus Community Review Steering Committee will take place. Perhaps the University’s ambivalence about this process is reflected in the schizoid nature of the committee’s name: is this a community review group or a steering committee? The University has studiously avoided calling the group an advisory body and no notice of these meetings appears on the East Campus website, yet Pres. Mote’s letter of invitation anticipates “a lively dialogue and a collegial exploration of ideas,” while stating that committee members will learn a great deal about the project and be able “to provide input and to build broad support for it.” Uh, guys–maybe this would be more likely if adequate public notice was provided?
The University of Maryland, like UConn, Hendrix College and other campuses, has decided that a top university needs a great college town. Those of us who attended other land grant universities would not disagree. Apparently, downtown College Park, although improving in some ways, does not fit with the University’s vision. However, College Park’s lack of fine restaurants, retail options and other amenities is attributable, in part, to the same dilemma that has made for a less than vibrant campus culture: its proximity to Washington, DC.
Rather than wait for the City of College Park to remake itself, the campus has decided to move ahead with a large development project of its own. East Campus will include a hotel, housing, office space, restaurants and retail. Not too surprisingly, since VP of Administrative Affairs Doug Duncan will lead the project, Foulger-Pratt/Argo, the company that worked on downtown Silver Spring, has been selected to develop the East Campus site. College Park and neighboring towns have 17 representatives on this committee and the campus community has an equal number. Duncan will serve as chair.
As a state agency, the University is exempt from the usual planning review process. Last fall’s informational meeting for developers interested in bidding on the project resulted in a document that covers some of the logistical details and the University’s priorities. To his great credit, County Council Member Eric Olson sent a notice to voters regarding these meetings and an update on other area development. Because of the University’s ability to proceed without local or county review, these meetings are extra-important. This is our opportunity for input. Please spread the word via your town and neighborhood listservs.
Monday’s meeting will include a presentation of the developer’s concept. If you have missed this previously, please try to make room in your schedule. At subsequent meetings the committee will consider various facets of the development and its impact. Please visit Rethink College Park for their thoughts and ideas, along with the East Campus site’s section on Foulger-Pratt’s early conceptual plans.
are a moving target, please check our Events page (Updated 8/13, 8/24)