East Campus Committee Update & Meeting

The final East Campus community input meeting takes place Monday, January 28 at 7:30. The group will discuss principles to guide the East Campus development. We strongly encourage members of surrounding communities to attend and to pass any questions to a community rep. Committee contact info here.

Foulger-Pratt/Argo, the developers of the East Campus project, made a number of presentations to the Committee and public during the fall and finished with a discussion of their traffic study in mid-January. These presentations focused on their schematic design and assumptions for various parts of the project: design, environmental impact, uses, parking, traffic impact, etc. The word schematic is the operative principle here; the developers have not presented much in terms of the actual design of the site. The lack of hard facts on the development posed problems for the Steering Committee since there has not been enough information to really give much feedback or approval of the total project.

In response to this dilemma, Douglas Duncan, UMD’s Vice President for Administrative Affairs and the University’s lead on the project, altered the scope of the Committee’s work to have the Committee provide principles to guide the planning, design and development of East Campus by Foulger-Pratt/Argo. After a plan is available, the Committee will re-group and review the project, likely when the developers are ready to submit their plans to the M-NCPPC.

There have been some glimmers of hope:

  • the development will integrate the future Purple Line into the heart of the project
  • they have signed the Birchmere as a main cultural component
  • there is an agreement to not have big box retailing (though disagreement persists on what exactly constitutes big box retailers)
  • there will be approx. 1000 beds of student housing created in the first phase of the project (the University will be subsidizing a percentage of those beds)
  • there will be a commercial adaptive re-use of the Pocomoke Building
  • The developers have spent much time describing how important it is for this project to make good connections with the University’s campus proper, downtown College Park and the park land surrounding the site.

    On the other hand, there are some real worries:

  • regarding the capabilities of the architectural team hired as the lead
  • the developer has voiced opposition to a LEED certified project (despite campus sustainability commitments)
  • it is unclear whether the project will achieve LEED Silver rating for the entire project (this is the University’s acknowledged baseline)
  • whether the connections suggested will work for the community and site
  • whether this project will have a sense of place rooted in the UMD and College Park context
  • what presence locally owned businesses will have at East Campus
  • it has not been clear just how dedicated the developers are (or what their skills are) to creating a really top-quality mix of uses that catalyzes the creation of a college town for College Park
  • There is much concern that what the developers have in mind is closer to the new downtown Silver Spring than the beginnings of a Cambridge MA, Charlottesville VA, Burlington VT, or Madison WI.

    The University has required that the developer have a 25% minority partner. This project could potentially be a source of good construction jobs for many of the tradespeople living in the Route 1 area. One broader community goal for East Campus might be to gain as much fair access and favorable terms to the construction work as we can.

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    Filed under College Park, Community, Developers, East Campus, Public Input, Route 1 Corridor

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