When Robert Specter first joined the faculty at the University of Maryland six months ago and searched the files of his predecessor, he found documents detailing visions for the East Campus mixed-use development from as long ago as 1999.
More than a decade later, he expects ground to be broken for the mixed-use development by this time next year, he told a room full of developers, property owners and brokers, officials and residents at a real estate roundtable Thursday morning.
“There’s been a lot of talk and a lot of energy and a lot of money put into East Campus already,” said the university’s vice president for administrative affairs and chief financial officer.
Despite selecting a developer, Foulger-Pratt Companies and Argo Investment Company, in 2007, negotiations were interrupted in November 2009. University officials cited the economic downturn as the reason.
Baltimore-based The Cordish Companies is the new master developer, with David Hillman of Southern Management Corp. in Vienna, building the hotel. The current plan for the 38-acre plot of land southeast of the intersection of U.S. Route 1 and Paint Branch Parkway is to build in two phases:
Phase 1 will include about eight acres of development—70,000 square feet of retail, a parking garage wrapped in retail, an outdoor town center and housing. There will also be a 266-key hotel, including a conference center and 18,000 square feet of additional retail space. Three to four additional acres will be reserved for parking.
The price tag for the hotel, housing, retail and infrastructure of phase 1 will be about $171 million, Specter said.
The second 22-acre phase will include more retail and housing.
Most of the housing will be for graduate students. Supplying more housing to attract graduate students is imperative in helping the university advance its status as a top research university, Specter said.
Though no definite retailers are set to fill the spaces in East Campus, Specter said the university hopes to attract higher-end restaurants, a mix of shops and a music venue.
A completion date for all of East Campus, an estimated $900 million project, is yet to be determined, though Specter said the second phase would not start until phase 1 is complete and retail there is “healthy.”
When completed, Specter said his vision is for East Campus to be “a living, energized place,” and integrated with the rest of the campus community on the other side of U.S. Route 1.
Specter also shared current plans for three, 150,000 square-foot office buildings at M Square, the University of Maryland’s research park near the College Park Metro Station.
Both the College Park and the Riverdale Park city councils approved the plans last month with conditions that the developers, Corporate Office Properties Trust, make the project more pedestrian-friendly.
Clay Gump, a College Park resident who works at the research park, has similar concerns.
“I don’t think the development for M Square is what it could be,” he said, and suggested that the project include a greater emphasis on connectivity.
“Everybody in my building drives to lunch because there’s no place to go,” he said.
Specter said that he expects the project to evolve with a greater emphasis on connecting the property to nearby resources.
The university is also collaborating with developers for the Cafritz proposal, which includes a mixed-use development just south of the College Park border. At the encouragement of College Park, Riverdale Park and University Park residents and councils, the developers hope to build a CSX railway crossing to the east, connecting with university land.
The roundtable, held at the Clarion Inn, was the first in nearly two years, largely because of the economic climate in College Park, City Planning Director Terry Schum said.
“I really think it got too depressing to pull people together … obviously today is better,” Schum said.