Campus officials expect to know in the next few days when ground can be broken for the first phase of the East Campus mixed-use development.
President Wallace Loh shared this and other details about the status of the long-delayed redevelopment project at a Tuesday evening .
Loh said he recently urged the developers to work out specifics for the project, including cost, size and the ground-breaking date.
“I said we are on a fast track, or else this whole thing will fold,” he said.
If it did, it wouldn't be the first time.
The East Campus redevelopment, located on a 38-acre parcel at U.S. Route 1 and Paint Branch Parkway, was postponed in November 2009, when university officials cited the economic downturn as the reason. The original developers, Foulger-Pratt/Argo, ended negotiations with the university and were replaced by The Cordish Companies, a Baltimore-based firm.
Along with the new master developer came a new, multi-phased approach to constructing East Campus, Loh said.
The first phase, encompassing just 8 acres, will likely include a hotel and conference center, graduate student housing, retail and entertainment space—perhaps Birchmere Music Hall, Loh said. Birchmere had agreed to build a venue as part of the original East Campus development.
The Cordish Companies is currently negotiating with a second developer that has offered to finance the hotel and conference center, Loh said. He would not disclose the name of the second development firm, as it has not officially joined the project. Cordish Companies plans to cover the cost of the rest of the first phase of development without public assistance, Loh said.
The two development firms are working together to plan the exact date for when construction on the East Campus property would begin—within 12 to 15 months, Loh said. They are also working on a general vision for what kind of retail will fill the rest of the 8 acres, he said.
The City Council recently voted to allow for the release of $3.3 million in appropriated state funds to clear the East Campus site .
Developers have told the university that it’s a “no brainer” to include a hotel and conference center in the first phase, Loh said, with 600 to 700 weddings occurring on campus a year, and the multiple sporting events that bring in hoards of overnight spectators.
Developers say the hotel and conference center would create 500 new jobs alone once they’re open, Loh said.
He expects the East Campus project, which will sit near the main campus entrance, will have a major impact on the image of UMd. and College Park.
“I think that is absolutely critical to our viability as a university ... as a city,” he said.