The University of Maryland has become a prime mover in the Route 1 renaissance.
In the past few years, the administration has become focused on turning College Park into one of the nation’s premier college towns with new high-end student housing, a $115 million hotel and conference center and better shopping and dining options.
The Washingtonian recently noted that the university is “at the forefront of Washington’s largest college-led neighborhood transformation.”
The College Park City–University Partnership—a nonprofit funded by the University of Maryland and the city of College Park—aims to make the neighborhood around the university one of the nation’s best college towns by 2020. It’s working with developers such as Toll Brothers and Southern Management to recast Route 1, long known for seedy motels and dive bars, as Prince George’s County’s answer to Ann Arbor.
The story notes that the next big project in College Park was inspired by a visit to Brookland’s Monroe Street Market, which was developed on land owned by Catholic University.
The new project will be on the site of the now-closed Plato’s Diner and the Quality Inn on Route 1 near Guilford Drive. Slated for $110 million, it will include 300 high-end apartments, 100,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, including fast-casual restaurants (places like Panera) and neighborhood-oriented shops.
Bozzuto, which was behind the Palette at Arts District apartments and Monroe Street Market, is also reportedly looking for a “high-end grocery tenant” as an anchor, either a Trader Joe’s-sized store or a larger traditional store.
College towns may be the closest thing in the U.S. to centrally planned economies. As a state-run institution, the University of Maryland has the budget, the access to lawmakers and the land to remake the town around it, and it’s making full use of those abilities.
But it’s not happening in a vacuum, either. In recent years, the towns along Route 1 have gotten new townhomes in the Arts District and Editor’s Park; high-end apartments around Prince George’s Plaza; and a Whole Foods, restaurants and townhomes at Riverdale Park Station. The university’s efforts will feed into that momentum, and feed off it.