By Carly Kempler and Mark Boyle
Community leaders gathered Tuesday morning on Berwyn House Road to officially launch the latest development in the University District Vision 2020 — a new, market-rate luxury apartment building.
Vision 2020 is an initiative between the City of College Park and the University of Maryland to transform the city into a top 20 college town, according to the College Park City-University Partnership website.
This 275-unit building, which is being developed by Wood Partners, is located on the 4700 block of Berwyn House Road and is another step toward that vision, said Maryland state Sen. Jim Rosapepe. These apartments will hopefully build a more “dynamic” college town by attracting more graduates and other professionals to the area, said Rosapepe, who is also a chair of the partnership.
“It’s about professors, it’s about staff, it’s about researchers, it’s about recent graduates, it’s about retirees, it’s about a diverse community,” Rosapepe said. “And over time, the community had become less diverse.”
The building has been under construction since December 2015, said John Dameron, a development associate at Wood Partners. It is slated to open in fall 2017, according to Wood Partners’ website.
Wood Partners became interested in this property because of the current “momentum” in the city, said Scott Zimmerly, Wood Partners’ director of the mid-Atlantic region.
“College Park has been changing in great ways every year, particularly the last ten years, as evidence with the new four-star hotel right down the street from us,” Zimmerly said, referencing The Hotel at the University of Maryland on Route 1. “We saw what Kevin Plank was doing, investing back in the school; we see Oculus being involved, and we saw there wasn’t a lot of market-rate apartments — not just for the university, but for College Park.”
In addition, the building’s short distance to the university and to other local amenities will help to reduce traffic along Route 1, said Eric Olson, the partnership’s executive director. Mayor Patrick Wojahn agreed, stating that the project fits in with the city’s goal to remain “smart and sustainable,” especially in terms of transportation.
“We would like to see more people affiliated with the university [who are] living closer to the university,” Olson said. “People will walk and bike and take the bus to the university and to work. … It helps the economy because more people living here will be shopping and eating and spending money in College Park, not taking it out of this jurisdiction.”
This project, which is also a silver-certified National Green Building Standard — the standard accounts for site development, water conservation, energy conservation, resource conservation, indoor air quality and building operation and maintenance — was originally proposed a few years ago, Dameron said. He added the building will also include a small retail space, though the retailer has not yet been determined.
“We want to answer … the residential needs of everyone in the College Park community,” Dameron said. “We are specifically targeting folks that are being attracted to the M Square Research Park, as well as adjunct professors and grad students here in the community.”
The luxury apartment building is an important component to an innovative ecosystem of this city, said Ken Ulman, the chief economic development strategist for the University of Maryland College Park Foundation.
“In a few years people will say College Park in the same breath that they say the great university town for this country,” Ulman said.