While University of Maryland, city, county and state officials strive toward partnership between this university and College Park, this goal cannot happen without impacting the community.
The College Park-University Partnership’s Vision 2020 reimagines the city as a college town attractive to university employees, faculty and their families. And many aspects of the project are already underway, including new housing, thriving businesses and a more walkable downtown area.
“College Park’s place in the region is changing, and it’s becoming better known as a cultural, intellectual and economic center,” said Eric Olson, executive director of the city-university partnership. “The city is always changing, and it’s good to have public discussion to talk about what the future of College Park is looking like.”
On April 5, students and residents can engage in this discussion as The Diamondback’s editor in chief, Matt Schnabel, talks to a panel of community leaders about the city’s future.
“This is a turning point for the city right now, and this panel is great for us,” said College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn, one of the panelists. “It could highlight the changes that are happening, what the changes could look like and what residents want to see. It’ll help get that dialogue going.”
University Vice President of Administration and Finance Carlo Colella, Southern Management Corporation CEO David Hillman and Assistant Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Economic Development of Prince George’s County David Iannucci will join Olson and Wojahn on the panel.
Wojahn said he was pleased with the diversity of voices on the panel and added that he hopes to contribute the city’s perspective to the event.
“Residents and students are stakeholders, too,” said John Cohan, Southern Management’s marketing director. “They should have an interest in how we see the future, and there have been concerns that we’ve addressed.”
The discussion allows for community members, including students, longtime residents and business owners, to learn about the redevelopment projects, ask questions and address concerns, Olson said.
When residents weren’t pleased about The Hotel at The University of Maryland, one of Southern Management’s projects, blocking a local historical airport and causing traffic along Route 1, the company dropped the hotel’s height and began to mix concrete on-site, Cohan said.
University President Wallace Loh said another concern is a lack of housing for university graduates interested in staying in the area.
“We graduate fantastic students and they all go, ‘Bye-bye, we’re out of here,'” Loh said. “We should be able to retain at least some of them here — and that also goes for faculty and staff. That’s what builds a great university town.”
As College Park strives to attract more families by building more housing units, it must also continue efforts in sustainability — perhaps with additional public transit to make the city more walkable, Olson said.
“We need to be diligent and make sure that this serves our residents as best we can. There are a lot of positive things happening, but there can sometimes be drawbacks,” Wojahn said.
The event, held at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center, is open to students and residents. Admission is free but requires advance registration.
“College Park has always been an area of opportunity,” Cohan said, “and we’re certainly looking forward to providing information [to community members] about the progress of these projects and how they fit into the future.”