This isn’t just another development story, College Park resident Bob Kidwell said. That’s not the point.
Kidwell and his family have a long history with the city, and now they’ve sold the remainder of their “family garden” — a plot of land from their family’s estate — to create a “pocket neighborhood” in Old Town College Park.
The neighborhood will consist of seven homes, situated off of Rhode Island Avenue on Howard Lane, and each unit will be custom-built, said David Kacar, the project’s architect and the co-owner of Classic Design and Buildcheck, the company designing and building the homes.
“A lot of people are looking for homes in the area, but they need a lot of work,” Kacar said. “Most homes need a lot of work and upgrades, but to be able to do exactly what you want for it to meet your needs is very unique.”
Growing up on Knox Road, Kidwell — a 1969 graduate of the University of Maryland — was surrounded by classmates whose parents worked at the university and lived in the surrounding area, which inspired him to help his community and leave his legacy on the city, he said.
“We really want make this attractive to faculty and staff,” Kidwell said. “We’re trying to accomplish the goal of not only having owners living in College Park, but increasing the number of faculty and staff in the city.”
Kidwell said he hopes the home’s location, customization and efficiency will be enough to sway faculty and staff members of this university to move in.
Walkability, along with faculty and staff moving into the neighborhoods of College Park, are two strategies within the Greater College Park initiative, said Ken Ulman, chief strategy officer for economic development for the university’s College Park Foundation.
As faculty and staff blend with other residents within College Park neighborhoods, it creates a “true living-learning community,” said Eric Olson, executive director of the College Park City-University Partnership. Olson has been discussing this project with Kidwell for about three years, he added.
“When you have people who work and live in the community, they’re walking to work, you see people often going to and from work — more social interactions, those create innovation dynamic,” Olson said.
These homes are also eligible for the partnership’s Homeownership Program, which provides $15,000 in “forgivable loans” to a “full-time, benefits-eligible University of Maryland employee” or a “full-time employee of the city of College Park” who is looking to buy a home in the city, according to the partnership’s website. This city is also providing $5,000 in grants for purchasers of new single-family homes in the city, said Patrick Wojahn, the city’s mayor.
This project will also support local businesses, as more residents will be in the area over the summer, which is something the city is encouraging, Wojahn said.
“There’s several benefits from them living in College Park,” he said. “It means they have to travel less to work, and that’s less of a burden on our transportation infrastructure … and I think another one that it helps create more stability for College Park businesses that faculty and staff will support more of the higher end restaurants.”
Community members may ask questions about the project at City Hall on Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m., Kidwell said. He encouraged any faculty or staff who are interested in learning more to attend the meeting.
“With [university President Wallace] Loh’s goal of more faculty and staff living in College Park, the complaints having always been they’re small and need a lot of maintenance … my goal is that these houses will help deal with these issues,” Kidwell said. “And as the neighborhood improves, maybe the older houses will be improved.”