If College Park wants to be a top college town, it needs more to do

A student sits alone in the Hoff Theatre waiting for a movie to begin. (James B. Hale/The Diamondback)

Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

The University of Maryland and College Park have missed the mark with their goal of making the city a top-20 college town by 2020. In order to cultivate an environment fitting of a top-20 town, this university should prioritize working with the city and state to invest in the city’s floundering arts and entertainment sector.

Of course, there are many other factors at play for why College Park doesn’t deserve a top-20 rating. There are ongoing issues with housing availability and affordability, delays of Purple Line construction and previous food desert status — though now somewhat alleviated by the openings of Lidl and Whole Foods. There are basic standards we are not meeting.

Yet it also cannot be denied that the city must fix the lack of continued development in the arts and entertainment sector in order to achieve the top-20 goal in the foreseeable future. Why? Because there’s nothing to do in College Park.

Okay, there’s not nothing. But, it is plain to see that the unavailability of off-campus activities is majorly hindering the university’s goal.

The nearest movie theater is a bus ride away in Hyattsville. The best music venue in College Park is in some dudes’ basement. The city’s best arcade — which, to be fair, is an excellent collection of pinball machines — is in the back of a MOM’s Organic Market and is about three miles from Stamp Student Union. MilkBoy ArtHouse, a restaurant and music venue opened in collaboration with The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, recently closed, although the center will still hold some events there.

Between the edge of campus and Hyattsville lies a strip of unifying businesses along Route 1 that bring both student and non-student College Park residents together. The populations have an opportunity to coexist at the TargetExpress down to the 7-Eleven, but not so much anywhere else.

And for those who do not drink, the weekend and nightlife scene is extremely drab. Route 1’s strip of a few bars is less than appealing, and there are only a handful of sit-down restaurants in this area to enjoy a night out without traveling beyond College Park. Even fewer have attractions that make you want to stay longer without drinking.

More entertainment concepts like The Board and Brew, a board game themed restaurant along Route 1 near The Varsity, should come closer to the housing hubs in College Park. A thriving college town should not rely only on bars to create its nightlife but have a variety of arts and entertainment options.

However, there is a glimmer of hope. Storefronts are changing. Since beloved shops are going out of business, developers should consider providing the things College Park is really missing. Be it a themed restaurant, an arcade, a small music venue, axe throwing, art classes, a gallery — make it something to do.

The importance of the presence and availability of arts and entertainment in student life should not be overlooked. If this university and College Park are really dedicated to making the city a top-20 college town as soon as possible, they should work more closely together to invest in cultivating culture. As new developments come to College Park seeking to expand housing options and revitalize Route 1, it is imperative they work on the exceptional absence of things to do and act to build new beloved fixtures of the city.

This column has been updated. 

Lexie Werner is a senior English major. She can be reached at lexiew@terpmail.umd.edu.

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