The University of Maryland’s surrounding area is seeing new restaurants and shops open in College Park after a slew of business closures.

New restaurants, such as Dog Haus Biergarten, Iron Rooster and GrillMarx Steakhouse & Raw Bar, have filled once-vacant storefronts in the last year. The College Park Shopping Center will also add a Greene Turtle and Honeypig Korean BBQ.

“We’re smoking hot,” College Park economic development manager Michael Williams said. “Folks want to come to College Park to do business because we have vitality right now.”

The last few months have seen a return of businesses to College Park, which can be attributed to the city’s high foot traffic compared to the rest of the Washington, D.C., area, Williams said.

College Park saw more empty storefronts because of COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and struggles in the summer, when businesses experience a drought while most students are away from campus, according to District 3 council member Stuart Adams.

Now, the new City Hall building’s restaurant storefront is almost filled with places such as Dog Haus Biergarten, Smoothie King and Shop Made in Maryland after two years of multiple vacancies.

Some College Park apartments are following a major development trend by placing retail on the first floor. Union on Knox, an apartment complex set to open in fall 2024, will include Chopt Creative Salad Company and Shake Shack among its retail selection.

Project Turtle — an apartment complex in its design phase that will replace the Campus Village Shoppes — will bring back some old businesses on its first floor, including Taqueria Habanero, Hanami Japanese Restaurant, Mr. Fries Man and the UPS Store, according to a news release from LV Collective, the complex’s developer.

The Hotel at the University of Maryland also emulates this type of development and has recently filled its retail openings with the addition of Iron Rooster.

[Iron Rooster in College Park hopes to become a community cornerstone]

The College Park business scene has also seen some closures this year.

The city is slowly becoming a “dry” area with the closure of two major liquor stores — Town Hall and College Park Liquors — in the Campus Village Shoppes shutdown. Williams said he is working to attract one of the old liquor stores back to the area.

Some other businesses have closed in about the last year, including Taim Mediterranean Kitchen, BookHolders and all businesses at Campus Village Shoppes.

The majority of storefronts around this university are owned by national and regional firms, which results in high rent for retail spaces across the city, according to Adams. A key to keeping small businesses open is attracting foot traffic during the summer with city gatherings, sports leagues and events at this university, he added.

With more chain restaurants coming to the city, Williams said he would like to attract more small businesses and local chains to the area but high rent pushes these businesses away.

In the city’s 2024 budget, $75,000 was set aside for retaining businesses, according to College Park Mayor Fazlul Kabir’s website. Individual businesses in the city will also receive $15,000 to a possible $200,000 in additional funding to attract, aid and resettle businesses, The Diamondback reported in October.

“It may appear that we’re going national all over the place, but not really,” Williams said. “We really are making the effort with the business retention fund to help the locals stay.”

[‘We lost everything’: Campus Village Shoppes closure stuns business owners]

City demographic data also show students are staying in College Park after graduation, Williams said. This could mean employers will start to move to the city and make it the next tech hub, he added.

The new FBI headquarters planned near the Greenbelt Metro Station will also likely encourage more tech companies to move to the city and the Discovery District, according to Adams. The thousands of FBI employees in the immediate College Park area will help the economy year round, Adams said.

“The future of College Park in terms of business opportunity is excellent,” Adams said. “It’s going to be even greater once the FBI gets here.”

A diverse range of housing at different price points, District 3 council member John Rigg said, would also help College Park support a year-round workforce and customer base for businesses. He cited Aster and Atworth, a new apartment building next to the College Park Metro station, as two examples of workforce housing opening in the city.

People and businesses are attempting to stay in College Park, and the city is hoping to grasp onto this momentum.

“There’s a lot of opportunity and it’s just a matter of continuing to build the year-round population,” Rigg said.