- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 25, 2007

The University of Maryland is spreading out from its campus in College Park to become the focus of major real estate projects in Prince George’s County.

The university recently announced it has found a partner to develop about $600 million in new entertainment facilities, housing, offices and retail on its East Campus along Route 1.

The project joins the university’s M Square research park, the University Town Center mixed-use complex, and the University View apartments and Northgate condos as additions to the county’s 2002 Route 1 Sector Plan, which encourages development along College Park’s main road.

The county and city of College Park approved the Route 1 Sector Plan after students and permanent residents complained about the lack of amenities and poor land use along Route 1.

The university’s plans for its real estate are helping to transform Route 1 from a strip of fast-food restaurants and service stations to a hub of Prince George’s County’s economic development, county economic officials said.

The East Campus proposal would be the biggest development project in the university’s history.

Although it is “a major project” for Prince George’s County, it is not the last for the Route 1 corridor, said Kwasi Holman, president of the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corp. “We’re working with both public-sector entities as well as nonprofit organizations to revitalize Route 1,” he said.

The University of Maryland is finding niches for development the same way Montgomery County discovered the biotechnology industry would help its economy, said M.H. Jim Estepp, president of the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable, a business development organization.

“The potential for that in the future is very high,” Mr. Estepp said.

The university also is attracting private developers that hope to find customers among the students and faculty.

Less than a mile from the campus, in Hyattsville, the first housing segment of the $1.2 billion University Town Center opened in August. The Towers at UTC apartment building is designed for 910 students.

Construction is continuing on the retail, theater, hotel, condominiums and offices for the 56-acre complex.

“The university has a significant impact on the market,” said Catherine Timko, marketing consultant for University Town Center.

Although the contract to build the East Campus project is not signed, the university said it would use FP-Argo of Rockville, a joint venture of the Foulger-Pratt Cos. and Argo Investment, to develop the 38-acre parcel of land now used mostly for maintenance and administrative facilities. FP-Argo helped in the $1.2 billion redevelopment of downtown Silver Spring that started five years ago and continues now.

The East Campus project “is likely to serve a broader audience than just the 10-month university population,” said J. Frank Brewer, the university’s interim vice president for administrative affairs. “It will likely require the support of 12-month residents in the communities surrounding the university.”

Tentative plans call for as much as 2 million square feet of retail, office, housing and parking space to be built over the next 10 years on the East Campus. The exact mix would be determined through a “community input process,” Mr. Brewer said.

University officials said their discussions with students show a need for more housing for the roughly 35,000 students, particularly graduate students.

The university continues to add tenants to the 128-acre M Square research park it is building east of the College Park Metro station. One building is completed, a second is under construction and a third is being planned.

In January, medical X-ray equipment developer MXF Technologies signed a lease for M Square. The company is joining tenants such as the Center for Advanced Study of Language, the National Foreign Language Center and the National Weather and Climate Prediction Center.

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