Large campus development 'concept' generates early buzz

The Baltimore Sun

I wrote a story for today’s paper on a proposal for a large development on what is now part of the University of Maryland’s golf course. The proposal is just a “concept,” the principals say.

As now constituted, it would include a large, mixed-use development (hotel, retail, residences, office) and a direct link to the campus area from the I-95/I-495 interchange. At least some golf course land would be “repurposed.” Obviously, this would be a vast undertaking.

Some notes:

** Nobody was ready to announce this yet. If a formal proposal is submitted, there will be public input. I wrote about the idea now because (a) it exists; and (b) it would be really significant for the campus.

People are already talking about it -- local civic associations and elected officials, members of the Board of Regents (who were informally briefed) and supporters of the golf course.

It’s one of those stories where you don’t want the chatter to overtake the reality. The debate needs to be grounded in facts. Sure, there is much we don’t yet know. There is no price tag yet, although the developer -- Maryland alum Brian Gibbons -- says it would exceed $100 million. But we can’t allow what we don’t know to prevent us from reporting what we do know. The key is providing lots of voices and context.    

** At its core, I think the debate here is on what people want College Park to look like. What do we like best in our favorite college towns?  

** There seems to be widespread agreement on at least one point -- the university has an issue with congestion on Route 1, particularly during major sporting events.

“Traffic backups frequently extend all the way onto to the Capital Beltway, blocking east-west
traffic. Residents of many neighborhoods in College Park are trapped in their neighborhoods by Route One traffic,” said a letter I saw from State Senate president Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. to  state transportation secretary James T. Smith. “Faculty, staff and visitors to the campus and to its research partners end up spending additional hours each week simply sitting on Route One. This cannot continue.”

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