UM plant purchase could slam College Park finances
Closed printing building to be used for East Campus facilities instead of hillock
The University of Maryland, College Park, is close to buying The Washington Post's closed printing plant in College Park, but city officials worry the move could deliver a major blow to city finances.
University officials agreed Jan. 15 to purchase the property from the Washington Post Company, said UM Vice President of Administrative Affairs Ann Wylie. The school does not know when the purchase will be finalized, but expects to pay about $12 million for the building, said UM spokesman Millree Williams.
The state Board of Public Works must still approve a contract, but Wylie said the building will likely house many of the storage and maintenance facilities expected to be displaced by the university's East Campus project.
"The Washington Post building is an industrial location that is well-suited to handle most of those [facilities]," Wylie said of the 315,000-square-foot building. "It's just cavernous."
The plant located at 5245 Greenbelt Road was built in 1998, as the Post relocated its newspaper production from Washington, D.C., to College Park and Springfield, Va. The College Park plant closed last July.
As a state organization, UM is exempt from property taxes. If it buys the plant for which the Post paid $259,000 in city property tax last year College Park would cease to receive revenue from what was its second-most taxed property last year. A portion of the city's Camden housing complex paid nearly $300,000 in property taxes last year.
"I was a little bit surprised," said City Councilman Robert Catlin (Dist. 2). "[The Post building] was one of the few properties in the city that went up a lot [in value] during our recent tax assessments."
Last year, the Post paid the city $75,000 in real property tax based on the value of the building and land and $184,000 in personal property tax, which is based on the value of fixtures and equipment.
City finance director Stephen Groh said he expects the city to receive $75,000 in real tax this year and $80,000 to $90,000 in personal tax for equipment that remains inside the plant until the plant is sold.
The $900 million East Campus project is expected to bring housing and retail to Route 1 across from the campus' main entrance. The project is currently stalled due to a lack of funding that in November caused the university to end negotiations with the project's main developer, Rockville-based Foulger Pratt/Argo. Officials have said they intend to complete the project in several phases using multiple developers, the first of which would be the relocation of maintenance facilities and construction of graduate housing and a Birchmere music hall within the next three years.
With the Post building in the fold, Wylie said the university could alter its previous plan for facility relocation, which included clearing nine acres of a 22-acre wooded hillock on campus. Students, staff and environmentalists have protested the plan as harmful to the school's environment.
"We no longer need the majority of the hillock," Wylie said. "[The Post building] will easily, easily accommodate all of our service functions."
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