College Park approves $5M in East Campus funding
City officials support plan despite financial worries
College Park officials appear ready to let the University of Maryland, College Park, move forward with its East Campus development, despite concerns from some council members that the project lacks city input and could increase traffic in local neighborhoods.
The City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday night to release $5 million in state funding to the university for its development, a $900 million project that would bring 38 acres of housing and retail to Route 1 across from campus. Council members Mark Cook (Dist. 3) and Stephanie Stullich (Dist. 3) cast the dissenting votes. Councilman Jack Perry (Dist. 2) was not present at the meeting.
"I think there is [possibly] really strong value [in East Campus] for the city and the university," Mayor Andrew Fellows said. "I'm looking forward to the next year or two and working with the university."
State lawmakers required UM to obtain the city's approval prior to getting the funding. It will be used to begin renovations to the former Washington Post printing plant, which the university bought in February to house maintenance facilities currently located on East Campus.
"In order for this to work, we have to have collaboration and cooperation all around," said Ann Wylie, UM's vice president of administrative affairs. "This is a very good sign. I'm thrilled."
The city approved the release of funding after months of dialogue with UM about the project's impact on the city. City officials argued the Post plant purchase would take about $300,000 in annual tax revenue from the city, and UM employees might clog streets and cut through neighborhoods as a shortcut between the plant and university.
City approval came in the form of two letters one sent to UM President C. Dan Mote Jr. and the other to the state Board of Public Works and General Assembly.
Stullich said she would have supported the funding, if not for the university's decision in March to commission a study by Baltimore-based Sage Policy Group examining the university's financial impact on the city. The sides previously had discussed a joint study, but differed on whom to hire and how to pay for it.
"The financial health of the city should be very important to the university," Stullich said. "I would like to support this letter as a show of good faith, but good faith needs to be a two-way street."
The city letters also asked the university to study the potential traffic impact of using the former Post plant. Wylie said the university will continue working closely with the city and consult the State Highway Administration on traffic issues, adding employees would face punishment for cutting through neighborhoods.
The university still needs an East Campus developer, but Wylie said it could begin moving current facilities off East Campus by early 2011. University officials have estimated the project's first phase could bring graduate housing and a Birchmere music hall within three years.
E-mail David Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org.