Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007

Bowie State University plans could bring new dorms, retail

College is in negotiation with county for more land

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Bowie State University is negotiating with Prince George’s County for hundreds of acres of land to build new student dorms, stores and restaurants on the campus, the university president said last week.

Dr. Mickey L. Burnim said the university is in the early stages of acquiring 214 acres of county property to build dormitories and retail next to the MARC train station in Bowie.

If it comes together, the new construction project would boost the resident student population at Bowie State while providing on-campus business space that could fund future scholarships and campus growth, Burnim said.

‘‘This is a high priority for us,” said Burnim, who has been the university’s president since last September.

The Prince George’s County Council took the first step toward the deal last month by agreeing to set aside the land for the university.

The main focus of the project will be student housing to boost the number of students who can live on campus, Burnim said.

Currently, just 1,400 students, about 23 percent of the 5,300 who are enrolled in classes, can live on campus. Every year, there is a long wait list for dorm rooms, campus officials said.

Burnim said having more students live on campus ‘‘would give the campus a different feel. More students would have their life outside of class on the campus. Their activities would be here. We’d be able to attract more students.”

But unlike most university dormitories, the Bowie site would have a number of retail businesses. Burnim said the campus wants to reach out to private developers to build restaurants and stores that could cater both to students and people who use the nearby train station.

With the retail, Burnim said, ‘‘We could be generating a stream of income that could provide resources for scholarships and other services.”

Burnim said Bowie State hopes to attract a private developer willing to front the multimillion-dollar costs to build on the county-owned site between Jericho Park Road and Route 197.

‘‘They could absorb the risk and provide the funding,” he said.

Under the terms outlined in county documents, Bowie State, a historically black university, will not have to pay for the land, valued at $1.3 million.

The documents specify that the land can be used ‘‘for educational uses including facilities that benefit the welfare of students and faculty in their educational experience at the University.”

The county also reserves the right to take back the land if it is not used for that purpose.

The size of the land has the potential to help the college, and the area, grow. Adding 214 acres to the campus would increase Bowie State’s size by 63 percent.

Bowie city officials are excited by the project’s potential to attract shoppers to the mostly residential area of north Bowie.

‘‘It’s big,” said John Henry King, economic development director for the city. ‘‘It holds great potential.”

E-mail Daniel Valentine at dvalentine@gazette.net.