College Park officials approved a plan for a proposed office building development in the University of Maryland Research Park, but with the condition that the project be made more pedestrian-friendly, in the hopes that the added offices won’t increase vehicle traffic in the area.
The council negotiated changes with the developer, Corporate Office Properties Trust, before approving the plan Tuesday. The city’s requests included a larger pedestrian plaza, replacing some parking spots with green space, and added amenities for bicyclists.
The conditions were added to a site plan being drafted by a partnership between the University of Maryland and the developer at the research park located on River Road, west of Kenilworth Avenue. The plan is slated to come before the county Planning Board on March 8.
“We want to make sure that it’s pedestrian-friendly,” said Councilwoman Stephanie Stullich (Dist. 3).
The three planned office buildings, which do not yet have tenants, are billed as transportation-oriented development due to the close proximity to the College Park Metro station and a future Purple Line station. The offices, each 150,000 square feet, will be built in stages on 13.43 acres, along with a four-story parking garage, on the currently empty land.
Among the city’s conditions for approval were moving and reorienting the buildings to make them more accessible to pedestrians on River Road, in advance of future development for a Purple Line station.
“Having the [office buildings] close to the Metro is important, as well as working with the Purple Line in the future,” said Councilman Robert Day (Dist. 3).
Part of the site is in Riverdale Park, which has also approved of the plan with conditions.
“The big concern is always managing infrastructure issues,” Riverdale Park Mayor Vernon Archer said. “Are we building ourselves more problems? But we’re trying to build near where our infrastructure can handle it, and with the Metro station there, and the Purple Line looking like it won’t be too obscenely far in the future, this development does that.”
Riverdale Park’s council asked that the buildings be moved to block what Archer called “vast parking” in the back of the property, and that the developer contribute to the proposed bike share program and improve landscaping around the buildings.
Both municipalities will also require the developer to participate in a bike share program that College Park is planning, in which bikes can be rented on a short-term basis and moved between stations around the city as an alternative to driving.
The new buildings are part of a larger research park developed through a partnership between the University of Maryland, College Park and the developer. The partially completed research park already includes the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Study of Language and offices for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Agriculture. When complete, the park will be 2 million square feet of office space on 130 acres of state-owned land and employ 6,500 people, according to the park’s website.
The developer does not yet have a timeline for completion of the office building project, said Alton Fryer, a consultant for Corporate Office Properties Trust. At this stage, the developer is working on site plans with input from the municipalities. Fryer declined to give a cost estimate for the project, adding that it is very early in the planning process.
“Most businesses don’t plan three or four years in advance,” Fryer said, explaining why no tenants had signed on for the project yet. He added that the developer would continue to market the space as the approval process goes forward.
“A lot of times, once the site plan is approved, that’s when you get interest from tenants,” he said.