Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Group wants green, vibrant East Campus

Project should be environmentally friendly and visually complement the surrounding area, committee says

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East Campus Steering Committee members agreed Monday that the East Campus development project should incorporate a mix of residential, retail and office space, and promote public transportation as well as easy pedestrian access.

The committee also discussed architectural design, environmental sustainability and how the environment would be protected, emphasizing mixed use and public transportation, types of uses, and community awareness of the project initiatives. Its mission was to determine a set of principles to aid in developing the project before moving into the design phase.

The project will be built on a 38-acre parcel south of the University of Maryland, College Park, bounded by Route 1 to the west, Paint Branch Parkway to the north and the City of College Park to the south.

The committee, whose members include university students and business owners nominated by city and county officials, agreed the project should be environmentally friendly and visually complement the surrounding area by using renewable and non-renewable resources.

However, Ken Glover, a committee member and vice-president for PNC bank, expressed concern about the financing of the project.

The total project is expected to cost $800 million, though part of it will be financed through public investment, said Richard Perlmutter, a principal with Argo Investment Co. in Rockville.

Argo Investment and Foulger-Pratt, also Rockville-based, are working together as developers of the project. Perlmutter said that while capital markets have become more constrained, they are confident that money will be available for this project because there is a high demand for a mixed-use center in College Park.

‘‘While a lot of projects have been canceled or postponed, we feel confident we can get this done and hope to break ground in spring of 2009,” he said.

They plan to start at the northern end of the site at Paint Branch and Route 1 and move south and east from there.

Residential and retail space will be constructed first, as well as the Birchmere Music Hall, which work will begin on in 2009, Perlmutter said.

‘‘This project will be a catalyst for the redevelopment of the Route 1 corridor,” he said, referring to the East Campus project.

‘‘The developer has to go back and start designing this,” said Ari Schnitzer, UMD East Campus coordinator. There probably will be meetings in the future about the design, but it will be about two months before there is any design to look at, he said.

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