By Eric Olson

copy of 1419
Eric Olson is executive director of the College Park City-University Partnership

A number of residents have asked me for an update about projects now underway along Baltimore Avenue. While we are currently living in a construction zone, the good news is that most of these projects are moving along at a steady pace, without delay (the exception being the Purple Line light rail, which has been set back by at least a few years). Here is a brief summary of the projects and their timelines.

Tempo, at 8430 Baltimore Avenue, is a student housing project that is due to open in summer 2022, in time for the next academic year. It is located on the site of the former Burger King and a building that had been vacant for at least 25 years, a former Arby’s. Tempo will have 299 apartment units, for a total of 978 beds. The grounds will include a bike trail leading to the pedestrian bridge behind University View that connects to the Paint Branch Trail and campus. The bulk of the exterior work should be completed over the next several months.

The University of Maryland’s new School of Public Policy building is under construction behind Rossborough Inn and adjacent to the university’s Reckord Armory. This 77,000 square foot building will be completed in summer of 2022, too. It will be the academic home to more than 400 undergraduates and graduate students, and some 100 faculty and staff.

College Park City Hall is under construction at the intersection of Baltimore Avenue and Knox Road. (Demolition of the old city hall, which opened in 1959, took place in February 2020.) The exterior of the building is largely complete, and the city expects to start moving its operations into the building by the end of this calendar year. The new city hall is a unique, joint endeavor between the City of College Park and the University of Maryland, and will include office space for both city and university staff. The grounds will feature a plaza, creating space in the heart of downtown College Park for community activities, from outdoor dining to music and arts events. Seven thousand square feet of retail space will front the plaza.

Southern Gateway, between Hartwick and Guilford roads, on the site of the former Quality Inn and Plato’s Diner, is expected to open in summer 2022. It will include 400 market rate apartments and is conveniently located just four blocks from Metro. The development is geared toward the many university employees and other professionals who work in and around College Park. The complex will include a grocery store and other retail on the first floor, as well as outdoor terrace dining. Calvert Road will intersect the project, passing under a pedestrian bridge linking the project’s two buildings.

Baltimore Avenue, from Maryland 193 (University Boulevard) to College Avenue, is undergoing upgrades that will transform it from a thoroughfare into a college town main street. This long-awaited project will create a safer environment for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike. The upgrades will turn this stretch of Route 1 into a boulevard with tree-lined strips between the sidewalk and curb, with wider sidewalks, 5-foot bike lanes, and a planted median with dedicated turn lanes. Lighting will be improved, and stormwater management is being addressed. These improvements will reduce the number of curb cuts and are intended to address pedestrian and cyclist safety. The first phase of the project, upgrading the stretch between Campus Drive and College Avenue, should be completed by the end of this year. Work from University Boulevard to Campus Drive will continue into 2023.

The Purple Line is a 16-mile, above-ground light rail between Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park and New Carrollton that will connect Metro’s Red, Green and Orange lines, and Amtrak and MARC lines. Four Purple Line stops dot the College Park area at the Adelphi Road/University of Maryland Global Campus, the University of Maryland’s Student Union, the Baltimore Avenue/Ritchie Coliseum and the College Park Metro station; a fifth station is at the River Road/Discovery District in Riverdale Park. While a dispute between the original contractor and the State of Maryland left the project largely stalled for the past year, the state secured new bids and plans to choose a contractor later this year, with work to resume in 2022. While no timelines for completion have officially been put forward, it seems likely that 2024 would be the earliest that the Purple Line could open.

With some significant completions coming in 2022, College Park will soon be home to safer pedestrian conditions, enhanced community spaces, and alternative commuting options.