By Sophie Gorman Oriani

On Feb. 15, the College Park City Council discussed a proposal to renew the city’s participation in the Greater College Park Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise (RISE) Zone.

According to the Maryland Department of Commerce, “A RISE Zone is a geographic area that has a strong nexus with a qualified institution and is targeted for increased economic and community development.” A RISE zone is designated for five years, at the end of which it may be eligible for renewal for an additional five years. Any given county in the state may have a maximum of three zones at any one time.

The Greater College Park RISE Zone spans 470 acres and includes the University of Maryland, along with portions of College Park and Riverdale Park. College Park’s initial RISE zone designation expired in late December. The proposed renewal would maintain the zone’s original boundaries.

New businesses in the RISE zone will be eligible for tax reductions on the increased value of their property. Businesses in high tech industries, such as aerospace and virtual reality, are eligible for the highest reductions, paying only half of the usual property taxes on the increased value of their property for five years. Other businesses would be eligible for the same 50% reduction the first year, and then would receive a 10% tax reduction on the increased value of their property for the next four years. Retail, grocery, and hotel or motel businesses are excluded from these reductions.

According to College Park Economic Development Manager Michael Williams, no new businesses participated in any RISE zone in the state since the program started in 2015. “What we think is that start up companies and new companies are generally trying to get going and not trying to buy or purchase a building,” Williams said in an interview with the College Park Here & Now.  “If you’re a startup, you’re thinking about investing every nickel you can into whatever product you’re making.” Going forward, the state has expanded the RISE zone program to provide rental assistance to businesses that don’t own their own buildings. For every dollar the city contributes to a business’s rent, Williams said, the state would contribute three. 

Williams said he does not anticipate that the county would receive so many applicants that renewal of this zone would be jeopardized. He noted, too, that the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation collaborated in the application for renewal.

“We’re excited to implement the RISE zone program with the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation and the Town of Riverdale Park, as well as the University of Maryland,” Williams said.

The city will hold a public hearing to review participation in the RISE zone at 7:30 p.m. on March 8.