This article was originally published in Maryland Today.
College Park, Md. - In less than a decade, the University of Maryland and city of College Park could launch a community preservation trust to stabilize neighborhoods and help more employees live in College Park, create more bike paths, and reap benefits from a fully renovated Baltimore Avenue south of University Boulevard as the area continues its progress toward becoming one of the nation’s top college towns.
Those initiatives are part of “University Community Vision 2030,” a strategic plan formally adopted last night by university, city, county and state government officials to guide the next decade of housing and development, transportation and mobility, public health and safety, and education. The guiding principles were sustainability and equity, focusing on how to preserve existing neighborhoods while increasing public health and safety and making sure historically marginalized communities benefit as well.
The plan updates the University District 2020 report and was written by the College Park City-University Partnership in consultation with U3 Advisors over eight community engagement sessions.
Vision 2030 will contribute toward the university’s goals of pursuing excellence in all endeavors and supporting a multicultural, inclusive environment, said UMD President Darryll J. Pines. While COVID-19 and racial injustice have presented life-defining challenges, he said, “I know a moment of difficulty can create a moment of opportunity.”
“The university and the city are truly in a unique partnership,” he said. “We must continue to envision and work toward a post-COVID-19 world.”
College Park is now home to more than 32,000 residents, according to the report, an increase of about 7% since 2011 and a greater rate of growth than in Prince George’s County and the state. Young professionals have been at the forefront of that influx, as more than 2,000 jobs have been created in UMD’s Discovery District and more than 50 new retail and dining operations have boosted the number of local and independently owned businesses.
The cost of housing built since 2011, however, is more expensive than older stock—47% more for multifamily dwellings, 40% for student-focused apartment buildings and 70% more for a room in a newly constructed apartment than in a single-family home. In addition to noting the need to increase the affordable housing options for students and full-time residents, the report also advocates creating a nonprofit community preservation trust that would work with neighborhoods and ensure long-term housing affordability.
In education, the report notes that while the number of College Park children under 5 and in elementary school has risen 16% and 26%, respectively, since 2011, the number of residents enrolled in middle and high school has declined 11%. Proposed solutions include expanding the popular College Park Academy charter school to elementary grades and a “Support a School” program that would increase professional development for educators at UMD and provide them with more homeownership incentives.
Communication in general will also be key, the report notes. For example, surveys of UMD students show that they generally feel half as safe in College Park as local residents, even though violent and property crimes fell almost 50% from 2011 to 2019.
College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn said the plan “takes on some of the greatest challenges we face,” but is confident the regional partnership will provide the support necessary to make a more equitable community even in the face of a pandemic.
“We’re going to be coming out of this much stronger because of the systems we develop and documents like Vision 2030,” he said.
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About the University of Maryland
The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 40,000 students,10,000 faculty and staff, and 297 academic programs. As one of the nation’s top producers of Fulbright scholars, its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners and 58 members of the national academies. The institution has a $2.1 billion operating budget and secures more than $1 billion annually in research funding together with the University of Maryland, Baltimore. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit www.umd.edu.