A partnership including the Greenbelt-based Bozzuto Development Co. is set to break ground on its $140 million redevelopment of a site south of the University of Maryland’s front door in College Park where Plato’s Diner and a Quality Inn hotel once stood. The team, which includes the university-backed Terrapin Development Co. and Willard Retail, gave work crews notice March 27 to proceed at 7150 Baltimore Ave. after locking in the regulatory approvals and financing needed to move forward earlier this year. It will be one of the first new projects to break ground in Greater Washington since the coronavirus outbreak hit the region.
“I think everything came together at the right time,” said Ken Ulman, president of Terrapin Development and chief strategy officer for economic development at the University of Maryland, College Park Foundation. “We were eyes wide open, paying attention to the governor’s orders on essential businesses, paying attention to the financial markets, having constant conversations with our partners about this, and, absolutely, there was a sense of anxiety about this project and it being ready to start.”
Even without the ceremonial, gold-plated shovels of a formal groundbreaking, which still might happen virtually, being able to move ahead was an important moral victory after several years of prep, Ulman said. University officials hope the mixed-use development will build upon momentum gained through other projects in Greater College Park, and Baltimore Avenue as its main spine. The site, on Baltimore Avenue between Calvert Road and Guilford Drive, sits at the southern gateway to that corridor, and the university picked the Bozzuto-backed partnership in 2016 to redevelop the 4.5-acre property as part of that larger vision.
Officials in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have deemed construction an essential business amid the outbreak, even as restrictions in other parts of the country silenced backhoes and construction cranes. That’s been a lifeline mostly for those projects that were already under construction locally, but starting new developments has been a heavier lift because of the additional approvals and financing. Still, the team worked through final regulatory hurdles in time to receive its grading permits late last month to start work.
The team was gearing up to start work this spring—as The Diamondback, the student newspaper of the University of Maryland reported in February—but that was then. The coronavirus outbreak has shut down or bogged down so many things since, and the team was left pushing remotely for approvals for some of the final pieces of the project, which was designed by Design Collective and is slated to include a grocer, fitness center and nearly 400 luxury apartment units. That included the follow-through on a record plat that had been approved by the Prince George’s County planning board in February. It was needed before the team could secure the grading permits it needed to break ground, said Jeff Kayce, senior vice president and managing director of the D.C. region for Bozzuto Development.