The University of Maryland (UMD) is making a mad grab for real estate in the hopes of creating a more lively main street that better connects to its flagship campus.
Through a private foundation, UMD officials have leased more than $20 million in commercial properties, including a shuttered local bar, and have started negotiations with other area landowners that could bring a string of new restaurants and shops, as well as hundreds of new apartments to the city of College Park, Maryland.
It’s only natural for a school doing as well as UMD to expand. Although it has relatively standard SAT requirements, it still manages to place well on prestigious rankings of colleges. The middle 50% of SAT scores for students admitted to the UMD’s Fall 2015 semester range from 1260 to 1420, so even areas where scores were below the national average of 1500, such as Washington D.C., where the average SAT score is 1379, are academically acceptable. Yet despite these softer admission requirements, UMD is still #82 overall on Forbes’ list of colleges, and tied for #62 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of colleges.
However, it seems that the main reason the UMD is trying to grab the real estate isn’t necessarily to improve an already impressive campus life, but to actually create one. Both College Park and the university have been criticized in the past for lacking amenities. The situation is so bad, apparently, that not only do college graduates flee as soon as they walk across the stage, but just 3% of faculty live there.
The plan now is to acquire and redevelop commercial properties to UMD’s liking, similar to what universities like Penn and Yale have done to combat safety, transportation, and entertainment shortcomings. The university is also making efforts to upgrade the city’s standard of living, lowering the speed limit in areas and creating a new charter school.
“I think it’s a pretty exciting time for College Park,” said Dannielle Glaros, a member of Prince George’s County Council. “The partnership with the city, the town and the university is probably the best I’ve ever seen in the last eight years.”