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Opening Of $180M Hotel An 'Incredibly Important Moment' For College Park's Transformation

One of the largest private investments in College Park's history, Southern Management's $180M The Hotel at UMD, welcomes its first guests Friday. With 297 guest rooms, 43K SF of meeting space, four new restaurants and a high-end spa, the hotel brings a host of new offerings to the college town. But local stakeholders expect its impact will be felt well beyond the walls of the 10-story building. 

The Hotel at UMD in College Park, Southern Management's new $180M project

Ken Ulman, the former Howard County executive and UMD alumnus who started a consulting firm to boost College Park, said he aims to make College Park one of the greatest college towns in the country.

“The opening of The Hotel at UMD is an incredibly important moment,” Ulman said. “It’s a catalyst for the Discovery District, the area around the hotel we’re redeveloping. It sends a message that we’re the kind of place that a private developer will invest almost $200M in.”  

The bar in the lobby at The Hotel at UMD

The lodging offerings on Route 1, College Park's main street, were previously limited to low-cost options like Quality Inn or Best Western. With its major investment, Southern Management aimed to create a high-end product that could comfortably accomodate parents visiting students at school, professionals doing business with the university, large conferences and events. 

Upon walking through the main entrance, guests are welcomed by an expansive lobby with high ceilings, a bar and lounge area, entrances to the hotel's restaurants and a host of special touches that pay tribute to Maryland history. 

The Old Maryland Grill in The Hotel at UMD

Those touches range from the Maryland flag-imprinted awning above the entrance, to wall designs inspired by the Chesapeake Bay, to the Maryland-themed mural and classic local dishes at the Old Maryland Grill.

Founded by Mike Franklin, the owner of popular Hyattsville brewery and restaurant Franklin's, the Old Maryland Grill is the largest restaurant in the facility and it caters room service for the hotel. It will open to the public next week, and it is just one of the hotel's four food and beverage offerings that bring a level of dining College Park has not seen before. 

The restaurant with the biggest name is the Kapnos Taverna by Mike Isabella, opening later this month. The restaurant seats 130 people, including 30 in an outdoor patio. In addition to its lunch and dinner menu, Kapnos Taverna plans to offer happy hour aimed at hotel guests and university faculty (no $1 beers, sorry students) and weekend brunch. The hotel also includes Bagels & Grinds and Potomac Pizza, both founded by Adam Greenberg.

The Crossland ballroom at The Hotel at UMD

While the ground-floor dining options could attract new restaurant-goers from around the area, the hotel's conference center on the second level could draw groups to College Park from across the region and the country. The facility has 10 meeting spaces that range from the 361 SF Wright Brothers boardroom to the 14,500 SF combined Calvert and Crossland ballrooms. 

The 43K SF of total meeting space, an amenity that no other College Park hotel provides, gives the city the ability to attract large conferences. In November, the hotel will host the Maryland Tourism Conference, a big coup for the new facility that will bring hundreds of guests from across the region and help put the hotel on the map. The hotel has events beginning next week and already has bookings scheduled through 2019. 

The bed in a guest room at The Hotel at UMD

Above the conference area, the hotel's guest rooms begin on the third level. Roughly half of the standard guest rooms include a king bed, with the other half featuring two queen beds.

The 450 SF standard rooms come at an average nightly rate of $189, with the "deluxe" rooms that feature floor-to-ceiling windows and views of the university fetching about $20 more.

In addition to the guest rooms, the hotel also has 21 studio suites, five one-bedroom suites and three signature suites. The 525 SF studio suites have some furniture and appliances not included in standard guest rooms and average $229 a night. The 650 SF one-bedroom suites feature a living room and small kitchen and average $289. The three signature suites, named the Senator's, Governor's and Presidential suites, will cost $1K, 1,500 and $2,500 a night, respectively. 

The fourth floor of the hotel features recreation and relaxation offerings. The most highly anticipated of them is the 5,200 SF Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa, which will be available to the public when it opens in January. The fourth level also has a pool with four-foot-deep water, a large fitness center with weight lifting and cardio machines, and an outdoor zen garden. 

The rooftop terrace at The Hotel at UMD

The hotel's rooftop penthouse features an indoor lounge space and an outdoor terrace that offers expansive views of the university and the Route 1 corridor. Looking out from the terrace, one can see multiple signs of College Park's transformation that extend beyond the hotel. 

On the edge of campus across Route 1, construction is underway on the Brendan Iribe Center, a $31M gift from the Oculus VR founder. The 215K SF computer science facility is expected to open next year.  

In the parking lot behind the hotel, a nondescript one-story brick building will soon be home to a WeWork co-working space, the company's first Maryland location. Ulman said he will soon announce a Fortune 100 company opening a 7,500 SF innovation lab in College Park.

A map of the Discovery District in College Park highlighting its major developments

College Park officials hope to leverage the thousands of students skilled in technology and engineering to attract more companies to College Park and to entice student-founded companies to stay in the city. 

To do this, it has branded the developing area around the hotel, stretching from Route 1 to the College Park Metro station, as the "Discovery District." The district is more than just a new name; it represents $2B in planned public and private investment, with roughly a quarter of that coming from Corporate Office Properties Trust.

A rendering of Corporate Office Properties Trust's 75K SF spec College Park office building, 5801 URC

The developer, in a JV with the university, owns 60 acres between the College Park Metro station and the site where the new River Road Purple Line station will open. Its two existing 120K SF office buildings are already fully occupied, and it broke ground in December on an office building at 5801 University Research Court.

The 75K SF facility is the first Class-A spec office project to be built in College Park in at least two decades, Ulman said. COPT Senior Development Manager Evan Weisman said he is close to a commitment for two of the building's three floors, though he could not disclose the tenant. Weisman will be a panelist at Bisnow's Future of Prince George's County event at MGM National Harbor Sept. 14.

The two additional parcels COPT owns on the site could support another 1.5M SF of development, which Weisman said it plans to pursue over the next 10 to 15 years. The developer aims to create a cohesive corridor from the site along the future Purple Line route up to Route 1 and the campus. Weisman compared the Purple Line to Boston's above-ground Green Line and said he hopes to create a vibrant corridor like Boston's Beacon Street. 

With this development will come a ton of new office space. Ulman lamented that past UMD graduates who started companies — Under Armour, Squarespace and FiscalNote were all founded by UMD grads — left to launch their businesses in other cities, blaming College Park's lack of office product. 

He said new amenities like The Hotel at UMD have helped increase College Park's appeal to companies, and he has seen a surge of office momentum recently, so much that they are struggling to build offices fast enough. 

"Now that we’ve got a buzz, we’ve got some spaces coming online, and we’ve got to keep delivering new spaces to stay ahead of demand, which is a really good problem to have," Ulman said. "The challenge for a place that’s really emerging on the scene is the chicken or the egg dilemma: If you build it will they come?"