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Wallace Loh: How Route One and UMD are 'Intertwined'

Washington DC Other

University of Maryland president Wallace Loh oversees 30,000 students, 11,000 faculty and staff, and a $1.8B budget. But he told the crowd at our Future of Prince George's County event last week at National Harbor about another task: helping College Park and the Route One Corridor grow into the region's next development hotspot. "The growth of Route One is closely intertwined with the future of the University of Maryland," said Wallace, who noted that only 3% of faculty and staff live in College Park. Hotel rooms are also hard to come by, a pressing problem with UMD's entry into the Big Ten—and the die-hard, travel-crazy fans of rival schools that come with it.

Enter David Hillman. His Southern Management, in partnership with the university, will break ground this spring on a $115M hotel and conference center at the edge of campus on Route One. 292 hotel rooms, as well as 40k SF in conference space, David says. (Perfect for those Big Ten fans who want a place to relax and have a nice Powerpoint presentation.)

Outside College Park, there's a perception that Prince George's residents can't or won't pay for high-quality residential, according to Donaldson Group president Carlton Einsel. The reality is that Prince George's has some of the most desirable rent and demographic figures in the region, he says: it's the wealthiest African-American county in the nation, and rent growth there has been higher than the suburban Maryland average of late. Donaldson, an active buyer in Prince George's, has seen NOI growth of over 10% each of the last three years in its properties there, he adds.

Some areas of Prince George's are so hot folks are being priced out, says EYA's Aakash Thakkar (right, with Streetsense president Guy Silverman). His firm identified Hyattsville as an area that could absorb that demand, and its mixed-use Arts District Hyattsville wraps up soon. It has 40k SF of retail (including Busboys and Poets and a Yes Organic Market) signed on by Guy's Streetsense team and almost over 600 residential units. Aakash praises county executive Rushern Baker's efforts with the development community as a whole: "I'm surprised a county executive would spend as many man hours as he has to get projects off the ground."

NAI Michael managing director Gary Michael, a longtime Prince George's businessman (here with Martin Architectural's Daniel McCauley) agrees with Aakash that the county is being proactive: "For the first time in my career, the business community, local government, county council, state officials, and federal officials are totally in line." Stay tuned for even more Prince George's coverage in tomorrow's issue.