Working together to re-energize The City of College Park.
Developing a top college town is no small task—to create an environment appealing for both residents and students, the municipality and university need to have a strong relationship and vision. The City of College Park and the University of Maryland have made great strides in their mission to reinvent the city together; one look at the downtown and mid-town areas confirm it, as brand-new buildings and ongoing construction are impossible not to notice. However, if there’s one building that serves as a symbol of the partnership of the City and the university, it’s the upcoming City Hall building. Completing this fall at the intersection of Knox Road and Baltimore Avenue, the building will live in the heart of College Park’s downtown area and will serve as the first ever joint City Hall-University office space. DAVIS was chosen to take the responsibility of constructing this historic collaborative building, and we’ve been lucky to take part in the process.
Residents and City elected officials have discussed improving City Hall for more than twenty years. This new building would serve both as much needed office and meeting space for workers and residents, but also as part of College Park’s downtown revitalization process. After years of discussion and planning, the old City Hall was demolished, and in February 2020, the project finally broke ground. City employees will utilize the public meeting and workspaces on the first two floors, and the Council will host meetings in the impressive new city council chambers. The University will move nearly 200 employees into the 3rd and 4th floor, where they’ll be able to enjoy brand new furniture, modern conferencing facilities, and an open floor plan flooded by natural light. Additionally, the ground floor hosts 7,000-SF of retail space. It doesn’t stop, there, though! The building is organized around a new public plaza that will mark the heart of College Park and give employees, residents, and students alike a community space to work, eat lunch, or just hang out. The project is set to complete within the next few weeks, and as the City's Mayor Patrick L. Wojahn puts it, “will help transform downtown and define the city.”
DAVIS has been a great partner in pursuing construction of this landmark building.
- Mayor Patrick L. Wojahn
One word to sum up a successful partnership.
How exactly do you make a project shared between a city and university successful? One word, according to Ed Maginnis, Assistant Vice President of UMD’s Office of Real Estate: “Trust.” Wedding two partners together on a project of this size comes with a certain level of complexity, and cooperation is key—thankfully, both the City and university share a vision for College Park that brought them together. “This project probably couldn’t have moved forward ten years ago, but our relationship has just gotten better and better. Maginnis said, “Kudos to the City for its leadership and for advocating for this concept.”
“Everybody has come to the project with the same goal in mind, and always reminding themselves of what they’re trying to achieve,” said Katie Hearn, Senior Vice President at Redgate, the real estate developer behind the project. “We put together a team that emphasizes open communication, no matter the issue.” Hearn also credited DAVIS for the project’s overall success, saying, “From the beginning, we were blown away by what DAVIS brought to the table. From the estimating presentations to construction management, we were really impressed.”
Our comprehensive project approach proved to be crucial when, shortly after groundbreaking, the COVID-19 pandemic became the new American reality. The way construction sites were structured had to be adjusted to ensure safety, and the threat of schedule delays and cost overruns loomed large. At DAVIS, we pride ourselves on meeting challenges head-on, so we took every necessary step to keep our people safe while staying on track. “If we even thought there might be an issue with procuring materials, we made sure everyone was aware, and then we worked on solving it,” said Assistant Project Manager Peter Winants. Nearly 19 months later, there haven’t been any virus breakouts on-site, and the project is still on schedule.
From the beginning, we were blown away by what DAVIS brought to the table. From the estimating presentations to construction management, we were really impressed.
- Katie Hearn, Senior Vice President, Redgate
Heading toward the finish line.
So, what has the mood been like as City Hall approaches completion? “Total anticipation—I don’t think it feels real to a lot of people yet,” said Bill Campbell, Project Manager at UMD’s Office of Real Estate. “Employees have gotten to take tours and see the foundations for their new office spaces, and they’re so excited.” Mayor Wojahn already has plans for how to utilize the new community space. “The public plaza will allow for a new gathering point right in the heart of College Park and can be used for music performances, farmers markets, and other events,” Wojahn said.
The City of College Park has gone through major changes as the city works to redefine its identity, and in the heart of the downtown area, City Hall is a landmark building that will anchor this stage of development and help the City immerse itself within the community. The nine-foot city seal, which will be lit up and visible from outside the building, is sure to make that immersion come to life.