Real estate / Universities

University of Maryland Discovery District is bringing an innovation neighborhood to College Park

Brandywine Realty Trust will serve as the developer on the five-acre, $300 million project, officials said. It'll add more spaces for companies, housing and retail in the district adjacent to the university.

A rendering shows plans for one of the Discovery District's forthcoming spaces. (Image courtesy of Brandywine Realty Trust)

Leaders of the University of Maryland’s Discovery District announced this week that they have a development agreement in place to bring a five-acre, innovation-focused neighborhood to College Park.

Terrapin Development Company and the university signed an agreement with real estate company Brandywine Realty Trust to develop the $300 million project. As it takes shape in the coming years, the development will mean a new area to live and work: It will include 550,000 square feet of new workspace for research, offices, collaboration and retail, as well as 200 to 250 multifamily residential units.

It’ll be the next addition to the 150-acre innovation district adjacent to the state’s flagship campus, which puts tech and innovation at the center of plans to create an economic hub for the region around the university. Well-known companies, startups and entrepreneurs have taken space in the District, working in close proximity to researchers and students from the university. Following separate development over the last several years in spaces like the Diamondback Garage and 4600 River Road, the Discovery District community already includes soon-to-go-public IonQ, cyber and data companies Immuta and Cybrary, as well as spaces like WeWork and Capital One’s tech incubator, among others.

“Our mixed-use neighborhood will expand the Discovery District’s footprint by 750,000 square feet, as well as expand it geographically to the University of Maryland’s main entrance to campus,” said John Norjen, SVP and managing director at Philly and D.C.-focused Brandywine Realty Trust. “We’re also expanding the Discovery District’s type of offerings by introducing luxury residential accommodations and high-quality retail in addition to first-class office space.”

With that office space, the development will seek to further attract companies to move into the District. Norjen said the new neighborhood will be “a vibrant environment in and of itself, but will also add to the existing vibrancy of College Park.”

“We’re targeting companies of all kinds,” said Norjen, “and particularly those at the forefront of technology and innovation, to build upon the synergies that the university has already created. Specifically, we’re eager to engage companies whose focus is on innovative fields such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence and virtual reality — all industries projected to grow by as much as 40% annually over the next four to five years. These companies will need a tremendous influx of tech talent to compete and grow their businesses.”

The Discovery District’s leaders tout it as accessible to the DMV via transit, as it is adjacent to the new Purple Line, and its proximity to D.C. With the new neighborhood, the team will look to attract companies from beyond the region that are working in disciplines where the university has strengths, as well.

“This development will be attractive to firms from beyond the region because we’re creating a world-class ecosystem of offices, retail and residential opportunities,” Norjen said. “We will be using the Brandywine marketing platform to give the Discovery District national exposure to ensure the we present this opportunity to the broadest possible universe.”

The Discovery District is an example of how research parks have evolved from mostly-suburban collections of office buildings to a more dense clustering of activity that’s next to population centers. With design and placemaking from architects at Baltimore-based Ayers Saint Gross and Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, the new neighborhood aims to put a priority on walkability and creative design of public spaces, according to Brandywine.

“This development will be transformational for the city, county and state,” said Ken Ulman, president of Terrapin Development Company, in a statement. “This new project within our Discovery District will continue to grow the University of Maryland’s position as an economic driver by bringing in thousands of additional jobs to our community, as well as creating a dynamic, place-based development to serve as a gathering spot for the local community.”

The master plan is expected to be executed over four phases. Currently the team is in the process of finalizing design and seeking approvals, and it is aiming to complete it in the next three to four years.

Companies: University of Maryland / Brandywine Realty Trust

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