Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Douglas F. Gansler said Tuesday that he is opposed to a plan to build an “academic village” of housing, office and retail development on part of the University of Maryland golf course.
Surrounded at the course by golfers and other critics of the proposal, Gansler (D) and his running mate, Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s), said the plan would be harmful to the university’s prestige and to years of planning and investment in the Route 1 corridor.
“This hurts the school,” said Gansler, Maryland’s attorney general and a former Montgomery County state’s attorney. “Besides destroying the golf course and taking an asset away. . . . I think it will destroy Route 1.”
A number of Prince George’s County public officials have called on developer Brian Gibbons to drop the proposal, saying that the 150-acre golf course is a valuable community facility and that the project would divert attention from downtown College Park, where the city and the university have focused redevelopment efforts.
Gansler and a political rival, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), have been seeking support in Prince George’s County. They are in competition for the Democratic nomination for governor, along with Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery).
Gansler’s stance on the golf course plan could boost support for his bid campaign in the growing county. “This is an environmental gem right inside the Beltway. We don’t have many 150-acre tracks of open space that can actually be used by people. So I think the environment is one thing, but also smart growth,” Gansler said. “We have Route 1, that’s where development ought to be, along with transit-oriented development of the 15 Metro stops here in Prince George’s County.”
Gibbons — a 1984 U-Md. graduate and chairman and chief executive of Greenberg Gibbons, a development firm based in Owings Mills, Md. — said in an interview last month that the plan is to build a “Terrapin-themed” parkway from the university to Interstate 95 that would cut commuting time and reduce traffic on Route 1.
The project would include housing for faculty and staff members, university-related office space, a cultural arts center, stores and green space. The development would take about 50 acres of the land, he said.
The university said the Greenberg-Gibbons concept, “is worthy of consideration as it includes a connector road that would help alleviate congestion on Route 1.”
U-Md President Wallace D. Loh said recently that the golf course probably won’t be around in 20 years; as the university continues to grow, pressure will mount for more campus construction.
Neighbors and golf course users say the course is a community treasure that should be preserved. This month, a group of state lawmakers and county and local officials sent Gibbon a letter asking him to drop his proposal.
College Park City Council members Monroe Dennis and Robert Day, who joined Gansler and Ivey at the golf course Tuesday, reiterated the city’s concern that the focus should remain on cleaning up blight in the Route 1 corridor. Prince George’s County Council member William A. Campos (D-Hyattsville) said the proposal does not satisfy the county’s need for smart growth and would create more gridlock along Route 193.
“Adding further congestion to this area will literally bring this region to a standstill,” said Campos, who is supporting Gansler’s run for governor. “It is not smart-development in my opinion.”
Miranda Spivack contributed to this report.