The University of Maryland has selected a developer for its planned $1 billion, 460-acre, high-technology research center near Bowie, which could become the region's first major commercial and educational research complex.
University officials chose the Carley Capital Group, a national developer, to build up to 6 million square feet of laboratory, hotel, office and conference space at the computer-based industrial research facility slated for the northeast corner of state Rtes. 301 and 50, sources said.
The development is expected to take palce over a period of 10 to 15 years.
University Vice President Robert G. Smith, coordinator of the project and head of the school's nonprofit development arm--the University of Maryland Foundation Inc.--said the foundation "entered into a partnership with a private developer." He declined to comment on details of the arrangement, and said university officials plan to announce it later.
The university tapped Carley Capital in May, sources said, and the developer closed a $5.25 million purchase agreement July 1 with Donald S. Nash, a District land dealer who bought the inactive dairy farm a few years ago.
The University of Maryland Foundation would recieve a one-quarter, undivided ownership of the land, but no ownership of the buildings, sources said.
Biomedical, computer and aerospace firms, along with federal agencies, are considering the site, sources said. Officials expect land-grading and site preparation to begin next spring if there are no delays.
Nash could not be reached for comment. David Carley, head of the development firm, said "it is premature to comment, and if there are additional comments, they should come from the University of Maryland."
University officials have been seeking formally to develop a high-tech park for about two years, Smith said. But word of Carley Capital's land purchase prompted a scramble of speculative contracting and option-playing on nearby properties in the past few weeks, with one 107-acre parcel going for $9 million, according to sources familiar with area land transactions and zoning.
"I've been told people have been buying ground out there and beginning to act as if this is a reality," Smith said. "We're a long way from reality."
One hurdle the project must clear is a zoning challenge by a nearby property owner, attorney Wayne Curry. Curry challenged the Comprehensive Design Zone that the Prince George's County Council approved for development in 1982.
So far, county Circuit Court and the state Court of Special Apeals have rejected his argument that the new zoning category was established illegally, but Curry has asked the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, to consider the case. Judges there are scheduled to decide later this month whether they will hear the case.
Major schools throughout the United States are racing to set up arrangements that would bring technology firms close to campus, and thereby turn around the exodus of top-notch faculty to high-salaried industry jobs too distant for them to retain university ties.
In a recessionary period when direct funding for higher education is vanishing from government budgets, university officials are looking to science parks for deliverance. Technology complexes give schools a selling point, both for luring top-grade students and accomplished faculty who can maintain industry salaries in addition to their academic positions, and for launching mutually beneficial research and student intern programs.
With California's Silicon Valley as their model, major schools throughout the United States and in Canada, France and the United Kingdom are creating adjoining campuses of urban-style mid- and high-rise office complexes for technological research.
Princeton University's Forrestal Center--a foreunner of Silcon Valley--operates a 1,400-acre facility where corporations including International Business Machines Corp. and Xerox Corp. lease space from the university 10 miles north of Trenton, N.J. Research Triangle, which was created in the 1950s in the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill area of North Carolina, draws on the resources of the University of North Carolina, Duke University and North Carolina State University.
To the west at the University of North Carolina's Charlotte campus, officials chose the Carley Capital Group last January to develop a 240-acre site that would include 1,000 dwellings, 1.5 million square feet of commercial space, 1 million square feet of retail space and a 400-room hotel and conference center.
The project is designed as a community center for the university and for its University Research Center, home of various technological operations by IBM, Union Oil Co., Southern Bell Telephone Co. and a Wall Street Journal printing plant.
Officials at UNCC's Urban Institute, which coordinates the development, said Carley Capital has chosen an architect for the project there, and the state is building roads to support the $300 million development expected to be finished within 10 years.
Between North Carolina and New Jersey, no comparable academic-corporate technological center exists, but university officials are looking at Washington--chock full of long-standing government and private institutions for commerce and learning--as one of the most fertile grounds for such a venture.
In July, Virginia Gov. Charles S. Robb proposed spending up to $30 million to set up a government-run high-tech park in Northern Virginia to link technology firms with universities, but that idea has received a chilly reception from some state legislators. Some firms also expressed reluctance to put research facilities in a state where major universities are scattered. The University of Virginia is in Charlottesville, George Mason Univesity is near Fairfax City, Virginia Commonwealth is in Richmond and Virginia Tech is in Blacksburg.
But Robb said that, with 800 industries in Northern Virginia, he is hopeful the state could set up a successful center.
"They are where we were two years ago," University of Maryland's Smith said of his Virginia counterparts. But he added, "I don't see them as being competition. . . ."
Supporters of Maryland's research site east of Bowie said they hope that it could become internationally significant, drawing on its setting between Washington and Baltimore, not far from the Baltimore Washington International Airport and such institutions as the National Institutes of Health, NASA, and Johns Hopkins University. In the University of Maryland's case, administrators point to its nationally prominent computer science, engineering, physics and biomedical programs.
Maryland already has extablished cooperative research with Fairchild Industries, NASA and Litton Industries, as well as E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., which is working with the university's medical school in Baltimore on the use of interferon, a drug that may lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of a number of diseases, including cancer.