Connie Visnic doesn’t have to wonder what it might be like to live in the same town most of her life.

Except for attending college nearby at the University of Maryland, Visnic, now 40, has always lived in University Park, Md., a town in Prince George’s County with a population of approximately 2,300.

“It’s a very close-knit community,” said Visnic, who is president of the University Park Civic Association and the mother of two children, ages 7 and 9. “It’s a real neighborhood,” she said. “Everybody watches out for one another.”

Visnic would know. She is the third generation of her family to make University Park home. Her maternal grandparents came to University Park when Visnic’s mother was a teenager. And Visnic and her husband, Aaron, and their children live in her now-deceased grandparents’ house. Visnic’s parents live in a different house in town.

There are 924 houses in University Park, mostly built in the 1920s and 1930s. The town was incorporated in 1936.

“The town feels like there is a little bubble over it,” Visnic said.


People who grew up there return: Situated within a quarter mile of the University of Maryland, University Park has its own full-time mayor and a board of seven council members who govern the town as well as its own police force of eight officers.

There is no commercial development within the town but plenty of retail and a changing retail landscape just outside of University Park.

It’s “a residential oasis surrounded by areas that are developing,” said Mayor Len Carey, who has lived in the town since 2004.

Quite a number of people who grew up in University Park are drawn back to the tree-lined streets and the University Park Elementary School they attended during their childhoods. “They grew up here, went off for a few years, and are moving back into the neighborhood with their families,” Visnic said. “They remember growing up in this town and are moving back so their kids can enjoy the same thing.”

In addition, a lot of new families have moved into University Park for the same reasons. Rebekah Benson-Flannery and her husband, Seth Benson-Flannery, bought a house in University Park in 2013 after living on Capitol Hill for seven years. “We needed a bigger house,” said Rebekah Benson-Flannery, 40, the mother of three children, ages 7, 4 and 2.

“We like that the neighborhood has these older homes that are different,” she said. “This is a well-located town because you are near D.C.”

Indeed, University Park is just two miles from the District line. Rebekah Benson-Flannery works at the nearby College Park Academy, a blended middle and high school, where she teaches 10th-grade English. Living in University Park means you can make a difference, she said. “You feel like your voice is heard when you say something.”

Her husband, a software developer, works in Rockville.

The town has “definitely gotten younger and more diverse,” Carey said.

Among the residents are University of Maryland faculty and staff as well as people who work in a variety of other professions and fields.

Some residents with young children are concerned about where their kids will attend middle and high school, though many find the University Park Elementary School couldn’t be better.


A yellow-crowned night heron chainsaw sculpture was commissioned by the city as an alternative to removing dead trees. (Amanda Voisard/For the Washington Post)

A memorial for the victims of acts of terrorism and war was erected in the University Park town park. (Amanda Voisard/For the Washington Post)

The Interior Department’s National Park Service named University Park a historic district. According to its documents, the Town of University Park and the historic district are “nestled in a mature mixed hardwood forest of oaks, tulip, poplar, maples, sycamore and sweetgum, which from their size appear to predate the development of the town,” founded in 1936.

Where to shop: For basic shopping, residents rely on a variety of places, including a new Safeway that has opened on East-West Highway, a Mom’s Market, a Giant and other retail outlets farther away, such as the Trader Joe’s on Colesville Road in Silver Spring.

Although a new development on Baltimore Avenue (Route 1) is in the works, it was not welcomed by everyone in the neighborhood. Some thought it would bring even more traffic to an already heavily traveled route. Yet some of those same people are looking forward to the opening of a Whole Foods Market, probably next year.

Living there: The neighborhood is bounded roughly by Baltimore Avenue (Route 1) to the east, East-West Highway to the south, Adelphi Road to the west and Wells Parkway, Clagett Road and Pineway to the north.

According to Jean Bourne Pirovic, an agent with Long and Foster Real Estate, in the past 12 months, 21 houses were sold in University Park, ranging from a four-bedroom, three-bath Colonial for $325,000 to a five-bedroom, three-bath Colonial for $648,000. There are two houses on the market: a four-bedroom, four-bath Tudor for $407,000 and a three-bedroom, three-bath Colonial for $389,500.


Local federal employees play soccer during their lunch break in the University Park town park. (Amanda Voisard/For the Washington Post)

Despite nearby change, University Park remains largely untouched. “Part of it is because it has its own government,” Visnic said. “Generation after generation carries on the traditions.”

Event planner Beth Domingo, who has lived in University Park for 24 years and raised four children in the town, calls it a “hidden gem.”

Transit: Public transportation includes the Prince George’s Plaza and College Park-University of Maryland Metro stations on the Green line, the F4 Metro bus and the Town of University Park shuttle.

Schools: University Park Elementary, Hyattsville Middle, Northwestern High, College Park Academy, Eleanor Roosevelt High.

Crime: According to University Park Chief of Police Michael Wynnyk, in the past 12 months, there were eight burglaries and one simple assault in the neighborhood.