Arts Venue to Change Tune of College Park

by Lauren Brown | art house rendering courtesy of MSR Design

The Cellar. Terrapin Station. The Thirsty Turtle. Whatever the name of the biggest bar on downtown Route 1, generations of Terps hunting for cheap drinks and a crowded dance floor followed the same routine: Step into the dark, let the doors slam shut and enter a world closed off from the campus and surrounding community.

A new proposal for the cavernous space—most recently the Barking Dog—would instead open it up, bringing together UMD students and College Park residents for drinks, fresh food and a feast of performing arts in a creative, fun environment.

The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Centerand Philadelphia music venue MilkBoy are teaming up to open what they’re temporarily calling “art house” in Fall 2016. The real-estate and economic development advisory firm working with the university predicts it will trigger a downtown revival—and ultimately contribute to College Park’s emergence as one of the nation’s top college towns.

“Great cities are not made of great big projects. They are made of great small projects,” says Omar Blaik, founder and co-CEO of the firm, U3 Advisors. “We think that art house will be transformative to College Park. It will bring the academic side, the community side and the students together in a way that will help reimagine what College Park can be.”

Martin Wollesen, executive director of The Clarice, is a proponent of creating ways for people to enjoy the arts outside traditional spaces. At the University of California, San Diego, where he provided strategic artistic direction, he opened a performance lounge and wine bar, the only venue of its kind on a college campus.

He says art house will showcase a range of artistic voices from The Clarice’s national and international artists series, as well as emerging talent from the School of Music and the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies. Jazz, global, contemporary and classical music; spoken word, performance and film; as well as visual and projection art will mix with indie rock and pop. Wollesen also envisions this creative incubator to be a place for campus, alumni and community artists to perform.

“This is an arts bridge between the campus and College Park,” Wollesen says. “This space—a public-private partnership, a campus-community partnership—is going to reframe what it means to develop our community and campus through the lens of the arts.”

The organizers are pursuing public and private grants to pay for renovating the 14,000-square-foot building, nearly triple the size of MilkBoy Philly. That venue, a bar and restaurant that hosts alternative and rock bands, is credited with sparking redevelopment in the neighborhood around Thomas Jefferson University.

Jamie Lokoff, a MilkBoy partner, says the first floor of art house will have a small stage along with the dining and bar areas, while a larger second-floor stage will accommodate crowds of about 400 people. He envisions art house attracting the same kind of eclectic audience that comes together at MilkBoy Philly.

“That stretch on Baltimore Avenue is such a perfect spot for this,” he says. “Once we create some energy there, it’s going to bring other retail businesses and really create some excitement.”

Architecture Professor and former dean Garth Rockcastle is designing art house. He and Wollesen are also evaluating ideas from architecture undergraduates in a new Partnership in Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) course that calls for them to redesign downtown College Park and focus on art house. Their ideas include bringing in lots of light, adding green spaces and outdoor dining, and extending the idea of performance into

the dining experience.

“This is my town,” says Associate Professor Madlen Simon, who is teaching the course. “I feel a personal investment in the community. I’m excited about the opportunity to get involved.”

Less than 4 percent of UMD’s employees live in the city, which is striving to become more diverse and prosperous. Eric Olson M.A. ’95, executive director of the College Park City-University Partnership, says art house has the potential to stimulate that.

“When you think of the great college towns, you have entertainment, you have great cafes, you have a lot of activity going on. This is a project that’s going to help transform our downtown into that type of place,” he says. “It will attract more faculty and staff to live here, and more investment into our community. The more we can make it a vibrant experience, the more we will experience success.”

The university is also welcoming two other major projects on Route 1:

Construction is under way on the Hotel at the University of Maryland, just across from the main entrance to campus.

Recently shortened to accommodate concerns about flight safety near College Park Airport, the four-star hotel now will have 10 floors and 297 rooms.

Its restaurants will include Chef Mike Isabella’s Kapnos, Potomac Pizza, Bagels ’n Grinds and a new high-end American eatery from the owner of nearby Franklin’s Restaurant, Brewery and General Store. Another restaurant, an Elizabeth Arden spa and a UMD memorabilia store will also be inside.

David Hillman, CEO and founder of Southern Management Corp. and funder of the university’s Hillman Entrepreneurs Program, is developing the three-acre site.

The hotel’s opening is anticipated in Fall 2016.

A Target Express will open in the new Landmark apartment building rising at the site of the former Book Exchange, just in time for the start of classes this fall.

At less than 15,000 square feet, it will be about a tenth of the size of a typical big-box Target, and will focus on convenience products in beauty, grocery, pharmacy, school supplies and other household goods.

In addition, the Target Express will likely offer a variety of food options, says David A. Israel, senior vice president and counsel of Chicago-based CA Ventures, which owns the property.



Good article on reminding us that we are lacking social touch. We should try and socialize more.


Then you've never been to Busboys & Poets down the street in Hyattsville. The place is always packed with locals and students that both enjoy its performance venue and food.

Morgan Gale

Fantastic. An arts venue plus the hotel, now scaled appropriately, will anchor the property development. I don't think myself that the target will fly there.

Ray Hume

As someone who spent 18 years providing sound and lighting services to the Paragon ( 10 years ) and Santafe Cafe ( 8 years ) I wish you all the best but the with the city of college park I believe you are going to be disappointed

Ray Hume

I would also add that in 18 years there was never any success in combining students and locals

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