We’ve already been asked several times where that title came from. Consider us poetic. Here at the University of Maryland, UMD for Clean Energy is organizing a major event on green development practices next Monday, April 5th. Check out the background from our website on why we’re organizing. Below is one of two blog hits we just received thanks to Rachel Hare, one of our members. There’s also an op-ed I have out in our campus newspaper today about why we need to go all out on greening the East Campus development. If you have friends in Maryland, let them know about this event!
Since developer Foulger-Pratt pulled out of plans for the University of Maryland’s East Campus Development project last fall, the entire endeavor has been thrown into uncertainty. The university has reconsidered the project’s design, the timeline, and even toyed with the idea of postponing or abandoning the plan. But among the growing uncertainty, there is something else: an opportunity.
The East Campus project presents an opportunity for the University of Maryland to become the benchmark for sustainable development in Maryland.
On April 5, UMD for Clean Energy will host Green for College Park II: Making East Campus a Beast Campus, a panel discussion exploring green initiatives to make the East Campus project a pioneer in environmentally sound development. The panel will consider innovative solutions including green building, storm water management, smart growth, and transit-oriented development.
The event will bring together sustainability specialists Tom Liebel, an architect and one of the first 25 U.S. professionals to receive LEED accreditation, an internationally recognized green building certification; Ralph Bennett, Director of Purple Line Now, an organization that advocates for the Purple Line on behalf of the community, businesses and the environment; and James Foster, president of the Anacostia Watershed Society, an environmental group that works to protect the Anacostia River.
The university has recently committed to ambitious environmental standards, including the Climate Action Plan for a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2020 and complete carbon neutrality by 2050. By adopting initiatives such as the Climate Action Plan, the university has placed itself at the forefront of energy conservation and green development.
The East Campus Redevelopment project presents another opportunity for the University of Maryland to take a stand on the climate issue and make a statement to institutions across the nation. The university should set strict and firm goals for this new undertaking; goals that take into account sustainable building practices, the surrounding environment, and smart growth, and advance the university’s position on the front lines of climate action.The East Campus Project could set a new standard for environmentally sound development and urban planning. The red and white has a chance to make a big green statement.
Last November, it was announced that developer Foulger-Pratt/Argo was pulling out of the proposed $900 million, 38-acre East Campus development project. The university is now looking to revisit the site plans for the development, and possibly do the project by piecemeal, as opposed to all at once. This is a tremendous opportunity for the university to make East Campus one of the boldest green development projects in the state.
From the standpoint of an environmentalist, East Campus was an average development project at best. Its merits included its location by Metro and the pending Purple Line, along with graduate student housing to reduce the length of their commute to the campus. But that isn’t even close to the whole picture. Here are a few questions that we should be asking the administration that are crucial to comprehending the impact of the development.
How does adding 38 acres worth of new buildings line up with the university’s recently signed Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2020? If you’re going to build new buildings, they can’t just be better than the existing crappy status quo. LEED Silver is so 2007. If growth is inevitable, it can’t just be better than what we did 10 years ago. New buildings should purchase or generate 100 percent clean power, be top of the line in energy and water efficiency and be made of recycled construction materials. I’m talking about putting LEED Platinum to shame. That is called cutting the crap and getting serious about our emissions.
How will the East Campus development’s storm-water management impact the health of our surrounding waterways? The university claims there will be a benefit because the development will be in compliance with our current storm-water management laws, as opposed to the existing conditions which are not. This is true. The problem is today’s storm-water management laws are garbage. Earlier this month, there was a compromise with the developers in the state to incrementally improve the laws in exchange for postponing their implementation for developments approved by 2013 that break ground by 2017. If every new development in the state followed this, we’d total the Chesapeake Bay. It can’t just be better, it has to be the best there is.
Smart growth is more than just building in high population areas that have alternative transportation options. Will the retail in the development serve the needs of students so they don’t have to drive elsewhere? Or will we build thousands of parking spaces for new cars coming from an already jam-packed Route 1 to enjoy high-end businesses and retail that aren’t serving the needs of the local student population?
One more question: When other universities around the country work on development projects, who is going to be their role model for living up to our moral obligation to address our energy and environmental crises? Is there any reason why it shouldn’t be us?
If you want to find out more about how to make East Campus a landmark for environmentally sound development and urban planning that revitalizes College Park, check out the event “Green for College Park II: Making East Campus a Beast Campus” on April 5 at 7 p.m. in the Stamp Student Union’s Jimenez Room. We can do this right.
Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com.