New Town Center (Maryland)
The New Town Center, now known as University Town Center, is located in Hyattsville, Prince George's County, Maryland, United States. It was a planned urban center designed by Edward Durell Stone and located on a 105-acre (0.42 km2) parcel at the intersection of Belcrest Road and East-West Highway in Hyattsville, Maryland and across from the then new Prince George's Plaza. The initial construction on this development took place in 1963-64. A second phase commenced after the opening of the Prince George's Plaza, Washington Metro rapid transit station in 1993.
First Phase of Development
The $78 million project was developed by Bancroft Construction, headed by Herschel and Marvin Blumberg who had originally purchased the site in 1954. The Blumberg brothers also developed the area of nearby Silver Spring, Maryland now known as the Rock Creek Woods Historic District. The original $5.5 million, 300,000-square-foot (28,000 m2) Federal office building (now known as Metro 1) was occupied in 1963 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Architect Stone referred to the development as a "Rockefeller Center in the countryside." Other original buildings were the highrise apartments Plaza Towers West and Plaza Towers East, located at Toledo Terrace and Belcrest Road. The Metro 2 office building was completed in 1968 and the Metro 3 building in 1971.
The original concept for the New Town Center was for it to be "a planned residential, commercial, employment and social complex which, as yet (1963) has no equal in the Baltimore-Washington area." The Blumberg brothers' plans included interlocking residential and commercial facilities including the separation of pedestrian and automobile traffic and the enhancement of open spaces by the use of sunken reflecting pools, fountains, and plantings. Also included in the 1964 plans were two more Stone-designed office buildings (built in 1968 and 1972), another apartment structure (not built), a 1,400 seat motion picture theater (not built), and a huge ice skating rink (not built). Most dramatic were plans for multiple 34-story apartment towers, which would have been among the tallest structures in the Washington, DC area. Plans were also included for a Youth Center (built at Toledo and Adelphi Roads) and a $1.3 million Prince George's County Cultural Center (not built). Transportation plans in 1964 called for a spur from I-95 to be built just west of the tract (not built) and for underground rapid transit service to serve the Federal Building. Parks, schools, churches, and recreational facilities (some built) were expected to form a transitional buffer between the new developments and the surrounding single-family homes, in University Park, Maryland.
New Town Center did not develop as fully or rapidly as originally envisioned. The expected I-95 extension through Northeast Washington and Maryland suburbs never occurred, effectively isolating the area. Development of the Washington Metro did not occur until the 1970s and the Green Line was the last segment developed in the main system. Finally, the changing demographic characteristics of Prince George's County to majority-minority during the 1980s and 1990s soured the area to many developers.
Second Phase of Development
However, interest in this area revived following the opening of the Prince George's Plaza Metro station in 1993. Still owned and controlled by Herschel Blumberg and renamed Prince George's Metro Center, the development was later renamed University Town Center when the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) in 2000 decided to lease new headquarters space at the site. NCHS had previously been a tenant in one of the original office buildings and moved to its new headquarters in 2002 in the building named Metro Four. In August 2006, a 16-story student apartment with 910 beds opened at the site providing housing for students from 11 local colleges and universities. In 2007, a new main street dubbed America Boulevard opened, as did a 14-screen Regal movie theater complex, a variety of dining options, and two condominium buildings. Also located at University Town Center is a satellite campus of Prince George's Community College.
The development that restarted in the 2000s has been dubbed "the realization of a half-century old dream to counter the patterns of suburban sprawl."
- "Rock Creek Woods Historic District". Maryland Historical Trust. Retrieved 2008-10-29.
- "Urban Center Under Way in Prince George's County," by John B. Willmann, Real Estate Editor, The Washington Post, Times Herald, June 6, 1964, p. E1.
- Paul Weishar (January 2010). "Maryland Historical Trust, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form: University Town Center" (PDF). Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission.
- "Back to the Future," by Douglas Fruehling, On Site, Summer 2007, pp. 25-27.
- "A Place for Students To Study in Style; Luxury High-Rise Caters to Collegians," by Ruben Castaneda, The Washington Post, Jul 19, 2008, p. T-5.
- Ellen Dunham-Jones, June Williamson (2011). "Retrofitting Suburbia, Updated Edition: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs: Chapter 12, Office Park Case Study, University Town Center, Prince George's County, Maryland". John Wiley & Sons, Google eBooks.