By BRITTANY DE VRIES and JOEY MERKEL
The University of Mary Washington is moving forward on its proposed 10-15 year plan that would renovate the “Park and Shop” retail shopping center, located at the crossing of Route 1 and College Avenue, into a multi-use locality for the University and the public.
The UMW Real Estate Foundation, which recently acquired the property, envisions a Jeffersonian brick-and-column architecture “village” that would utilize the space to meet a variety of student and public needs.
Associate Vice President of Business and Finance Rick Pearce commented on the Foundation’s most recent acquisition.
“They own it,” Pearce said. “They are going to operate it, but it was bought to benefit the University.”
According to the UMW press release published Dec. 7, the UMW Real Estate Foundation, a private 501c3 organization, was recently created as a way to purchase, improve, and manage property for the growth of the University.
Jeff W. Rountree, vice president for university advancement and executive director of UMW foundations, will preside over the development for the 21-acre piece.
University officials said that even the most minimal plan contains apartment-type buildings for student housing.
“We plan on around 350-400 beds for student housing,” Pearce said.
He explained the housing could be apartments or suite-style apartments, the suite style including accommodations for four students, a full kitchen and a large living area.
According to Pearce, the new housing could influence students to stay on campus longer and prevent the current overcrowded on campus housing situation The 400-bed “village” would also enable the University to renovate some of the older dormitories on campus.
Student Government Association Vice President Jacqui Newman is looking forward to a possible new bridge between campus and the shopping center.
“A major issue the Senate has tried to address in the past couple years is making the light longer on Rt. 1, so that students have enough time to cross,” Newman said. “With the overpass, students won’t have a problem crossing.”
According to the December 7 press release, the foundation is making a pedestrian and bicycle bridge a top priority.
Along with students, Pearce said that there would be a possibility that the Mary Washington Hospital could get involved. The new housing could also be available to hospital employees, however the University is still debating the matter.
The University is currently compiling a group of engineers, architects, builders, and consultants for the project.
“Several companies are involved,” Pearce said. “But we are yet to sign a contract.”
The UMW press release said that all construction would be new, providing the region its first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified mixed-use development.
After the contracts are signed the University will have the group gather ideas on how to fill the space to optimal efficiency. This planning process is set to take between six months to a year, according to Pearce.
The stores currently located in the Park-and-Shop, including Play-It-Again Sports, Blockbuster Video, and Giant Supermarket, have all been notified of the purchase.
Pearce made it clear that these stores would not be forced to move as they are still under contract. However, it is possible that they will be asked to move to make way for construction.
“There won’t be people telling them to leave,” Pearce said. “ Some of them may choose to leave.”
The Dec. 7 press release mentioned that, besides offering staple provisions, like a grocery store, a dry cleaners and a post office, the University hopes to provide other retailers, like a café, bookstore, bank, and specialty shops.
Colleges like Christopher Newport University and the University of Maryland at College Park have similar suite-style apartments to those that are currently being considered for construction by UMW.