Partnership Power: What Makes College Park Great

There’s something special about college towns, a certain alchemy that sets them apart in our collective understanding of places.

It’s not one metric, but an intangible collection of variables that come together to establish a quality of place where the sum is greater than its parts. Truly memorable college towns can be both real and transcendent at the same time – they create space for everyday life and community while setting the stage for life’s biggest transformations. There are colleges in towns, and there are cities with universities in them – but college towns conjure up completely different understandings and stories. They are distinct, highly complex, and they don’t happen by accident. 

Higher education institutions exist in many contexts, but those located in memorable places have an unforgettable quality to them, both for students and alumni, and in wider collective consciousnesses. As the location for Maryland’s flagship university, College Park has always been defined by higher education. The University of Maryland and College Park have grown in tandem – a vibrant institution that fosters innovation, learning, arts and culture surrounded by a diverse network of neighborhoods that nurture lifelong connections and community bonds.  

College Park has always been a fantastic community, but for decades it was known more for its infrastructure than its college town vibe – campus and community divided by a state highway. Relations between the City of College Park and the University of Maryland were similarly divided, and at times acrimonious. Coming together to develop a shared vision with mutual benefits took years of discussion, collaboration and investment. Along the way, College Park has become a leader in town-gown relations, with a list of accomplishments that illustrates what is possible when institutions come together to tackle big challenges. A non-exhaustive list of key highlights includes:

  • Establishment and ongoing support for the College Park City-University Partnership, a model nonprofit community development corporation with the mission to advance progress toward a shared vision and outcomes,
  • Collaboration to support major infrastructure improvements, such as the redevelopment of Baltimore Avenue and the construction of The Purple Line
  • Development of the new College Park City Hall building through cross-sector investment. The state-of-the-art, joint-use project boasts 78,000 square feet of city and university office space, 7,000 square feet of ground floor retail space, and a much-needed community gathering place for public events (pictured above). 

Highlighting College Park’s successes in town-gown relations, the International Town Gown Association (ITGA) has chosen the city as the host for its 2024 conference. Scheduled for June 5-7, 2024, this conference will provide a platform for city and university leaders from around the world to share best practices and learn from peers.  The conference theme “The Power of Partnership: Solving Grand Challenges Together,. will feature keynote speakers, panel discussion and workshops, offering participants valuable insights into effective collaboration models. With the City, UMD and the Partnership jointly hosting the event, attendees can expect a firsthand look at the tangible benefits of strong town-gown relations.  

College Park, Maryland stands as a testament to the potential and power of collaborative town-gown relations. By working together, the City, the University of Maryland and the College Park City-University Partnership are addressing challenges, fostering community development and creative a vibrant, inclusive environment for residents, students, employees, and visitors. As the host city for the 2024 ITGA Conference, College Park invites colleagues to join the conversation, learn from their success and challenges, and contribute to the ongoing narrative of building strong, mutually beneficial town-gown relationships. Don’t miss this opportunity to be a part of a transformative experience – visit the ITGA website for registration information and secure your spot at the forefront of town-gown collaboration.  

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