[The following is a guest column by Rachel Hare of the UMD for Clean Energy]

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.