Underway at last

Battle ends: Community groups drop litigation against UMBC Research Park development.

February 15, 2000

COMMUNITY groups opposed to the development of the UMBC Research Park are now signing agreements to end their contentious 10-year battle against the project. That should remove the obstacles that have delayed development of this important high-tech business center.

In the past three decades, the UMBC campus has grown from a few small buildings into a substantial campus that will ultimately serve 12,000 students. It has also evolved from an undergraduate-oriented institution into a research university. More than a decade ago, UMBC President Michael E. Hooker had the idea of bringing together academic research and technology entrepreneurs.

Only now are we beginning to fully comprehend the clarity of Dr. Hooker's vision. The explosion of Internet-related companies demonstrate that universities are the catalysts for dynamic new industries. Communities from Palo Alto to Cambridge have benefited from their proximity to businesses spun off from academic institutions.

A number of community activists in Arbutus and Catonsville saw the research park as just another development that would change the character of their communities.

The research park -- reduced in size from 12 buildings on 93 acres to five buildings on 41 acres -- indeed will bring traffic, generate more sewage and reduce open space. But to focus on those negatives is to lose sight of the more profound and important changes this development could bring to adjacent communities. UMBC's research park will provide a location where companies can develop commercial applications for cutting-edge research.

In all likelihood, this development -- which will create hundreds of well-paying jobs -- will invigorate rather than destroy nearby communities.

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