WHEN BIRMINGHAM, ALA.-based Capstone Cos. started South Campus Commons at the University of Maryland in 2000, President Clinton was still in office. After 11 years of work, Capstone and the university ended up with seven buildings that were financed with an intermediary nonprofit organization serving as the borrower and owner of the buildings on land leased from the university. The arrangement met the university’s goal of using third-party financing and a public/ private partnership to gain cost efficiencies over traditional development methods.

In the process, Capstone developed a project that fits in with the massing and scale of the existing campus by focusing on building footprints, rooflines, architectural details, and consistency of materials, such as molded brick. “We were sensitive to how the buildings related to the historic buildings that had been there 50 to 75 years before,” says Jeff Jones, the firm’s executive vice president.

The developer tied the buildings in with the control plant at the university and ensured that they had courtyards where students could gather.

As the project progressed, Capstone advanced as well, attaining LEED Gold certification for Building 7. And in jointly operating the buildings with the university, the company learned valuable lessons about design and construction. “We understood that some furnishings and fabrics stood the test of time better than others,” Jones says. “We’re smarter about lighting and flooring,” too.

But Capstone also wanted consistency. “We were trying to maintain as many of the same qualities through all of the buildings as we could,” Jones says. The finished product culminated in a grand award for the seventh, and final, building.