Residents Wary of Development Prospects for Maryland Book Exchange
Residents of Old Town and Calvert Hills gathered Wednesday night to discuss the new apartment building that may be built on the site
Residents of Old Town and Calvert Hills gathered Wednesday evening at the Old Parish House to voice their concerns about prospective student housing to be built at the site of the Maryland Book Exchange.
On hand to field questions from residents was Josef Mittleman, the managing partner of Maryland Book Exchange LLC, who is developing the site. Mittleman plans to convert the space into five stories of student housing, which breaks down to 335 apartment units, as well as one floor of retail space, where a scaled-down version of the current Maryland Book Exchange is expected to go.
Nearby longtime residents, however, are fearful that more student housing will exacerbate an already noisy and occasionally crime-riddled downtown area.
Though Mittleman assured residents that he intends to keep tight control on noise on the premises, many are concerned that the problem will not be the apartments themselves, but the thousand or so extra students who will pour into neighboring Old Town to party.
"You can keep them from partying and drinking on the property," said resident Bob Schnabel. "But now I have a thousand students who weren't there before, and they come out in the neighborhoods and go to any house that they want to party at."
Mittleman said he was looking to attract upperclassman and graduate students to the apartments. However, many at the meeting suspected he might have a hard time enforcing that policy.
"It will mostly be students who are attracted to living in the neighborhood where the bars are," said Richard Biffl. "I think it's going to exacerbate the problems we've had in the neighborhood in the last ten years. Nobody can control where they go in the evenings."
In addition to the problem of noise, there is concern over the issue of increased traffic in an already congested area.
Mittleman, who teaches a classes on smart growth and social responsibility at Brown University, said he wanted to encourage a less car-centric atmosphere.
"We plan to have bicycles that are available to students in the building," he said. "The idea of this site is that people who rent here will not be looking to park here."
Unfortunately, as Old Town resident Nigel Key pointed out, the nearest supermarket is more than two miles away.
"Do you expect that in the middle of winter, students will be walking to the supermarket?" he asked.
Though development is not expected to commence for another couple of years, plenty of alternate uses for the site were proffered. Suggestions included a Trader Joe's, a boutique hotel, or even apartments aimed at area professionals.
Despite planning still being in its nascent stages, Dist. 3 County Councilman Eric Olson doubts that the apartments will come to fruition.
"My initial reaction is that they're not going to be able to build student housing at this site," he said. "I think that the space could be better used."