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The Proposed Book Exchange Project and its Appeal in College Park

A balance between "town" and "gown" will always be needed.

There are other considerations, as well, about the proposed Maryland Book Exchange student housing development. Even if the project were compatible with the town, does College Park require more undergraduate housing? Anderson Strickler, LLC of Gaithersburg, conducted a student housing Market Analysis for the University in November 2011. 

“In College Park, since 2006, over 5,000 new student beds have entered the market both on and off campus. Much of this growth has taken place in new, high-end, individual-lease properties near the University and serving only college students.  By (study) estimation based on fall 2011 research, the five individual lease properties close to the campus with almost 4,400 beds have over 630 vacancies, the equivalent of a 14% vacancy rate.” 

Even more student housing and a new does not a “world class” University make. A balance between “town” AND “gown” will always be essential to an appealing College Park.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Matthew Byrd January 21, 2012 at 06:02 PM
I agree that a balance should exist, but it is fair to note that downtown CP has long been the province of the students. It is their playground area, and nearly all the stores there (at least the successful ones) exist to serve the student population, or adapt to them, out of necessity. I am probably in the minority in supporting this project, but it really does make sense to me to have student housing within reasonable walking-distance of both the university and the downtown area. The larger problem that it will pose, is that it will draw renters away from the other large-scale projects that already exist to the north. Once this building goes up, it will be THE place for students to live in CP, and that won't bode well for the Varsity, Mazza, etc, or their retail outlets. But it will be a huge boon for the downtown commercial area. Now that the green-light has been given, I hope that the concerns the folks in Old Town have about an influx of students on their streets come to nothing. In the end. the community's concerns did result in a more attractive building, and that should not be seen as a defeat by those that expressed concern over the initial proposal. The building should be embraced for what it will be: The cornerstone of a true redevelopment of the downtown area. Hopefully residents will have the energy to keep on top of developers, as this momentum continues into the future. The city will be better-off for their efforts.
Sexcellency January 22, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Keep reading the market analysis. It goes on to recommend the university build more student housing on campus because there is still demand for it. Or did you purposely omit the report's conclusion because it doesn't support your argument?
Robert Catlin January 22, 2012 at 04:21 AM
While this student housing project will do fine in attracting renters, the properties to the north (Varsity and the View) will be allright, as the restaurant and other retail choices available in this area by the time this project opens will be significant, too, especially with the coming of retail with the likely redevelopment of the Koon's property.. The proposed East Campus development will not be far from the View or Varsity either, though the competition for parents with money to spend on their sons and daughters, will impact room rents.
Danny January 22, 2012 at 12:55 PM
ironically, on the very same date as this blog post was published, the gazette published the following article: http://www.gazette.net/article/20120120/NEWS/701209676/1033/majority-stake-in-apartments-fetches-966m&template=gazette after only its first academic year, according to the gazette, "The Varsity, which opened in August, is 91 percent occupied." 91% occupied for the varsity sounds pretty good to me. plus, its retail space is 100% leased, or close to it, and by amazingly quality tenants for college park (especially compared to some of the downtown retail blocks).
Robert Catlin January 22, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Actually a 5% vacancy rate reflects a healthy market. The vacancy rate at the Views was even higher than 10%. These projects will be looking to do better next school year. Loonies and Bobby's Burger Palace have a strong student business, but also attract customers of all ages, similar to Ledo's and Jason's Deli downtown.
Cynthia F. January 24, 2012 at 08:27 PM
A closer look at the market analysis report reveals some interesting facts that are not presented in the brief quote in this article. The report states that the Enclave had a 62% occupancy rate of its 665 beds this fall, probably because it was "a building very much under construction up until - and after - the first day of classes in the fall 2011 semester." This means that 253 beds were vacant - or 40% of the total 630 vacancies at all properties. This one property, which is much smaller than many others, certainly skews the total vacancy statistics. It will likely do better next year, as Mazza has in its second year, since more students will be willing to sign a lease in advance for a building with construction completed. Another interesting fact in the report is the 88% of students renting a house in College Park that said they would be motivated to move to an apartment for the same or lower rent. This shows that it is still cheaper for students to live in houses than to rent a student apartment. Some of this may be due to the high cost of rent in the apartments, which will be helped if more student housing comes online and the apartments are forced to compete more. College Park also needs to seriously re-consider its rent control law, which is likely keeping rent at houses artificially low.
Barry January 25, 2012 at 01:27 AM
I think at this point the city would have a hard time trying to continue to say that there is a shortage of student housing. If anything there is an oversupply of housing - not now but when the rest of the projects already in the works are completed. Lets hope the city has a planning committee to look at what would happen if UMD ever downsizes either because of financial reasons or if students are unable to continue to obtain 100k loans.

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