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SGA Prez: Route 1 Shouldn't Divide Student Housing From City

Kaiyi Xie says University of Maryland Student Government Association supports the planned retail and student housing at the Maryland Book Exchange spot.

The Prince George’s County Planning Board  for the , which would turn the store into one floor of retail under three to five stories of student housing, much like the nearby , and Enclave buildings, but smaller. After construction, the Maryland Book Exchange would fill part of the retail space. The College Park City Council and plans to appeal the planning board’s decision.

on the project; some were for it, some didn’t see the need for more high-density student housing. Patch also checked in with Student Government Association (SGA) President Kaiyi Xie to hear his views on the proposed apartment building, and about the current city/university relationship.

College Park Patch: As SGA president, do you think students would find this type of housing in this location appealing?

Kaiyi Xie: Yes, certainly.  I think this location is prime for student housing.  I know there’s been a lot of . I think that that location itself is incredibly good for student housing, being literally across from one of the gates to the university, close to downtown economic areas. Businesses would also be helped by having more students there.

CP: Would students want to live closer to the shops of downtown College Park?

KX: Definitely. My major concern is how affordable those units would be …  Theoretically speaking, there might be a trend toward lower prices in properties like the [University] View, Varsity, maybe perhaps this one, too, if it’s ultimately developed. I think the location is great and I hope the city would come to see it as that too—as a good location for student housing.

CP: What is the SGA’s stance on the redevelopment?

KX: We don’t have a stance on the proposal itself. I have spoken to the developer and as well and spoken in front of them about how I think there shouldn’t be this artificial chasm in the form of Route 1 between student housing and the university on one side and the city and Old Town on the other. If we’re trying to encourage by the next decade or so, I think that creating these divisions isn’t the way to go. I understand there are issues with absentee landlords in Old Town. I understand there are many issues with noise complaints and what not. I still ultimately think that in order to get a college town that we’d all want to live in, I think understanding that students will always be there and understanding that, vice versa, that residents will be an integral part of that community, is important.

CP: Is the SGA planning on getting involved further?

KX: We’ve already submitted written testimonies to the planning board and we’ve already spoken to both the developer and the city, and met with individual city councilors one-on-one about the issue, too.

CP: How do you think this apartment building could affect downtown College Park? 

KX: There are economic implications. There are implications in terms of drawing students from those single-family residences to higher-density student housing. In terms of the design of the property itself, we don’t have a stance either way.

CP: How would you describe the current relationship between students and residents of the community? How do you think the new apartment building could affect the current dynamic?

KX: I think there’s a long way to go with that relationship. Certainly there needs to be increased mutual understanding between students and the residents. Obviously both communities have unique concerns that are perhaps sometimes a little neglected by the other side. The fact is there is a university in the city of College Park, and in order for both the university and the city to move forward, there needs to be a lot done to encourage this relationship to get better. And always there’s issues in terms of housing on campus, and I assume there will be for the next decade. In terms of finding these solutions, perhaps the Book Exchange property is one instance where students can live in Old Town with the right encouragement, with the right tools, being encouraged to help their neighbors—the long-term residents. 

CP: Not specifically about the Maryland Book Exchange project, is handling the city/university relationship among your list of responsibilities, and if so, in what capacity and where do you rank it among your priorities?

KX: We have a designated city council liaison that sits basically ex officio on the city council itself. The liaison right now is John Natalizio, and he attends all city council meetings, including executive sessions if they so choose. He’s jointly appointed by both the student government as well as the city itself …  In terms of SGA’s relationship with the city, we do try to meet with as many people, in terms of city council members, as possible. I’ve also been looking to visit some of the civic associations. I think I’m going to try to get in contact with a few of them to see if they would perhaps like to meet, especially Old Town.

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