College Park staff recommend approving project plans for shopping center redevelopment

Krazi Kebob and Marathon Deli are among the businesses a developer is seeking to demolish to build a new apartment building. (Julia Nikhinson/The Diamondback)

City staff this week recommended the College Park City Council conditionally approve a developer’s proposal to develop a strip of the College Park Shopping Center.

The planned mixed-use development — proposed by Greystar, a development firm — would be nine stories and have nearly 800 beds for students as well as 318 parking spaces and 165 bicycle spaces in an underground garage, according to a city report.

Council members had plenty of questions about the proposal during a work session Tuesday, ranging from the ADA accessibility of the facility to whether developers were going to work to retain local businesses.

The storefronts that would be demolished by the project include Marathon Deli, a UPS Store, 7-Eleven, Cafe Hookah, Kevin Nails, Lotsa Pizza, Krazi Kebob, Insomnia Cookies and C.B Chinese Grill.

“We’ve gotten to know all nine of our tenants very well, and we’re having a really wonderful, meaningful conversations with all of them,” said Ken Ulman, the Terrapin Development Company’s president. “They’ve all been offered an opportunity to come back into the project.”

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If approved, the building would include 32,000 square feet of retail space beneath the apartments. Ulman said that specific announcements concerning the retail situation would come “very soon.”

Greystar’s proposal also includes a slew of recreational facilities, including a 3,200 square foot, two-story fitness center, an on-demand exercise room, an entertainment “twitch” room, a pet grooming station, a social lounge, fireplace, study lounges and others, according to the city staff report.

Council member John Rigg and Mayor Wojahn expressed concerns about the price of the apartments. Greystar representative John Beinert said the apartments would cost $1500 “per bed” each month — about 18 percent more than it would cost students per month to live in a single-bed, apartment-style dorm for this academic school year.

One bedroom, one bathroom apartments in South Campus Commons are priced at $1,284 per month. In the nearby Landmark apartments, they start at $1,829.

“I certainly have my concerns about that price. We’re looking to try to get more affordable student housing in the city,” Wojahn said. ”Unfortunately, that’s what the market demands right now.”

Council members also discussed logistics about the construction and the proposed development’s accessibility.

Greystar proposed putting $113,500 toward constructing a staircase and sidewalk that would connect the development to existing university pedestrian paths, the staff report read.

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The staircase structure would be located near South Campus Commons, Wojahn said. A bicycle ramp would be constructed alongside it, but as it’s planned right now, it wouldn’t be Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, according to the staff report.

In their report, city staff recommended moving a utility pole currently located on the north side of Knox Road, just east of the site, to create a ADA-compliant sidewalk.

However, according to Thomas Haller, an attorney at the meeting on Greystar’s behalf, it wouldn’t be feasible for Greystar to relocate the pole — an endeavor he said would cost more than $150,000— due to budgetary restrictions.

“I am excited about the idea,” Wojahn said, referring to the monumental staircase. “But I also put a high priority on the importance of ADA accessibility.”

Conditions to city staffers’ recommendation of approval include accommodations for a public sidewalk along Knox Road and revisions to the plan to create a wheelchair-accessible sidewalk.

After further discussion, the council decided to carry the issue to its Oct. 22 meeting, where it is set to make a final decision on whether to approve the proposal.

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