Mazza Grandmarc NOW OPEN

The long awaited opening of the Mazza Grandmarc took place today as the first graduate students were allowed to move in.  The primary move in date for non graduate students will be August 22nd.  I spoke with the on site manager who told me the Mazza is now around 45% full (it was under 10% full when rethink college park visited there a few months back).  A little over 60 people will be moving in today which is a around 10% of the total capacity for the apartment complex (around 630 beds).   Two aspects about the Mazza that excite me the most are that it is connected to the Paint Branch Bike Trail system which leads to the University of Maryland campus and that it has its own UMD DOTS bus route.  Hopefully students will take advantage of these ecological friendly options when deciding how to get to campus which would help minimize the traffic impact that the Mazza will create.

I won’t write too much about the Mazza Grandmarc as there is already a long history of articles on it on this site, but the Mazza property owners are still trying to buy the properties directly on Route One in front of the apartment complex so they can build decent retail establishments there.  Hopefully the opening of the Mazza today is just the start of a redevelopment process that will both beautify a section of Route One and lead to more high quality dining and shopping options in College Park.  Despite the fact that the Mazza is finally opening today this project is still a work in progress in terms of its full potential.

Mazza Tour Recap

DSCN1781

About 15 people turned out Monday for the RTCP-sponsored tour of the nearly complete 630-bed Mazza GrandMarc graduate student housing community in northern College Park. Half of the City Council was in attendance along with interested community members and the press. Each got the opportunity to tour the complex’s different unit configurations (1-4 bedrooms), check out the communal amenities (pool, weight-room, study areas), see the extensive stormwater management system in the rear of the building, and walk down the new community trail connection to the Paint Branch Stream Valley.

The consensus seemed to be that the building’s interior was quite nice and high end. The unit layouts are a bit larger than other newly-constructed student housing in the area. They also boast 9-ft ceilings, sweeping forested views, furnished rooms, and higher-end kitchens. There was some grumbling about the rental prices which range from $889 to $1560 a bed depending on whether you’re talking about a 4br unit or 1br unit. That’s comparable to other similar new-construction private student housing complexes like University View and University Town Center…. but Mazza is in a decidedly less desirable location to those buildings. Its is close to the beltway and CP grocery store, but Mazza’s Route 1 facing 10,000 SF retail component is at least 2 years away and there aren’t tons of amenities in the immediate area… Shuttle UM will provide service to campus every 20 minutes during the day come fall.

Concerns were raised that rental prices were high for a project that was sold to the community during the development review process as a graduate student housing complex. Graduate students generally don’t have as much money as undergrads (whose parents often foot rent bills) and some are worried the complex will end up being predominantly undergrads. RTCP feels it’s important to remember that Mazza was always intended to be market-rate student housing. It’s not subsidized in any way and at a cost of$43 million, the developer has substantial loans to pay off. It also took considerable risk on their part and 10 years to get the project from concept to completion. Nobody is “making a killing” here. The developer is legally required to only lease to grad students until April 1 each year at which time they can (and did) open up leasing to undergrads. That said, many new grad students don’t enroll at UMD until April 15th. It shouldn’t be any surprise then that this building (which most people have never heard of) is currently only 10% leased for the Fall 2010 semester. Applications are now rolling in and many of the 1-br units are already filled.

Mazza has reserved 1/3 of its units in one section of the building exclusively for graduate students and is providing generous deals only for grad students including 10% off rent and reduced fees through its “Graduate VIP Program.” Mazza leasing agents predict about half the building will be grad students when all is said and done this fall. These measures go above and beyond what is legally required of the developer. Not only are they good faith efforts to deliver on the developer’s promise of a grad student community, but they also reflect the stiff competition that exists for student tenants in College Park.  With 2,700 other designated student beds coming on line in College Park by Fall semester 2011, student rents will stagnate across the city. They have nowhere to go but down.

RTCP Mazza GrandMarc Tour Today

Don’t forget that RTCP’s Mazza GrandMarc Hard Hat tour is today. The building is located just north of Jordan Kitt’s Music at 9530 Baltimore Avenue. Please arrive at 5:30 PM. RTCP will run a carpool from City Hall at 5:15PM. RSVP HERE. Background:

Rethink College Park is extremely pleased to announce that it’s sponsoring a “hard hat tour” of the nearly complete Mazza GrandMarc Student housing project in North College Park. Ten years in the making, Mazza’s final approval was the subject of a protracted battle between student leaders, Rethink College Park and County Councilman Tom Dernoga in 2007. Once the retail portion of the project is complete, it will be the first transit-ready, mixed-use redevelopment project in northern College Park. Leasing has already begun for the Fall 2010 semester.

The $43 million, 630-bed complex is geared primarily towards University of Maryland graduate students, will be serviced by Shuttle UM and provides a public trail connection to Paint Branch Trail just behind the complex. The event is open to the entire community. Citizens, students, prospective tenants, local leaders and press are all welcome.

When: Arrive May 17th @ 5:30 PM (tour to begin promptly at 5:45)

Where: 9530 Baltimore Avenue just north of Jordan Kitt’s Music. The group will convene just in front of the new leasing office in the permanent building..

What: Leasing agents will be on hand to provide a guided tour of the nearly complete project and the adjacent Paint Branch Trail connection. RTCP staff will field questions about the project and it’s implications for Smart Growth in College Park.

RTCP Sponsored Mazza GrandMarc “Hard Hat Tour” May 17th

DSCN1583
Mazza 11x17 Site PlanRethink College Park is extremely pleased to announce that it’s sponsoring a “hardhat tour” of the nearly complete Mazza GrandMarc Student housing project in North College Park. Ten years in the making, Mazza’s final approval was the subject of a protracted battle between student leaders, Rethink College Park and County Councilman Tom Dernoga in 2007. Once the retail portion of the project is complete, it will be the first transit-ready, mixed-use redevelopment project in northern College Park. Leasing has already begun for the Fall 2010 semester.

The $43 million, 630-bed complex is geared primarily towards University of Maryland graduate students, will be serviced by Shuttle UM and provides a public trail connection to Paint Branch Trail just behind the complex. The event is open to the entire community. Citizens, students, prospective tenants, local leaders and press are all welcome.

When: Arrive May 17th @ 5:30 PM (tour to begin promptly at 5:45)

Where: 9530 Baltimore Avenue just north of Jordan Kitt’s Music. The group will convene just in front of the new leasing office in the permanent building.

What: Leasing agents will be on hand to provide a guided tour of the nearly complete project and the adjacent Paint Branch Trail connection. RTCP staff will field questions about the project and it’s implications for Smart Growth in College Park.

RTCP will provide a carpool from College Park City Hall which will leave promptly at 5:15 PM. Please RSVP for the event on Facebook and comment if you will be a driver or passenger in the carpool.

Glorious: Mazza Grandmarc Begins Leasing for Fall 2010

mazzagranmarc
When I saw it, I could hardly believe my eyes.  Seven links down on a basic Google search for “Mazza Granmarc” there it was staring back at me from across cyberspace: the leasing website for the first purely private student housing project to open in College Park in five years. It’ll be the only (private) dedicated graduate student housing project of its kind in the city and one of the few economic development projects College Park was able to capitalize on during the real estate boom. That’s thanks in part to Rethink College Park’s tireless advocacy for it and our productive friendship with the Graduate Student Government. It was a fight that took us from City Hall, to Annapolis, and then on to Upper Marlboro.

No the project isn’t perfect. It’s about a mile and a half from campus and, as we pointed out in June 2007, it includes a whooping 637 parking spaces for a 630 bed (231-unit) complex. The project will have a 8 foot wide pedestrian/bike connection to the Paint Branch Trail to its rear and frequent Shuttle-UM service to campus. There will also be a retail section that will front Route 1, but we are unsure of the timing on that. At $43 million, we still believe Mazza was the right choice. It brings decent, affordable housing to a forgotten segment of UMD’s student population and puts them much closer to the University than they would have been otherwise… and in a transit/bike-friendly complex to boot.

Our guess is that a good bit of the garage will be empty and the bike parking will be inadequate. The latter issue is a problem we’ve noticed next to the University View.  We’ll dive more into these two issues in short order.

What’s Happening?

For starters, you may have noticed less posting on RCP lately. With one co-founder already away from College Park for a year and the other preparing to graduate, RCP is in need of fresh blood. We’ll be organizing a strategic meeting to bring together our supporters to plan for the future of the site soon, if you are interested in contributing please drop us a line. Recently a community member wrote to ask why we hadn’t written more, but demurred from contributing saying he wasn’t a “writer.” Before blogging, neither were many of our contributors!

What’s new around town? Councilmember Catlin was kind enough to post a short summary as a comment recently. To add to his comments, although rumors have been circulating about the Mazza Grandmarc Graduate Apartments, the developer personally (and vigorously) assured us construction was moving forward and they planned to break ground this year, hopefully late summer or fall.

Today’s Diamondback has two stories of note: a short summary of changes to the 517-bed addition to the University View being planned, and an article describing the over $620 million backlog of on-campus maintenance.

While we have a few posts planned, expect fewer stories until the future of the site is planned in more detail.

More Dernoga (More Mazza)

RTCP has a column running in today’s Gazette:

> Dernoga’s ‘misjudgement’ hindering Route 1

The letter is in response to the County Councilman’s August 16th letter, which in turn was a response to GSG President Laura Moore’s August 2nd letter.

by David Daddio:

I was disappointed to read [Prince George’s] County Councilman Thomas Dernoga’s condescending letter [‘‘Free the developers from captivity in College Park,” Aug. 16] defending his position on the proposed ‘‘Mazza” student housing development. As a strong advocate of this project for over six months, I’m hardly surprised by the brashness with which Mr. Dernoga continues to conduct his affairs in regard to this matter.

Continue reading More Dernoga (More Mazza)

Dernoga yields, Mazza to go forward

We’ve written enough about this project. What had to be said was said. Now it’s finally time for the shovels to hit the dirt and for some concrete economic development to finally come to College Park (ETA – Fall 2009). The details aren’t clear yet, but the word is that Councilman Dernoga has finally given in to reason and made compromises on the conditions he put on the project last week – thus letting the long-awaited $60 million, 630 bed Mazza grad student housing project go forward. This wonderful outcome was due, in no small part, to the work of Graduate Student Government President Laura Moore and RTCP dating back to February.

Mazza Apparently Dead (AMMENDMENTS ADDED)

It appears that County Councilman Tom Dernoga has Killed the 660 graduate bed Mazza Grandmarc. The conditions he put on the project’s approval today will likely not go over well with Mazza’s investors. Chief among these conditons are:

  • Requiring LEED standards in the 11th hour
  • KICKER: Requiring a site plan approval for the two commercial parcels on the portion of the property fronting Route 1 (before the resident portion could be occupied)

With seemingly no community opposition, the county council has killed the only up and coming student housing project in College Park. Incredible.

–> MAZZA AMMENDMENTS

Mazza Brinksmanship Coming to an End?

The 60 day waiting period is almost up and the PG County Council is set to vote Monday on the approval of the Mazza Grandmarc – a 660 bed (largely graduate) student housing complex in northern College Park. The project has been stalled since May 2006 because Councilman Tom Dernoga “pulled it” for review. When the Council heard to case in April 2007, they said they expected more brick on the building and that it should exhibit green building standards. Word on the street is that that is likely what they will get from the developer Monday.

We understand the desire for higher quality (more brick) and the need to move towards sustainable building practices. What we don’t understand is who benefited (save the homeless man who lives on the property) from the long delay of the project. Please email us if you benefited! We do know who lost from the delay:  600+ grad students seeking decent, affordable housing who will have to wait the equivalent of 3 or 4 semesters past when Mazza should have been completed. Certainly the developer, the University of Maryland, the North College Park Citizens Association, the City of College Park, and the PG County Planning Board were all on the same page when they supported/approved Mazza in 2005 and early 2006. Why then did Mr. Dernoga pull it for review and wait so long to act? Why do we have to wait until 2010 for even the most minor aesthetic (the property is barely visible from Route 1) and economic improvements in College Park? Why doesn’t the council see the urgency that we and any plain person can see in which redevelopment is needed in College Park? Why can no one see how prohibitively difficult it is to develop anything along Route 1 and the need to work with (rather than opposed to) developers in a proactive and collaborative manner?

An aside:

Interestingly, the council never even addressed the most serious flaw of the Mazza project – its tremendous amount of parking – nearly one parking space for every tenant. Indeed, it’s a peculiar situation for a project that will have pedestrian connections to the Paint Branch Trail and frequent Shuttle-UM service. When told in April that Mazza’s internal parking deck was so massive that it would pop out of the top of the building and be visible to bikers on the Paint Branch Trail, no one on the council (Councilman Eric Olson had to recuse himself from the entire case) showed any concern. It’s telling that they instead chose to nitpick issues that had been worked out over the span of years by city and county planners or tried to set aside slush funds to please constituents. Ironically, the project now faces approval less than 2 weeks after a county consultant suggested limiting parking in the Route 1 Corridor.