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?
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.