Mazza Tour Recap

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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.

8 thoughts on “Mazza Tour Recap”

  1. It will be interesting to see how many vacant units remain at the Mazza and the new addition to the View in the fall. Don’t you think there’s a point where student housing is just too much, especially with the new dorm going up on campus. It would be nice if Route 1 did not end up looking like Rockville Pike with all it’s high rises. I’ve lived in this area for over 50 years. I was never a fan of route one, but even less of a fan of the current changes. Sorry “rethink”, I think you need to “rethink”.

  2. Mazza is significantly nicer than the View, and cheaper or close to the same price. The View isn’t making any effort to market to grad students, and I think for grad students that can afford it, Mazza is a very good option.

  3. there will be 0 or close to 0 vacant units. as I said, 2700 other beds are coming online by fall 2012. empty beds would mean dozens of people misjudged the market. rents can be adjusted downward to attract tenants out of other living arrangements.

    unfortunately reality is stacked against your wishes for route 1:
    http://rethinkcollegepark.net/blog/project-map/

    I guess we could stop building high rises and continue to let students flood single-family neighborhoods.

  4. Thanks for your diligence in following up on this! I found it really helpful (the whole blog really) and I’m definitely considering MGM as a place to live.

  5. So Anita you would prefer what Route 1 was before this latest round of development? Boarded up strip bars and endless taco stands? No sidewalks?

    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/177/377665915_997a9b2cf7.jpg

    To support a truly urban development that can house enough people close to amenities and to encourage transit/walking/biking a high rise apartment is simply the best way to go. I can certainly understand that high rises are not the most pleasing things to look at however I’m hopeful that if the entire plan for a rebuilt Route 1 with mixed use development at its core comes to fruition we will not end up with another Rockville Pike. It is doubtful that the folks who live in Rockville high rises live within 3 miles of where they work/attend school.

    http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4043/4521202589_0926ec7dab.jpg

  6. I have no problems with students being in the neighborhoods. I have very responsible students living next to me, better than the last owners. 🙂 I’m just interested in how this will all turn out. I’m not seeing all these “amenities” you mention Clay. All I’m seeing is high rise buildings for students plastered all along Route 1. I believe they will not fill up, then what? I’m not seeing bike lanes or connections for bikers to neighborhoods. That would be so nice. I’m not seeing sidewalks that are walkable.

    Clay this latest round of development hasn’t done much to improve Route 1 in my humble opinion. I’m still seeing boarded up establishments, some that have been there for 10 years or more.

    I’m not afraid of change, I just want to see it done right. I don’t think all the student housing that is being built is necessary. I’d love to see something more in line with the Art District in Hyattsville, at least for part of College Park’s Route 1. I agree with those who’d like to see a Barnes and Noble (or any book store) or Trader Joes on the Book Exchange lot.

    Not everyone is going to see development the way “Rethink”, Clay and David see it. That doesn’t mean we’re afraid of change because we don’t agree with you.

    I appreciate your blog. I don’t appreciate you trying to scare aware visitors who don’t agree with you.

  7. Please excuse our frustration Anita, it’s certainly not our intent to scare away visitors who don’t agree. The way “rethink” sees redevelopment isn’t just an opinion. It’s codified in the zoning for the corridor. It’s happening now and more is coming. Please read further into the site. If you followed the link I provided above you’d see that ground floor retail is a major component of all of these buildings.

    Here is the phasing:
    Fall 2010
    University View II (11,600 SF of Retail)

    Fall 2011
    The Varsity (20,000 SF)
    Starview Plaza (9,580 SF)

    Fall 2012
    Mazza GrandMarc (10,000 SF)

    That amounts to probably 10-14 new retail spaces across the four projects. Walk in front of the U View and you’ll see that the new sidewalk is much wider than the 4-foot gravel strewn sidewalk that was there before. It’s also worth pointing out that in 2 years, there will be a total of 3 stream crossing that connect student housing and neighborhoods to the Paint Branch Trail that were not present 5 years ago. These retail spaces and stream crossing would have never been realized without this development.

  8. @Anita

    I would also add that development spurs development. In a perfect world, the College park we all want to see would be built as fast as National Harbor was. What you see is the foundation being laid for the future look of College Park. I agree that Route 1 doesn’t look so nice at the moment with its incongruous patches of new development and blight. But the economic downturn and some misguided political moves slowed everything way down. Four years ago, you couldn’t keep up with the amount of development activity in the area, which is partly why this site was created.

    There has to be a momentum for development to affect a large area such as Hyatttsville/College Park. I can confidently say that the momentum is there. The Arts District, new student housing, and even East Campus hasn’t come to a complete halt. Yes, some parts of Route 1 will remain the same for quite some time, but we’re celebrating what’s happening in the short term – momentum.

    Unfortunately, the College Park we all want to see will not be complete for another 20 or so years. East Campus has been delayed by at least 2-3 years. Who knows what’s going on with the Cafritz property? Let’s not even mention North College park and the 3-4 projects that were canceled.

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