Sunday, April 20, 2014 10:04 PM
Rendering of Knox Village Development, Courtesy Photo
Published on: Wednesday, November 27, 2013
By Yevgeniy Trapeznikov, Special to The Sentinel
By Yevgeniy Trapeznikov
Special to The Sentinel
Currently Knox Box is, perhaps, the cheapest off-campus housing complex that University of Maryland, College Park students can enjoy. But in fewer than three years, the residential area confined between Knox and Hartwick roads on the north and south respectively as well as Guilford and Rossburg drives on the east and the west, could perhaps entice University of Maryland students as one of the closest and definitely the newest off-campus housing areas.
In late October, the College Park City Council approved development project which will turn Knox Box into a modern multi-storied apartment facility, containing about 445 residential units (1,575-1,582 beds), 11,909-12,325 square feet of retail space and a two-level parking garage.
According to the description in the detailed site plan provided by the City staff, the development consists of three parcels.
Parcel 1, located at the intersection of Knox Road, Guilford Drive and Hartwick Road, will consist of two multifamily buildings and a 490-space parking garage with a number of bicycle parking spaces.
This parcel includes two six-storied buildings (designated as Building A and Building B) with internal yards, dwelling units and retail space.
The courtyard for the Building A is proposed to contain a swimming pool and deck, open lawn area/volleyball court, outdoor TV, a fire place, a large screen for movie projections, and outdoor clubroom expansion areas with seating, dining, built-in grills and a bar area.
A smaller courtyard for the less spacious Building B is intended for more passive activities. It will include a water feature, an open lawn area, seating areas with dining, built-in grills and bar area, an outdoor TV, a fire pit and library extension areas with seating.
Parcel 2, a triangular parcel located at the intersection of Hartwick Road and Guilford Drive, consists of a five-storied multifamily building with 57 dwelling units and a four-storied townhouse building containing 8-two over two townhouse units.
Parcel 3, located on the southern leg of Rossburg Drive – which is now a dead end – consists of two four-storied buildings, one containing four two-over-two townhouse units and the other containing five two-over-two townhouse units.
According to the detailed site plan, a 66-foot wide landscaped sidewalk will connect buildings A and B featuring a “grand staircase designed into the sidewalk” providing amphitheater seating which can be used as a gathering area for students to lounge and study.
The project, tentatively named “Knox Village,” will be handled by Toll Brothers, a Pennsylvania-based company known for designing and marketing luxury homes.
College Park Economic Development Coordinator, Michael Stiefvater, said that estimated value of the project is well over $100 million. According to Stiefvater, the construction of Knox Village will be a significant investment which will also bring tax revenue to both the county and the city.
Most of the current apartments in the area do not have washing machines and lack in amenities like heating system. Such inconveniences, however, provided for the biggest students’ appeal – price.
Therefore, some students believe that the new Knox Village will make housing in the area less affordable.
“They’ll try to make it affordable but the Knox Box is extremely cheap right now. However, I think it’s going to target more affluent students. So, where the low-income students will go?” said Ben Groeger, a senior University of Maryland student, who has been living in Knox Box for the last three years.
“I think the prices will go up as there will be more amenities,” said Alex Stansbury, a sophomore student who has moved to Knox Box past semester.
Nevertheless, students do want to see changes.
Groeger said he wanted to see more responsive management in terms of fixing things that are broken. Stansbury said it would be good if there could be a grocery store.
According to Stiefvater, it is planned to have three-four retail places for businesses but he could not say what kind of those businesses would be.
“It’s too early to name possible tenants at this stage. Perhaps, a restaurant, coffee shop, dry cleaner – something along these lines,” said Stiefvater. “As the area does not have a lot of room, it is hard to say whether big chain companies would like to become tenants.”
Matthew Popkin, UMD student majoring in Government and Politics and running for city council seat, said that Knox Village proposal has been a long time overdue.
“Current property is deteriorating. It’s not properly kept up and not very well planned.”
Popkin, who is representing College Park constituency from the 3d District, said that the city needed to encourage more of such projects.
“There’ve been a few projects concerning Route 1 development but the things went really slow compared with Hyattsville, Silver Spring, Bethesda. We need to be forward-thinking toward what College Park is going to be in a decade.”
According to the 2002 General Plan, the Knox Box property is located in the Developed Tier meaning “a network of sustainable, transit-supporting, mixed-use pedestrian-oriented, medium- to high-density neighborhoods.”
One of the major highlights facing the developer is a provision of safe bicycle and pedestrian travel as well as addressing related traffic concerns.
Knox Village will provide 314 bicycle parking lots, twice as many as a conditional requirement by city council.
With a view to improve traffic circulation, it was proposed to restore Knox Road to a two-way street. Once the project is completed, it is estimated that trip generation rate will increase five-fold in the morning and six-fold in the evening peaks.
To address security concerns – as recommended by the Prince George’s County Police Department – Knox Village will provide for emergency call boxes and cameras throughout the site that tie into the University of Maryland system.
With the construction about to start next summer, the opening deadline is set to fall 2016.