Thursday, December 16, 2010

why you'd want to live in college park (don't knock it until you've tried it)


Stormy Skies Over Plato's


It's hard to believe that the University of Maryland was facing a severe housing shortage just three years ago, where students were kicked out of off-campus housing protested by camping out in front of the library. According to an article in the Diamondback earlier this week, a slew of student apartment buildings currently under construction will result in some six thousand new beds.

I'm not sure what this actually means for College Park because of how sloppy the article's writing is. (Forgive me for being nitpicky with a student newspaper that I once wrote for.) Writer Alicia McCarty includes a quote from an SGA representative that the Board of Regents wants to increase undergraduate enrollment by 45,000 students by 2020. Of course, that refers to the entire state university system, but the way McCarty writes it implies that College Park alone would gain 45,000 students, nearly tripling its current enrollment.

But the worst quote of all belongs to SGA President Steve Glickman, who explains that we don't really need housing for non-students in College Park because no one would live there after graduation:
Student Government Association President Steve Glickman agreed, adding that students simply don't view College Park as a place to live after graduation because, unlike surrounding areas such as Silver Spring, it lacks adequate job opportunities.

"It would be very hard to live here," he said. "It's certainly not a place where you would want to raise a family or a place where you would develop a career, either."

"It's not an extraordinary city, just a livable community, and that's unfortunate," he added.
The sad thing is that Glickman is a senior, which means he's had four years to live in College Park and get to know the place instead of spouting ignorant crap like that. Apparently, he hasn't realized that the city has over 27,000 permanent residents, many of whom are adults who chose to raise families and build lives there. Or that the University System of Maryland the state's second-largest employer, with over 35,000 workers, most of whom are in College Park.

Perhaps Glickman meant that College Park doesn't have much to attract a new graduate. I can count at least a half-dozen of my friends who spent their first years out of school living in College Park or nearby in Hyattsville, Mount Rainier or Greenbelt. There may not be as many nasty underage bars in town, but there's still a lot of amenities in the area that draw people there - decent schools, nice, quiet neighborhoods, and quick access to Metro and the Beltway all for much less than you'd pay in other places.

During my four years in College Park, I had to endure constant complaints from my fellow students about what a terrible place it was. Some of these kids, like Steve Glickman, are from outside of the area and might deserve forgiveness. The rest, who hail from places as distant as Bethesda or Bowie, should know better. As members of the University of Maryland community, we need to portray our school and the city it's located in the best light possible. It reflects poorly on us to do anything otherwise. Sure, push to make College Park better. But at least see it first.

As for the potential oversupply of student housing: back in October, I wrote that current student housing in College Park is either ridiculously dangerous or incredibly expensive. A glut of beds will mean lower rents, hopefully encouraging some of the 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students who commute to make the move to College Park. That'll make for busier shops and restaurants, more eyes on the street and a safer, more vibrant community. I can't think of a better outcome.

2 comments:

Dad said...

I think you're going too hard on the SGA representative. He mostly was saying the jobs aren't there and you don't present contrary data. There ARE 27,000 permanent residents, but is there evidence that others are trying to move in if there was more space? Is the micro-region's housing capacity sufficient for the existing employment needs?

I know from recent home hunting, there is a huge price bump for convenience to work or mass transit (for the types of stuff I was looking for, there was a $50K for the same house if it was withing a mile of silver spring or takoma metro). Yes College park might be cheaper, but the need to drive every day can completely overshadow the cost difference.

To be a bit more blunt, you didn't say in college park after graduation. Yes you liked it, but there was somewhere else that you liked more. Others make those same calculations.

The desirability of college park will change dramatically with the Purple line when other employment centers are a 20-30 minute train ride away. I suspect anyone building significant housing in the area is making an investment gamble on that lines completion.

Terry in Silver Spring said...

"Writer Alicia McCarty includes a quote from an SGA representative that the Board of Regents wants to increase undergraduate enrollment by 45,000 students by 2020. Of course, that refers to the entire state university system, but the way McCarty writes it implies that College Park alone would gain 45,000 students, nearly tripling its current enrollment."

Remember that the University system includes not only the campuses in Maryland, but also classes taught on military bases around the world and places like Munich. UMUC is doing a lot of distance learning (online) now and has put in satellite campuses in Shady Grove and Largo/Landover. If you count everything up, it's one of the larger university systems overall.