Many of the Knox Box apartments are likely to be demolished in the upcoming months, presenting an immediate problem for students who already have signed leases for the upcoming academic year.
The development company Toll Brothers is finalizing the sale of the property and is “very confident” the sale will be completed in early August, said Todd Dumaresq, Toll Brothers marketing manager.
When the sale is finalized, Dumaresq said Toll Brothers will contact the apartments’ current tenants and inform them that their leases are being terminated. At that point, they will have 90 days to leave their residences and find new housing.
“We would like to get moving as quickly as possible,” Dumaresq said. “The plan is once the sale closes, the early termination clause will be enacted and they will be demolished from there once they have moved everyone out.”
The leases’ termination clause reads as follows:
“In the event that Landlord transfers any interest in title to the Premises or is given authority to redevelop the Premises (involving the demolition or substantial (over 50%) renovation of the Premises), Landlord shall have the right to terminate this Lease by giving Tenant ninety (90) days advance written notice. Tenant shall vacate the Premises upon the expiration of the ninety (90) day notice period.”
The development company will be demolishing all but four of the Knox Box residences. The buildings at 4205, 4210, 4214 and 4218 Knox Road will remain, according to College Park Economic Development Coordinator Michael Stiefvater.
The buildings Toll Brothers plans to develop are shaded in yellow.
Jacob Butler, a senior astronomy and physics major, has signed a lease for the upcoming academic year for unit 4304B, one of the residences likely to be demolished, and he said he has not received any information from management regarding lease termination.
Butler said the last time Knox Box management contacted the renters was in January, informing them that the Knox Boxes would be demolished sometime next year. He added that he would not be surprised if the management were planning to knock down the buildings soon, even though they haven’t informed tenants, based on his previous communication with the Knox Box property manager.
“Based on my past interactions with her, we will have probably the minimum amount of legally required notice,” Butler said.
Property Manager Gosia Sylla refused to discuss the matter in detail, instead issuing a statement on behalf of the complex’s management:
“Knox Management LLC is actively renting for 2014-2015 academic year. We still have a few apartments available, so anyone who would like to experience a Knox Box living should call us immediately at 301-776-0162! If Toll Brothers close on the deal, they are required to honor signed leases.”
That statement was released in May. Last week, Sylla said she stands by the statement and has nothing new to add.
Dumaresq confirmed Wednesday afternoon that it is very likely the sale will go through in the coming weeks.
Stiefvater said he believes that if the tenants were displaced, the university’s Department of Resident Life would assist students in finding housing. Resident Life could not be reached for comment.
“We’re trying to help all these students who have signed leases for the new school year, we’re trying to get the word out there,” Dumaresq said. “We want to help make this an easy process for everybody.”
The College Park City Council approved a plan in October to redevelop the space, and the Prince George’s County Planning Board approved it in November.
Terrapin Row, the new apartment complex, is scheduled to be open for leasing in fall 2016, and will contain 418 units spread over three buildings and two sets of townhouses, totaling around 1,493 beds. The Knox Boxes hold more than 400 beds, Stiefvater said.
Photo courtesy of Toll Brothers.
Butler said he understands benefits of the new development, though he is going to miss the Knox Box apartments. The new complex will include a fitness center, self-contained courtyards with outdoor recreational activities and study rooms on every floor, Dumaresq said.
“When you live in a Knox Box, you don’t live in it for the quality of living, but the location and the yard,” he said. “One of the coolest things about the Knox Boxes is that because they are in such close proximity, it provides a very communal, family-like atmosphere.
“Coming in and building this new apartment complex will change the dynamics of that field.”
Butler said that if his apartment were demolished, he would be angry with the management for the short notice.
“That would be a lot of extra work for me,” he said. “Based on my experience looking for housing, that would be a very difficult thing.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story misstated the month Knox Box Property Manager Gosia Sylla released her statement. This article has been updated to reflect the correct information.
Jon Banister is a sophomore journalism major covering the University Senate and administration affairs. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @J_Banister.