A majority of the long-standing Knox Box apartments will be demolished this summer in preparation for Knox Village, a housing development unanimously approved by the College Park City Council on Tuesday night.
Knox Village is slated to offer 429 units and 1,567 beds, according to documents provided by WDG Architecture, the project’s developer. WDG Managing Principal Robert Keane said the firm plans to start construction this summer in order to complete the first phase by fall 2016.
The vote for the redevelopment of the housing complexes was a “landmark occasion,” said College Park Mayor Andy Fellows on Tuesday night. Discussions about tearing down the Knox Boxes have been ongoing for more than a dozen years, and District 4 Councilman Marcus Afzali said he’s thrilled to be a part of the demolition. “The fact that I get to do that makes me happy beyond belief,” Afzali said.
For the past six months, the Toll Brothers development company has worked with local politicians and the City Council to win approval for the Knox development, Keane said.
“That definitely influenced the design a bit,” he said, adding the development was “a little more modern” initially. Blue-light phones will be installed on the property, and the council also revised the number of light fixtures around the buildings.
The housing complex will hold two retail spaces, Keane said, and developers hope the larger of the two will appeal to a restaurant like Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville. The development will also boast a large outside area with a “grand staircase” modeled off the Spanish Steps in Rome.
“They want faculty, staff, students, visitors — the whole nine yards — coming to this site,” he said. “The Toll Brothers want this to be very competitive with The Varsity and with the View.”
The development will also offer an array of housing options, from studio apartments and town houses to more cost-effective two-bedroom, two-bathroom options for groups of four students.
Knox Village will be the sixth off-campus apartment complex constructed along Route 1 in College Park in the past decade, and plans for another are underway at the former site of the Maryland Book Exchange. But College Park Economic Development Coordinator Michael Stiefvater said there are no concerns of student housing reaching a saturation point any time soon.
“For a long period of time, there was an unmet demand for people to live close to campus,” Stiefvater said. “It’s kind of been, maybe, a pent-up demand.”
District 3 Councilwoman Stephanie Stullich, whose district will include Knox Village, said the project will be in a prime location near the campus and should provide great amenities.
Initially, Stullich said the developers wanted the retail space to appeal to a larger base of consumers, not just students, but she suggested the primary focus should be on student residents.
City Council Student Liaison Catherine McGrath said the location and modern design of Knox Village will appeal to students. The developers presented the project to the Student Government Association on Oct. 16, and McGrath said the overall response was positive.
“All of the [SGA] representatives were very excited about the possibilities,” McGrath said.