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Greystar Continues Student Housing Push With College Park Development, Acquisition

A busy intersection just off the University of Maryland campus is slated for a major mixed-use development as multifamily giant Greystar continues to lean into student housing. 

A rendering of Greystar's project near the intersection of Baltimore Avenue and Knox Road in College Park.

The Prince George's County Planning Board is scheduled April 30 to hear Greystar's proposal for a 343-unit develoment near the intersection of Baltimore Avenue and Knox Road in College Park

The project was first revealed in a preliminary plan application in September, but  new planning board filings include renderings that show how the project is expected to take shape and the visibility it will have from College Park's main Baltimore Avenue corridor.

The development will require the demolition of a series of long-standing College Park retailers, including Marathon Deli, Krazi Kebob, Café Hookah, Kevin Nails, Lotsa Pizza and Insomnia Cookies. It will leave standing the Potbelly's, Nando's Peri-Peri and the Baltimore Avenue retailers between them, plus the Terrapin Turf bar on Knox Road.

A rendering of Sterling Place, the private street with retail at Greystar's proposed College Park development.

The proposed nine-story building would include 24K SF of retail space. It would feature a private, interior street called Sterling Place that would have ground-floor retail on both sides.

Its 343 apartments would be geared toward students seeking off-campus housing, according to the application. The amenities would include a fitness area, social lounge and outdoor courtyard. WDG Architecture is serving as the project's architect. 

Greystar is partnering on the project with Terrapin Development Co., the economic development venture created by the University of Maryland and led by UMD alumnus and former Howard County Executive Ken Ulman

The Prince George's County Planning Department staff recommended approval of the project. The Planning Board is scheduled to consider it April 30 at a virtual hearing, a practice it began last month amid the coronavirus pandemic.  

The project is not Greystar's only recent activity in the College Park student housing market. Last month, it acquired The Varsity, a 263-unit building at 8150 Baltimore Ave., for $148M. The deal, first reported by CoStar, closed March 27. The investor received a $92.5M loan from JPMorgan Chase Bank for the acquisition, property records show. 

"As evidenced by our recent acquisition of the Varsity and our partnership with Terrapin Development Co., Greystar strongly believes in the University of Maryland’s continued growth and looks forward to being an integral member of the College Park community," Greystar Managing Director John Clarkson said in a statement emailed to Bisnow

A rendering of Greystar's College Park project, shown from the southwest corner of the University of Maryland campus.

Charleston, South Carolina-based Greystar became one of the largest U.S. student housing owners in 2018 with its $4.6B acquisition of EDR. The firm first entered the student housing business in 2009 with its acquisition of JPI. Greystar CEO Bob Faith told Bisnow in 2018 he views student housing as a recession-resistant asset class. 

"What we've seen with student housing, it's almost countercyclical," Faith said at the time. "During the global financial crisis, enrollment went up, people went back to school to improve their skills or change their focus to get a job."

But the current economic crisis has presented challenges for student housing not seen in past downturns. The University of Maryland is one of many schools that has canceled in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester because of the coronavirus.

Student housing leaders have said they expect properties around Tier 1 universities — those with 20,000 or more students — will remain stable. Landmark Properties, Texla Housing Partners and Harrison Street each said last week they are seeing rent collections above 90% at their properties around Tier 1 schools. 

Clarkson, in his statement to Bisnow, said Greystar is confident in its student housing properties because the company focuses on large universities in the Power 5 conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference.

"Steady during periods of economic expansion and defensive during economic uncertainty, our student housing platform invests in and develops on and off Power 5 conference campus housing," Clarkson said. "We look forward to seeing this pandemic end and continuing our efforts with our university partners across the country."