Developers, College Park reach deal on Book Exchange project -- Gazette.Net



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Developers and College Park officials have reached a compromise on the design of a student housing and retail complex at the site of the Maryland Book Exchange in the city, but some officials say the building would still be too large.

City officials and representatives of the New York-based developer R&J Co. had been locked in a yearlong battle over the size of the project, which spans an entire block. City officials and residents argued the building was too large when compared with the surrounding residential community.

Michelle La Rocca, a Largo-based attorney representing New York-based property owner R&J Co. LLC, said the compromise was sparked by a design proposal offered by the City of College Park at a Prince George’s County Planning Board hearing in October.

“After the meeting, we met with the city, and said, ‘You guys put something up there, so let’s talk about trying to make that work,’” La Rocca said.

The latest proposal, which was approved unanimously Tuesday by the Prince George’s County Council, which meets as the District Council on land-use issues, removes a controversial two-story slanted roof from the building on the side that faces a residential neighborhood, leaving three stories of apartments with a flat roof.

The city was also able to secure a maximum of 287 units in the apartment complex, down from 304 as proposed in September.

City Councilwoman Stephanie Stullich (Dist. 3), whose district includes the proposal site, said that while the city voted to support the new plan, she voted against it.

“I don’t think anyone in College Park is happy with this compromise in a sense that it is still a building that is really out of scale with the neighborhood,” Stullich said. “But at the same time, you have to make decisions about what you think is less bad.”

Stullich said that it was better to get what concession the city could on the building design, rather than risk getting none if the city chose to fight the development in court.

“Sometimes you have to decide that it’s in your best interest to take the compromise you can get, rather than gambling somewhere down the road,” she said.

ewagner@gazette.net