The University District Vision encourages University and City employees to live in the City they work, thereby reducing commutes, strengthening neighborhoods, and supporting our local economy. Learn about the people who have successfully used this program to purchase homes in College Park.
Read about first home buyer’s profile here, our second profile here, our third profile here, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth , twenty-first, twenty-second, twenty-third, twenty-fourth, twenty-fifth, twenty-sixth, twenty-seventh, twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth, thirtieth, thirty-first, thirty-second, thirty-third and thirty-fourth.
BRIAN CONNOR, VILEY SENTHEP AND JULIAN
Brian started as a lecturer in the University of Maryland’s Department of Sociology in the beginning of the 2016 fall semester. He previously lived in Texas, working for the University of Texas at Arlington. Viley has worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington D.C. for 7 years. So, when Brian was able to obtain a position at the University of Maryland, they were able to reunite and live together again. They had been living in Arlington, VA, “and that made my commute to UMD at best a 35-minute and at worst a 90-minute drive, or a 70-minute commute by Metro.”
Brian befriended another one of the Homeownership Program’s users, Long Doan, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology – “and we’d go out with Long and Tim [Long’s husband] in College Park.” They mentioned that when they started exploring the area, they really liked it, “and when we expressed an interested in buying a home, Long told us about the Homeownership Program and we started to look at places in the area.”
They had started looking at places in Virginia – like in Alexandria and Arlington, but as Viley explained, “the options there are much smaller and cost more” … Viley went into labor with Julian the week of their home closing … “so part of the decision to move here was having more space for our family.” “Plus, the program really helped us have more equity in this place faster, with lower monthly payments due to a larger down payment,” explained Brian.
They decided they wanted to live in a friendly community that was walkable to a metro, “Greenbelt metro isn’t quite walkable, but it’s a 5-minute drive.” Brian intends to continue to drive since he foresees taking Julian to a to-be-determined day care at some point. “But the drive to work now is only about 10-12 minutes now, which is excellent.” He also mentioned he might try biking but had not yet explored the nearby trails because they hadn’t finished moving in yet.
Viley is excited for the parks and green space nearby and Brian, a coffee-enthusiast, mentioned that the College Park Vigilante Coffee Co. location was an excellent thing to have open because “it’s closer for us to get to.” They are both excited to live closer to campus, because now they can participate more in the campus events and events in community with colleagues, go to concerts and visit galleries in the area instead of commuting.
Eric Mantz was born and raised in Florida. He worked in college athletics in Florida until 2012, when a job in his field opened up at the University of Maryland College Park – and he has been here ever since. When he made the move to College Park six years ago, he chose to rent in College Park, “I’ve never wanted to live more than 5-10 minutes away from work – I strongly dislike a long commute.” Eric typically drives to work, but will “on a nice day, bike ride – I did that yesterday actually!”
Eric mentioned that he had been watching the real estate market in the area for a while, knowing that he wanted to buy at some point, and when he got a promotion at the University, he decided this was the right time to make the move.
When he started looking for homes, Eric went to an open house where he met Jean Pirovic and her team, a local real estate firm. “I mentioned in the conversation that I worked for the University and she in turn asked me whether I had heard about this Homeownership Program.” So, he started researching the program and visited the Partnership’s website. “I essentially built my home buying team around people who knew about the Program to make sure it was as easy as possible” – his lender and title company, Prosperity Home Mortgage and RGS Title, respectively, had both used the program for previous home sales.
Eric also used the City of College Park’s New Neighbors Grant program, which can be coupled with the Partnership’s program to provide $5,000 on top of the $15,000 to purchase homes that are former rentals registered with the City, foreclosures, or homes that are considered new construction. “I saw the house, and it was at the right price point – plus I knew it was a former rental, and that made the decision easier.”
Eric explained that he thought the Program was extremely valuable, and that it really can make a difference for first-time homebuyers “trying to find a way to cover the closing costs. … College Park has a lot of good things happening here, and I really wanted to be a part of it all, so I’m happy I was able to make that dream happen, and this Program really helped.”
ADELAI AND THOMAS ANSTINE
Adelai, who goes by Addie, just graduated from the University of Maryland last year and was able to get her “dream job” of working at the Center for Young Children (CYC) – a highly sought-after pre-kindergarten on campus. Thomas is an electrician with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union 26, currently working out of Beltsville.
Addie heard about the Homeownership Program from a co-worker at the CYC who recently used the program, “we were thinking about moving, but we would’ve just chosen a condo somewhere around College Park if this program was not available.”
While Addie was studying at the University, they lived in Laurel – and the commute was up to 45-minutes, depending on traffic. Now the commute is only ever about 15 minutes. Both Addie and Thomas drive to work, but Addie drives an electric car. “By moving to College Park, I only charge my car one to two times per week instead of everyday!”
One of the factors that made them choose the Hollywood neighborhood of College Park, and their new house specifically, was the diversity in the neighborhood. As Thomas remarked, “there are older residents, young people – we may be the youngest, but there are families, working people and retired people – it’s great!” Addie commented that when they were looking at houses, one of the reasons that they decided on this one was “there were kids who crossed our backyard to ask kids on the other side of our house to come out to play, which was refreshing to see!”
Addie and Thomas are excited to be living in College Park. Their cat Henry, a 6-month old stray they found outside of the CYC, is also enjoying the new digs. They are happy to have their own space and are looking forward to when the new MOM’s Organic Market opens.
Jason grew up in Columbia, Maryland and graduated from the University of Maryland. He has worked with the University of Maryland’s Inter Collegiate Athletics Department for eight years as an Assistant Director of Broadcasting and Production – Game Analysis. He explained his job as working in the “Olympic Sports” – “so I coordinate all of the sports you might see in the Olympics – soccer, lacrosse, to name a few.”
Jason had been living in Silver Spring for 7 years, but last June decided to move close to the University, and found a place to rent in Berwyn Heights, which shortened his commute by 20 minutes or so. “The drive from Silver Spring was about 30 minutes, on a good day. And you always have to qualify that by saying ‘on a good day’ – needless to say, moving closer significantly cut down on my drive time to work.” Now his commute will be about 10-12 minutes on any day.
He heard about the Homeownership Program through a talk on economic development in College Park held by Ken Ulman, a Board Member of the Partnership, and President of the Terrapin Development Corporation. He wasn’t yet ready to buy at that time, but when he started his search, he was reminded by colleagues of the Homeownership Program. Jason had been thinking about moving to other areas, but the Homeownership Program helped him focus on, and purchase in, College Park.
Plus, the location of his new home is perfect: he is a fan of the Old Line Bistro in Beltsville which is now about a 5 minute drive, he’s close to UMD for work, and to the Hollywood Shopping Center, and he can get to downtown College Park in just a few minutes too. “It was advantageous for me to become a homeowner here because “[the City] is on the cusp of growing a lot and is becoming a destination area.”
Jennifer Haislip has worked at the Center for Young Children for just over 16 years as a Program Administrative Specialist. She has worked in the University of Maryland’s College of Education for nearly 20 years.
Jennifer found out about the Homeownership Program because she helps staff at the Center for Young Children with issues related to human resources, and someone had a question about benefits. When she went to the website for University Human Resources benefits, she saw the Homeownership Program listed, and did some research on it.
They had been thinking about moving and getting out of the “rental cycle” before learning about the program, but the house prices in the area were going up quickly and they weren’t sure they could make buying a home happen. “We had been thinking of moving, we looked at Glendale, Greenbelt, and other places in the area, but the amount provided, $15,000, really made us focus on College Park – it made the move to College Park doable.”
When considering which neighborhood to live in, the Hollywood area made sense because Amanda works in Greenbelt, and their son Logan is an eighth grader at Greenbelt Middle School. The energy of the area is “our speed – there is public transportation, a local farmer’s market, a nice shopping center, easy access to other areas, families to interact with – and solar panels everywhere.”
Jennifer, Amanda and Logan are a one-car family. Jennifer used to drive to the CYC, which would take about 15-20 minutes in the morning with traffic, and about 30 minutes on the way home. Within a few days of their move, Jennifer tried the UM Shuttle, “and it was super easy – it was only a 7-minute walk to the stop and 15 minutes tops on the bus. It is free for employees at the University, so I think I’ll do it again.”
Jennifer, Amanda and Logan, along with their pets, Lilly, Cricket and Lexi, are all happy to “be home in a place of their own, with a backyard.” Their advice for UMD employees is to use the program because “it’s the easiest part of the home buying process, and you get to live close to work.”
Chauncey Moore has worked in the Division of Information Technology as a network engineer for six months. He is an alumnus of the University of Maryland, graduating in 2008. After graduation, he started as an IT Coordinator/Engineer at the University, but then left after a couple of years to go into the private sector. Chauncey is from the DC region, growing up in Takoma DC and his father also works at the University of Maryland. He wanted to stay in the area, and has many friends who live in the Hollywood neighborhood of College Park, “so it just made sense to try to live here, especially if you are a University of Maryland employee planning to stay at the University for a while.” Upon his return to the University in April 2017, he decided College Park was where he wanted to live.
Chauncey learned about the Program initially from a 2015 Smart Place to Live Series event hosted by the Partnership, the City Neighborhood Quality of Life Committee and the University’s Office of Community Engagement, “I was thinking about buying a house for a long time, and then heard about this program through an event at City Hall which helped me decide to try for College Park. When I was ready to purchase, I just checked back in to see if the program was still active.”
Chauncey was also able to couple the Partnership Homeownership Program’s $15,000 with the City’s $5,000 New Neighbor Grant, “I sought to buy in College Park because of the Partnership’s program. My real estate agent knew of the City’s program, and showed me homes that would qualify for it – which was a great bonus. And coupling the two programs was very easy.”
The house is on a quiet street, and in a great location. “It’s close to MOM’s Organic Market in the Hollywood Shopping Center and Sardi’s Peruvian Chicken in Beltsville.” It’s also only a 15-minute bike ride to the University, and, although he had purchased a parking permit for this year, he plans to bike or use the UM-Shuttle Bus in the next year because of the convenience. “The house is great, I’m going to get work done in the bathrooms and kitchen, but it has good bones and it’s not far from everything I need.”
Lauren Grant has worked at the University for six years, the last three in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Her husband, Alex Campbell, has undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Maryland in Government and Politics and Public Policy, receiving his Masters degree in 2010.
Lauren had heard about the Partnership’s Homeownership Program a couple years ago and kept the email on file for when they decided to buy a home.
Both Lauren and Alex grew up in the area – Silver Spring, Bowie and Burtonsville. They have seen College Park and the University attract investment and they like the new restaurants and the way the area – both on and off campus – is developing. They like how Baltimore Avenue is becoming more walkable and are excited the Purple Line light rail line will be coming.
Alex enjoys local businesses like the Jerk Pit, the newly opened Kapnos Taverna, the Comic Book Store, Nando’s, and meeting up with friends at Looney’s, among other businesses. Lauren says she likes her proximity “to Moms Organic Market and the Farmers Market, as well as being close to Washington, DC, family, and being close to work.”
Alex has always been a Maryland sports fan and they love attending basketball and football games. Alex noted how this fall, he walked to campus for football games, calling it “a nice walk to campus” from their north College Park home.
They say the Homeownership Program was easy to use, and Alex says they chose to buy in College Park “because of the location of Lauren’s work and due to the generosity of the program.”
Roger Paz has worked for the University of Maryland for 10 years as a mechanic in the Department of Transportation Services. He and his wife Iris, who works at a hair salon, moved from Mount Rainier, Maryland.
Roger had heard about the program through a colleague at work. His supervisor helped him translate the parameters of the program, and go through the application process. “It was a very easy experience for me, even without much English – the program is very straightforward, which is very helpful,” explained Roger.
They made the decision to purchase in College Park because of the program – they were looking for more space than their current apartment provided, and the program made it possible for them to purchase now.
When they were looking for homes in College Park, they found this house, “and it’s in a nice quiet and calm neighborhood – our neighbors are nice.” They like Buffalo Wild Wings.
Their children, Iris and Jason, are enrolled in local public schools so they wanted to stay close enough to be able to continue in those schools. Roger explained that he would still drive to work because he picks the kids up from school every day, but that “my commute has improved – it’s only a 5 minute drive.”
And, Jason, especially, is happy to have more space and a yard – “I like to play soccer, so this is an improvement,” said Jason.
Jeri has worked at the University of Maryland’s Health Center’s Mental Health Services Department for almost 7 years as the Coordinator for Triage Services and Suicide Prevention. She and her husband, Austin, and daughter had rented in Silver Spring for many years but decided to buy in Prince George’s County because the housing is more affordable, and “we have several friends in the area.”
Jeri had seen an email regarding the College Park City-University Partnership’s Homeownership Program, which provides a $15,000 forgivable loan for UMD employees moving to College Park, but she “had forgotten about it until a colleague reminded her.” Once she inquired about the program, she found that the process for accessing the Program was painless. “My lender was very familiar with it and it all went quickly and smoothly. I would definitely recommend it to others.”
They had initially considered Hyattsville, but when they learned of the Partnership’s Homeownership Program, they decided to focus on College Park – and fell in love with the Berwyn neighborhood, “it has large trees and older homes” and luckily, during their search, they found a lovely old home with lots of character.
Moving to College Park has been great for Jeri’s commute – “I used to drive about 30 minutes to work and pay parking fees. Now I ride my bike daily to work, [which is] a great way to start my day and it only takes 10-15 minutes.”
KISHORE PALANIRAJA AND MENMOZHI KISHORE
Kishore has worked in UMD Department of Information Technology as a senior engineer for almost 3 years. He and his family moved from North Potomac in Montgomery County to be closer to the University and because his eldest daughter, Nivedhitha, is a UMD student. “I wanted our family to be closer to her as well.”
His prior commute was by bus from Gaithersburg, although sometimes he would drive. Either way it was was a “one or one and a half hour commute and my doctor recommended shortening that.”
He and Menmozhi heard about the Partnership’s Homeownership Program through the University Human Resources office. “It’s an excellent program and the assistance comes in handy when you are deciding how to live closer to your employment.”
They chose the Daniel’s Park neighborhood based on a friend’s advice. “And I can take the UM Shuttle from here, or bike when the weather is nice.”
Kevin Fahey is moving to College Park from Rockville, Maryland because he wanted to be closer to work. His son was recently accepted to the University and his daughter is a recent graduate. Kevin has been working in Facilities Management for the last 8 years, and his commute was at best 35 minutes and at worst 90, “it’s frustrating – when you live that far away and at the whim of the Beltway. It makes it very hard to want to come back to the University after work to go to exciting events – like basketball and other events.”
When he decided to move closer, he started looking in Greenbelt and in College Park. But, he knew that he liked the Berwyn neighborhood, because he frequents Fishnet, a locally-owned restaurant. And the Homeownership Program made finding a house in College Park even more attractive. “I like this area – the houses are spread out and the neighbors are nice. A lot of them have been here awhile, so it’s a great neighborhood.”
Now, he’ll be able to bike to work or even walk. “My office is only about a mile down the road from here, so I’m thinking I won’t renew my UMD parking pass. It’ll be pretty rare that I’ll ever have to drive.” And he said he can get a pack of day passes if he needs to drive.
As he moves in, he said he’s looking forward to seeing the Discovery District developing and the new Lidl grocery store coming in near his house. “I’m punching myself a little bit, living in College Park will let me participate in the gems on the campus and in the community.”
JOSH, FINN AND BENJAMIN WESTGARD
Josh came to the University of Maryland to get a Master’s Degree in Library Science in 2006. Originally from South Dakota, he has been working in the UMD Library’s Department of Digital Systems and Stewardship since 2014.
He heard about this program through the College Park City-University Partnership’s e-newsletter that goes out every Friday. “The Associate Dean actually circulates this newsletter to the whole department every week,’ said Josh. He had decided to move closer to the University, from Silver Spring, but hadn’t decided where. He had looked for houses in Riverdale Park, Berwyn Heights, and University Park. “But when I heard about this program, it really influenced me to look at houses in the City of College Park.”
Josh is an avid bicyclist and will now be able to bike to work more often. “This house is great because the Trolley Trail is so close – and I can use it to get to the University quickly and take Finn and Benjamin out for a ride – College Park has a lot of great trails.” He is thinking that he needs part-time parking at the University because he’ll have to drive on certain days to take Finn and Benjamin to school.
He also has major plans to update and renovate the house. “The program really helped because I am now able to make the house more livable.” He already added a new roof to the house and his next plans include fixing up the attic so that it has 2 bedrooms for Finn and Benjamin, opening up the kitchen, maybe adding central air, and finishing the basement. The basement was half finished and probably used as a rental space, and Josh wants to make it a family room.
Josh is excited about living in College Park because “There’s so much that’s happening here including great Farmers Markets and businesses like the Board and Brew. It’s an exciting time to live in the City.”
ERIC, SHELBY AND AUDRA BYRD
Eric and Shelby’s lease near the Prince George’s Plaza Metro station was coming up and they decided to look at purchasing a home in the area. As self-described “anti-commuters” they wanted to stay close to both the University and to transportation that would help Shelby take the train to work, where she is a Dynamic Training Professional/Instructional Designer for a company downtown. “Being close to work is so important to us,” Eric explained, “a long commute is a big part of your life!”
While they looked at houses in College Park, Hyattsville, Greenbelt, Berwyn Heights, Beltsville, Takoma Park, and Silver Spring, when they found the Homeownership Program, they decided College Park was the option for them. “It was a ‘no-brainer’ for us,” said Eric. Eric has been working in the IT Services Department since 2001 and has seen the positive changes in the area.
“When we were looking at houses, and we found this one, we had always heard that College Park Woods was an established neighborhood with a good reputation,” said Eric. This was confirmed when they came to see the house and went to the Annual College Park Woods Picnic. “There is a real diversity of people, from people who have been here for 50 years to people who rent to young families and elderly folks – it’s a real neighborhood,” Shelby said, adding “there’s a real sense of community here.”
Eric and Shelby both grew up in the vicinity – Eric in Howard County and Shelby in Arlington County. Eric’s family are proud Terps – he is a 2nd generation Terrapin and “Audra [only 7 months old] is the 3rd!” – his mother was one of the first women to graduate in Mathematics at the University. Eric grew up going to UMD football and basketball games and proudly supporting the Terps every season. Shelby, who grew up near the W&OD Trail in Virginia is also a classical singer, and she too loves the University. Audra, their 7-month old, has already been to football and basketball games – and she is on the waitlist for the Campus’ Center for Young Children already.
All in all this location is perfect for this new family. “There’s a park across the street, there’s a room that would work for our music, it’s close to the University, and it’s in a quiet and nice neighborhood. College Park is really great because there’s a lot going on here, but there’s also space to live – and that’s important to our family.”
AMANDA AND MATTHEW TOWNSEND
Amanda was recently hired as a development writer by the University of Maryland’s Department of Communications and Marketing. She grew up locally in Mount Rainier, Maryland and has seen the transformation of the Baltimore Avenue corridor and College Park, “it’s changed so much – so many great things are happening.”
She has wanted to live in College Park for a long time because it is “a nice place to live long term for families.” But she wasn’t sure if she would find a home in the City or if it would be affordable. She noted “house prices in College Park went up 14% last year!” She was looking at homes in College Park and Riverdale Park.
When Amanda heard about the Homeownership Program in the new employee orientation at the University, she immediately decided that she would take advantage of the opportunity to look for a house in College Park because the “$15,000 made it possible to afford the homes here.”
Amanda and Matt found their home and decided Hollywood was the right neighborhood because it was convenient for both of them to get to work and the neighborhood has “a lot of character” Amanda noted “Matt works on U-Street, so being close to the Green Line was important.” As for Amanda, she will likely drive to work, but may try the bus or bike commuting, “I may try it out using mBike [the City/University bikeshare program] so we’ll see.”
In addition, this was the right house and the right time, “the houses up here give you more bang for your buck in terms of size – and buying now, as a young couple gives us the opportunity to plan 3-5-10 years out.” She says she is “Looking forward to a good quality of life and commute, and making a home in College Park.”
Amanda said she told one of her colleagues that she was using this program, and that the colleague didn’t know how it would work, “but it’s really easy and really worth it.”
DON SCHMADEL AND YURI KUBOTA
Don and Yuri were among some of the first people to contact the Partnership about the Homeownership Program when it launched in 2015. They have lived in College Park, renting in the Old Town neighborhood, for almost 20 years.
When they heard about the program, they knew it would help them to afford to purchase a house. They began the search in summer 2015 but nothing seemed to quite work out until they found this house, “we came to an open house, and there were 5 other potential homebuyers – so we put an offer in right away!”
Don and Yuri explained that “it’s quiet, it’s safe, there are neighbors outside, lots of people go for walks here, and it’s close enough to the University.” Don estimated it was a 10 minute bus ride, a 10 minute bicycle ride and 25 minutes walking. He mentioned he would commute to work by walking, biking or taking the bus on different days. What he won’t be doing is driving. “Parking is expensive – and really everything goes up [in terms of expense] when you drive,” said Don.
Don is a technical coordinator in the Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Research at the University’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. He is an alumnus of the University, and has been working there for 15 years. He is originally from Pittsburgh and says the Daniel’s Park area has a feel “like home.” He says it reminds him of the working class neighborhood he grew up in, where “people are outside, not inside with the air conditioning, and where people know how to do things.” It is a friendly neighborhood, where they have been welcomed by neighbors – including the neighborhood kids.
Yuri has already started a garden in the backyard and she enjoys the on-campus yoga classes at the Recreation Center. They both remarked how everything they need is convenient to them in College Park.
YOEL AND KATHERINE IZSAK
Yoel and Katherine moved from Silver Spring, Maryland because they wanted to live in a place where they could have more space but also feel like they were in a city. Katherine is an 11-year employee of the University of Maryland, working as an associate director in the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).
As Yoel and Katherine started thinking about moving out of their condo in Silver Spring to have more space and a yard, Katherine mentioned that in the last few years, she has “seen the College Park area developing,” and considered that if they “didn’t make the move now, [they would] be priced out of the area.” In addition to Katherine being at the University five or six days a week for work, they know the area well due to several good friends who live nearby in Berwyn Heights and University Park.
So Yoel and Katherine started looking for houses around the University. Yoel’s main criteria for a neighborhood included being within walking distance of a metro stop. “Hollywood made sense for us because the Greenbelt Metro station is an easy walk from here.” According to Katherine, they were especially drawn to the neighborhood as an “older, treed, quieter area.”
“Our realtor informed us about City’s New Neighbor Grant program, which led us to the Partnership’s Homeownership Program.” They found the program’s process to be smooth, and extremely helpful because without the program, they wouldn’t be able to renovate their new digs. “The house has a great footprint, but hasn’t been updated since the 60s or 70s.” Now that Katherine’s commute is 20-30 minutes shorter, and Yoel has an easy commute to work in DC via the Green Line, they mentioned they are looking forward to spending more time outside in their backyard, visiting local restaurants like Franklin’s and Beltsville’s Old Line, and entertaining friends, who Katherine “hopes move to College Park too!”
HEATHER AND ROSWELL MUNDWILER
Heather began her employment at the University of Maryland at the School of Music in September 2016. Originally from Fairfax, VA, she and Roswell moved back to the area from Austin, Texas and were living in Rockville, MD to be close to Roswell’s job as a metrology technician. But, it was a long stressful commute for Heather – “about an hour door-to-door.”
Heather recalled that she heard about the Partnership’s Homeownership Program at her new employee training and they decided to explore settling down in College Park. She said the Homeownership Program was “one of the reasons we were drawn to College Park.” Upon confirming the program was still accepting applicants, they toured the neighborhoods in the City and the “stars aligned.” “The community is wonderful – a lot of the neighborhoods are quiet even being in a place where there’s a lot of growth. And we really loved this house. It’s 116 years old, and has a lot of history.” Another big indicator that College Park is an excellent community is the fact that there are a lot of parks and open public spaces. Said Roswell, “playgrounds are everywhere!”
Heather and Roswell are runners, so the Daniels Park neighborhood really appealed to them. It’s close to the Trolley Trail and they can run to Lake Artemesia or go running at Greenbelt Park. In fact, when asked how Heather would be commuting to work, she mentioned they are a one-car family and that she takes the UM Shuttle that stops a block from their home. She added she might also “run commute … I’m considering shuttling to work and running home.” Roswell mentioned that he was happy to become a resident of the City because he can also get a UM Shuttle pass – “which is a great way to get around the City.” Plus, with the Greenbelt Metro station being walkable from their home, they are going to be able to discover even more in the area.
They are excited about exploring the Farmers Markets, going out to restaurants in the area like Franklins in Hyattsville, and they have already signed up for the College Park 5K. And Heather’s hour commute by car? “Now I could walk to work, and probably make it under 45 minutes.”
LORI, DENNIS, GEORGE AND SAM PETTERSON
Lori began working in the University of Maryland’s School of Business four years ago. Her husband, Dennis, works at George Mason University in Virginia. They moved from Manassas Park, VA, a short distance from George Mason University.
When she started working for the University of Maryland’s School of Business, Lori found the roughly 46-mile commute was tough at rush hour. It was taking her 2.5 hours by train each way, making the work days roughly 13 hours long. “I was tired of the long commute. It prevented me from participating in after-work activities, and I wanted to be part of the community too.” Dennis, on the other hand, works overnight at George Mason University so his commute is much more manageable. “And he’s good with directions, so he can drive.”
They considered moving. “We started looking in the neighborhoods to rent first and get used to the area.” Lori said that several people – including her brother – thought that crime was an issue and discouraged them from living in College Park. So even though they wanted to move closer, they hadn’t specifically decided to make College Park their home.
When their oldest son George started at the University 2 years ago, it was evident to them that “College Park has really transformed over the last 10 years. It is safe here. It’s a great college town. And I’m going to invite those who discouraged it here for a BBQ to show them how great it is.”
Researching options for buying instead of renting, their realtor “really spearheaded this” and told them about the City’s New Neighbor Grant Program. With this information, they decided to target only the homes in the City that were eligible for this – namely homes that had been former rental properties. When they found the home they “fell in love with,” they approached the City and Partnership with plans to couple the City’s New Neighbor program and the Partnership’s Homeownership program.
Lori said the Homeownership program is “fantastic. It made it financially feasible to move, and we’re now able to put some money into fixing the house up.” Exploring various restaurants and shops they were happy to find Mama Lucia’s and to be close to stores like Ikea, BestBuy and Value Village. They also love being close to two parks. Lori plans to take the UM Shuttle or 83 bus “since they stop at the end of our street.”
Kecia Hansard is the Director of Diversity Initiatives in the Robert H. Smith School of Business Office of Diversity Initiatives. As a veteran employee of fifteen-plus years, and a UMD graduate originally from Boston, she has lived in many places in the metro area, including Washington DC and Takoma Park.
Kecia heard about the Homeownership Program at an event the Partnership hosted with the University of Maryland’s Office of Community Engagement in 2015. The purpose of the event was for UMD employees to learn about the University District Vision 2020 and the progress happening in College Park. The Homeownership Program was also first publicly announced at this event. Kecia said it was at this event that she received a brochure about living in College Park, “flipping through it, I realized I didn’t really know College Park like I thought I did.” So, she began to explore the neighborhoods. “I had been to businesses in Berwyn, to ZIPs and to Plato’s, which I miss, but I didn’t know about Lake Artemesia and the beautiful neighborhoods.”
Learning about the program came at the right time. Living in Washington, DC, she had started thinking about finding a quieter area that had a strong sense of community and things to do. The Partnership’s Homeownership Program seemed like a good deal and Kecia decided to put the wheels in motion to move. “I really love the farmer’s market on campus – it is really special – and the City of College Park seems to have strong, positive, civic participation, both exemplify a great community.”
She first started looking in Berwyn, but was open to other neighborhoods as well. One day, when scouting homes with her realtor in College Park Estates, she met a neighbor. “He was so nice and talked about how accessible and safe the area is. Our conversation was a real selling point for living here.” She is happy with her choice with regard to her commute. It had been 30 minutes to work and 22 minutes home and her commute now is only a fraction of that time. She said that if the UM Shuttle were accessible to the Estates, she would use it, but if not, then she would explore biking to work.
Happy with “this exceptional” Homeownership program, Kecia has already told at least 3 of her colleagues about it. Her advice to other employees is “be patient and open to the market. College Park is a really attractive place and it will only get better with the incoming Hotel, Whole Foods, and most exciting, the ArtHouse.”
LAURA, AARON AND MOLLY HOOD
Laura Hood is in her fourth year working at the University of Maryland. For two years, she commuted from Fairfax, where her husband, Aaron, worked at George Mason University. For the last two years, they reversed their arrangement, living in College Park in a sorority house where she served as a house director, in addition to her job as Coordinator for Student Entertainment events at the Stamp Student Union.
As they were living at the sorority house, they started thinking about where they wanted to settle. Laura says they “started looking in the area, mainly in Hyattsville and College Park,” and that “this is an area we could afford as well as being a short commute to work.” She also said “we get the updates on what’s happening on Baltimore Avenue, we get the [Partnership’s] newsletter” – forwarded from Laura’s supervisor – “and there are a lot of things coming that we’re excited about like the coffee house, and the ArtHouse.”
They enjoy the conveniences of College Park – they mentioned how they frequent TargetExpress, Marathon Deli, Starbucks, and “lots of little restaurants in downtown College Park.” Laura noted “Aaron loves Nando’s” – which opened in October 2015. They are excited about Whole Foods opening, and even as they are disappointed REI is closing due to a new flagship store in Washington, DC, they find Ikea a great, convenient store in the College Park community, and gestured at the Ikea furniture in their living room.
Both are runners, and they love to run on the College Park Trolley Trail and around Lake Artemesia. “In addition to the restaurants, and convenience, it is one of the great things about College Park” Aaron said.
Laura and Aaron were looking for a quiet, convenient, and safe neighborhood, close to a bus line and public transportation, so that Aaron, who was looking for a new job, could get to downtown DC if he needed to. Laura notes the Partnership’s Homeownership Program – coupled with the City’s New Neighbor grant – was a big part of house hunting in College Park, and that it made a real difference. “Because the program applied in College Park, we only looked in College Park,” she said.
With the recent arrival of their baby Molly, they are making a home in the Daniels Park area of College Park, which Laura describes as a “nice neighborhood of mostly families and some students.” Aaron started a new job at the University of Maryland, in Resident Life as Coordinator for Student Leadership Development, and they now carpool to work together after dropping Molly at a College Park daycare. “We go in the back way to campus, up 193 [University Boulevard],” Laura said. “It is quick and convenient to work and back home.”
Both reflected that when they were first starting to look for houses, they wanted different things – Laura summed it up: “Aaron wanted the city, and I wanted the suburbs … so College Park is perfect.”
RUTH YUN AND JOSE MONTOYA
Ruth Yun has worked in the University of Maryland’s Human Resources Department for the last several years. She is a 2013 graduate of the University and has lived in College Park since 2011. Most recently, she and her husband, Jose Montoya, rented in the Camden apartments and townhouses near Ikea in College Park.
Jose works in Beltsville as the Plant Manager of Artelye Marble and Granite Company, so buying a home in College Park is close to both of their jobs. Ruth says her new commute is five minutes by car, and that “being so close, I might bike to work in nicer weather.”
Ruth says her realtor was looking across the area for houses for them, including in Adelphi and Beltsville, but they focused on College Park due to the Homeownership Program. She describes her neighborhood of Daniels Park as “a nice neighborhood, seems like we have nice neighbors.”
She mentioned “I know there’s Fat Pete’s Barbeque coming to College Park that we’re excited about,” and she’s a big fan of the Hollywood Farmers Market.Ruth has been particularly fond of several vendors there – “I call her the ‘Bread Lady,’” Ruth said, “her bread is so good – especially the Cheddar Jalapeno bread, I call her ahead to reserve a loaf.” She also sung the praises of the taco stand at the Hollywood Farmers Market, and says she shops at MOMs Organic Market.
With two dogs, she likes her home’s big backyard and has been impressed with the College Park All Dogs Club in the Berwyn neighborhood – a dog day care, spa and a “party zone” for pets.
Ruth and Jose were the first homebuyers to use both the Partnership’s Homeownership Program and the City’s New Neighbor grant together. In addition to the Homeownership Program’s $15,000, she was eligible for the City’s $5,000 New Neighbor grant since the house was a former rental property. “That extra $5,000 really helped,” said Ruth. In fact, Ruth says utilizing these programs was the easiest part of her home buying experience.
Marina Augoustidis is the assistant director of the Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) Programs in the Robert H. Smith School of Business Office of Global Initiatives at the University of Maryland. She started with the University just about 16-months ago, but was living and working in the DC-Metro area for roughly 10-years prior to that.
She heard about the Partnership’s Homeownership Program from a colleague in the Smith School when she first started.
Marina was interested in purchasing a house near work once she made the move to the University, but was unsure about where to settle. Upon hearing about the Program she began researching the neighborhoods and learning about College Park. “There’s so much that’s happening right now, and that was attractive to me.”
College Park Woods seemed like a perfect choice – “it’s a neighborhood that is close to the University, but setback like an enclave. There are nice homes, and the atmosphere is quiet yet friendly.” With her commute previously being 20-25 minutes each way, she is pleased that her new commute only takes 5 minutes. She still plans on driving most of the time, but said, “I might bicycle in the summer, we’ll see.”
Moving from Silver Spring, Marina was eager to have a quieter neighborhood to live in but with fun things to do nearby. She said, “I started researching College Park and I was so happy to have found a ZIPS Dry Cleaning! I’m also really looking forward to the Whole Foods coming in and the Farmer’s Markets.”
Yet another feature of College Park Marina is eager to explore are the trails – mostly for running. While she is still just beginning to get to know the options, she mentioned that she heard Lake Artemesia was a must-see, and that there are many routes. “I’m looking forward to discovering the options for getting to Lake Artemesia from College Park Woods.”
Using the Program was “simple” she said. “It was the easiest part of the home buying process. I would recommend this program to anyone moving into the College Park area and working at the University.”
TAMARA “TAMMY” CLEGG
Tammy Clegg recently purchased a house in the quiet College Park Estates neighborhood through the City-University Partnership’s Homeownership Program. She is an assistant professor of 6 years in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership at the University of Maryland’s College of Education. She also has a joint appointment in the College of Information Studies (the iSchool). She came to Maryland from Georgia Tech, where she obtained a PhD in the School of Interactive Computing.
Tammy heard about the Partnership’s Homeownership Program through colleagues in the iSchool’s Human–Computer Interaction lab. “Upon reviewing the program online, I realized that one of the homebuyers was a colleague of mine in the iSchool and I went to ask her about it.”
In addition to receiving rave reviews on the “smooth, helpful, program” from her colleague, Tammy said that she loved the idea about planting long-term roots in College Park. So, she started the process of buying a home in College Park. “The Program really helped me discover the neighborhoods of College Park – I mean, I had no idea this area [the Estates] even existed before,” Tammy said, “and it’s wonderful out here – the wide streets and sidewalks, the hills, and the neighbors are extremely friendly too.” One of the best things she has heard from her new neighbors is that the City of College Park has an excellent track record of providing top-tier public services – like trash collection, and snow removal. After living in an apartment in Hyattsville, she said this house, with lots of light, space, and a yard, is a welcome change. “I liked living in an apartment, but now I have storage space, an office and a great bay window. I have a yard – I can have friends over for a cookout, without a process for getting them into the building!”
Tammy’s work at the University includes partnering with local schools and community members to advance informal STEM learning through projects and research. One of the schools her work is featured in is at Charles Carroll Elementary School, which is in New Carrollton, MD. She is also very active in a church nearby, so one of the main features of selecting the neighborhood was its proximity to both her on- and off-campus work. The Estates are also in close proximity to many of College Park’s trails – especially the Indian Creek Trail that joins the Anacostia Tributary Trail around Lake Artemesia, the Northeast Branch Trail and Paint Branch Trail that connect directly to Campus and the City, and this was a big draw for her as a runner.
Upon asking her what she’d recommend to colleagues about the program, Tammy indicated that she felt great about her purchase because the market was on the move, “My realtor and I put offers in on several homes before we found this one. So my advice to my counterparts: if you’re interested in the program, research the neighborhoods, and contact the Partnership. College Park is a great place to live but you have to act quickly!”
LISA ALEXANDER AND STEVE KREIDER
Lisa Alexander began her career as resident life director at the University of Maryland just over a decade ago. She is the Director of Oakland Hall and has been happy with her professional growth at the University over the course of 11 years. Steve Kreider is a program coordinator for student engagement at Anne Arundel Community College. Lisa and Steve both moved to Maryland from outside the area, both of them arriving just after graduate school in Florida and Memphis, respectively.
Since they have been here for some time, they are familiar with the City and University plans to make College Park a top university community, and they like what they see. “We’re happy to see all this momentum in the City. There is a lot of positive energy here – I mean just look around. Ten years ago, for example, I would not have moved off campus,” Lisa remarked.
Upon entering their new place, there was a great sense of excitement for their new project, “the previous owners had only lived here a couple of years,” they remarked, “and they painted every room a different color, so we have been painting nonstop since we moved in!”
Some of the things they are looking forward to as they settle in: living within a short walk to MOM’s and REI (which she hopes does not leave College Park), having a short commute to the Silver Diner, which she notes, is “farm to table,” and “too many other things to list.”
They are very happy about the new Zagster bikeshare, mBike. Lisa likes to commute by bicycle to work and elsewhere. “We are looking forward to the Whole Foods coming in, and the trails that we can use to get there!” For his part, Steve is not an avid trail-user, but he is happy there are numerous ways to get around College Park, especially to his ultimate frisbee games.
Their decision to move off campus comes as part of a shift in their lives. When asked why they made the move since Lisa’s previous commute – living in an on-campus residence – was all but 20 steps to work, and now it will be slightly further away, she responded that “I was ready to have a home. I can grow things in the backyard. I can paint the house whatever color I wish.”
Their choice was also heavily influenced by the Partnership’s Homeownership Program. They heard about the Program through friends of friends – that someone had successfully used the program, Steve said. “The $15,000 was really appealing to us,” he explained, “but it’s a good time to invest in College Park – there’s so much going on. There are a lot of faculty and staff that, as they decide to stay at UMD, could use this program. My advice to them: just do it – it’s a great program, and we are telling everyone we know about it!”
LONG DOAN AND TIM MARSHALL
Long Doan and Tim Marshall recently purchased a house in College Park’s Sunnyside neighborhood in North College Park through the City-University Partnership’s Homeownership Program. They are moving to College Park from Bloomington, Indiana. Long will be starting as an assistant professor in the University’s Department of Sociology at the end of August. Long heard about the Partnership’s Homeownership Program during his new employee orientation. “They said that the City and University encouraged employees to live nearby.” To Long this made a lot of sense. Bloomington, Indiana does not have traffic whereas the DC metro area does, “so living close to work to avoid lots of traffic was logical as we contemplated places to live.”
Tim is an optician and his company was able to relocate him to Bowie, so even for his work, College Park is a good place. “It’s only about a 20 minute commute, give or take – College Park has a great location.”
Even though they wanted to move to College Park, it was slightly difficult to find a house in their price range. But this program, they said, gave them the confidence to continue the search and ultimately choose College Park over other properties, including one they considered in Lanham, “we figured that using this program would really benefit us as first-time homebuyers.”
Although they still have belongings in Bloomington, they have started to move in and will do so over the course of a month. They have, however, moved all five of their family pets in already. “The house is great – the backyard is perfect for our dog Lillith to be in. She never had a yard before.”
The previous owners left them a vegetable garden which they are excited about, and they want to explore the College Park area’s many farmers markets. Long says his commute to campus will be by bicycle, and he is impressed with the bikeability of College Park. He says, “the sheer number of bike lanes is much better than Bloomington.”
They have begun trying out the restaurants in the area: Beltsville’s Yia Yia’s, College Park’s Board and Brew, and Hyattsville’s Busboys and Poets. Being so close to great food and to stores like Ikea, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Costco not too far away are added benefits. Tim mentioned the stores, and Long remarked, “usually, you only have one of these types of stores – here you have all of them!”
Both are excited about their new home and about living in College Park, as Tim put it: “We’re glad to be part of an up and coming community.”
Valerie Hoy has lived in College Park for a decade, renting in houses throughout the community, and is now thrilled to be a brand new homeowner in the city. For the last four years, she has worked in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland, in the Information and Education Technology Unit.
When she learned of the Partnership’s Homeownership program upon its announcement last year, she realized this was her opportunity to jump from being a College Park renter to a homeowner. “The loan really helped me buy t his house,” she noted. She called Partnership staff right away, and looked for a house for a year. After a few houses she was looking at were purchased by other buyers, she was able to get a contract on her new house in the Hollywood neighborhood.
Valerie says that in buying a house, her “main priority was biking to work.” Her bike ride from door-to-door from North College Park is 17 minutes. She is exploring what she will do in rainy weather, and notes that the Greenbelt Metro station is not too far from her house, which will take her one stop to the College Park station where a UM shuttle bus runs regularly to campus.
After 10 years living in College Park, she says “I love College Park – it is close to everything and DC. It is a nice, residential neighborhood.” As a cyclist, she said she “loves the bike trails” and she has followed the community and city government through her local officials, the neighborhood listserve, and community blogs. She finds it to be an active community, and a great fit for someone working at the University.
She says the Homeownership program “was so easy, I’m overwhelmed at how easy it was to use the program.”
JAMES GRAND AND JENNIFER WESSEL
James and Jennifer both joined the University of Maryland’s Department of Psychology a little over two years ago as assistant professors. As recent graduates from Michigan State University, one thing they were looking for when they moved to the University of Maryland was to live close by. “We always loved the fact that a lot of faculty lived close to the University when we were at Michigan” said James.
They rented a house in University Park when they arrived so they could be close to work, “anything more than a 15-minute commute is a no-go for us” said Jennifer. They immediately “fell in love” with the area.
As they continued to explore, taking day trips to Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington D.C. – “all easy to access from here” – they were certain that this was the best place for them. Jennifer mentioned that before they moved they researched the University and came across a report on housing strategies that mentioned a previous Partnership Work/Live Program. Then, in August 2015, she heard UMD President Dr. Wallace Loh on The Kojo Nnamdi Show where he mentioned the Partnership’s homeownership program in the context of College Park being a vibrant place for faculty and staff to live and also discussed revitalization in the area. Hearing Dr. Loh speak about the homeownership program confirmed for them that the program was real, and they contacted Partnership staff about using the program shortly thereafter.
Their search for a place considered homes in University Park, Hyattsville, Berwyn Heights and Takoma Park in addition to College Park. The decision to move into the Calvert Hills neighborhood rested on the house, the Partnership’s program, proximity to the University, and the amenities just to the south, like Busboys and Poets. The new Whole Foods just down the street – and more importantly to them – the Trolley Trail that will connect them to restaurants, recreation and retail, was also a motivator. As self-defined hikers, they love that College Park has so many great trails. They have walked to Lake Artemesia a few times already, and look forward to exploring more as they settle in. They plan to sign up for mBike, College Park’s new bikeshare system, or purchase their own bikes so they can more easily get around. Another draw for them is the College Park Tennis Club. As tennis players, living close to a nationally renowned tennis club and being able to obtain a free trial membership for 6-months through this program is a win-win. “There’s this great energy in College Park, so using this program to purchase a home within the City was very appealing to us. We were able to move into a great home with a beautiful neighborhood; we now can walk to work; and [the program] was also so easy to use – we hope others take advantage of this opportunity.”
OSVALDO AND MARIA GUTIERREZ
Dr. Osvaldo Gutierrez is a new hire for the University of Maryland starting at the end of June 2016. He was hired as an assistant professor in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Maria will be going back to school as a graduate student at the University of Maryland.
Osvaldo comes to Maryland from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a Post-Doctoral Fellow. His family, Maria and his daughter, are in California near UC Davis. They have lived in many other university communities across the country – Westwood in Los Angeles (UCLA), Davis, California (UC Davis), and West Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania) – so a major factor in deciding to accept the University of Maryland’s offer was the location.
As they contemplated the move, they began to think through questions of where to live – should they rent?, does the University offer temporary housing? – and more. After looking for homes in Takoma Park, Montgomery County and Washington D.C., Osvaldo found articles about the Partnership’s Homeownership Program to purchase a home in College Park. This appealed to them due to the proximity to campus, and that it is a short Metro or MARC Commuter train ride to Washington D.C. or Baltimore. They started thinking about buying a home in the neighborhoods of College Park. He contacted the Partnership directly to inquire about the program. Osvaldo notes, “it’s a hard process to buy a house and this program made it a lot easier.”
Osvaldo and Maria both like to walk, and they have described their memories of walking to school and work so vividly and attractively that their 10 year old daughter felt she was missing out on that experience. The California neighborhood they live in doesn’t have an adequate route for walking to school, so they drive. In addition to College Park’s location within the region, the Hollywood neighborhood stood out as a great place for them because their daughter is enrolling in Holy Redeemer and their house is not too far from there. “So, now, our daughter will get this experience of walking to school – and I can drop her off and continue my walk to campus.” The price point is another great thing about the house from their perspective, saying that living in College Park versus another area, “we don’t have to pay for an overpriced house.”
Their new home is about a mile walk to campus. Osvaldo’s current walk to the University of Pennsylvania is a 2-mile walk. Before purchasing in the Hollywood neighborhood, he walked around College Park, and really liked the area and the route he will take to campus. He likes being in campus community environments and is looking forward to continuing to commute by foot “in any weather.”
He also says that they “like to be involved in the University, but also in the community,” and living in College Park will allow them more opportunities to do both.
Osvaldo discussed that due to his use of the Homeownership program, his department has now started marketing it to their new hires. He says, “So we hope it continues well into the future because it will really help new faculty.”
Michael Bunting, a research scientist at the Center for Advanced Study of Language in M Square, came to the University of Maryland in 2005. Since his arrival, he has rented in Riverdale Park, Northern Virginia – and most recently in College Park. Upon renting in the City, he said he found out that “College Park has changed a lot since I first got here and it’s getting better – College Park is a destination!”
He had started looking for a home in Silver Spring and Greenbelt, and was interested in neighborhoods with green space, amenities and walkability. But when he received an email from a colleague about the Partnership’s Homeownership Program, he decided to take advantage of the opportunity – and found the perfect setting to live just a couple of months after he began his search. “The Program definitely made me choose College Park.”
Situated a block off Route 1, near the new Monument Village development, his new house and neighborhood are exactly what he was looking for. There are quiet woods in the back, it’s not far from the golf course, and there is a lot of economic development happening nearby. He cited the Whole Foods coming to Riverdale Park and other retail enlivening the Baltimore Avenue corridor. The prior owners had lived in the home for 31 years, and he was touched by their story. He is looking to carry forward the longtime homeownership tradition for this house. The friendliness of the area especially impressed him: upon the sale of the house, 3 different neighbors came over to greet him.
When asked what advice he would give to colleagues about the Homeownership Program, he said, “College Park has a lot of green space inside the Beltway, it’s very easy to walk here, and the commute is great – it’s a lot better than driving in!”
Preston Robinson has been a University employee for 13 years, he is Director of Ticket Operations for on campus athletic events. Over the 13 years, he has moved closer to campus, renting in Largo, Bowie, and Adelphi, and finally, the past three years, in College Park in the newly built Domain apartments adjacent to campus.
Over the years, a colleague suggested he purchase a home, and this year, she directed Preston to the Partnership’s $15,000 Homeownership Program. Preston figured this would be a good time to buy his first home.
“I’m not a traffic fan” Preston said, explaining his decision to buy a home in College Park. He says he spent enough time on the Beltway and US 50 commuting over the years, and was “tired of dealing with not knowing if the commute would be 30 minutes or an hour, depending on traffic.”
He chose a home in the Daniels Park neighborhood of North College Park, and notes how the community is quiet and safe. He likes that it is “family-oriented” – this is the same neighborhood profiled as a “family-hood” recently in the Washington Post Real Estate section. He notes the many friendly neighbors – a young couple across the street and another family whose “little girl knocked on the door the other day selling Girl Scout cookies.” He says all the neighbors are “very friendly people,” and he enjoys the convenience of the neighborhood where “the grocery store is right up the road, the Metro is just up the road.”
With the Greenbelt Metro station only a few minutes’ walk from his new home, and the University, the Beltway, and I-95 also within a few minutes, he is close to work and has easy access to the entire metropolitan area. The Hollywood Shopping Center with My Organic Market, REI and other stores is just around the corner, and the College Park Marketplace, with Shopper’s Food Warehouse, Best Buy and other retail is also convenient. He says that “close proximity to work and easy access to get anywhere I want to go” were selling points for the neighborhood, and finally, “you can’t beat a 5-10 minute commute to work.”
In a new role as a homeowner, now Preston is encouraging colleagues to consider living in College Park: “I was just telling a colleague on campus that they should use it” he told us. He says “I was shocked at how quick and easy the process was” to obtain the $15,000 forgivable homeownership loan.
FERNANDO MERCHAN AND KATHERINA BEDON
Katherina “Kat” Bedon and Fernando Merchan “had been thinking about buying a house for awhile” when a colleague of Fernando’s mentioned the City-University Partnership’s Home Ownership program. “Before we were looking all over Maryland for a house,” said Fernando, a Business Manager in the University’s Smith School of Business. But they focused on College Park when they learned of the $15,000 program.
It wasn’t a difficult choice, they said, because they were very excited about what is happening in College Park. Fernando came to the DC area from New York in 2011, and has been working at the University since 2013. He says “since I came here, things are really starting to change – there are new restaurants like Nando’s Peri-Peri, and lots of businesses starting to come to College Park.” Kat has an even longer view than Fernando – she grew up in Hyattsville and graduated from the University in 2007. She notes that she has “seen College Park change over the years, with lots of building happening over the last few years including the Hotel that’s under construction.”
Both noted their excitement about the coming ArtHouse – a café and performance space that will highlight the arts and bring together campus and the wider community. They indicated it would be a great place for young professionals, and look forward to a place where they can enjoy an “enriching experience” at night in downtown College Park.
Fernando pointed to University President Wallace Loh’s statements that “he wants College Park to be a top college town with faculty and staff living here,” and said “with all that is going on in College Park, we wanted to be a part of that.” Kat noted that it is an “exciting time in College Park and this is just the beginning.”
Their home in the Hollywood neighborhood of College Park is just what they were looking for. They love that it is a “quiet and diverse neighborhood, the neighbors are friendly, and it has a lot of families.” Kat and Fernando also love the convenience of the area. They say, “we don’t have to go far – Costco in Beltsville and MOM’s Organic Market are nearby, there are shops, the Beltway is close, and we can easily get into DC.” They had not realized when they were looking at the neighborhood that the Metro is so close, they can walk to the Greenbelt station in minutes. “Nothing is out of the way” they say, including their commutes – Fernando is only 5-10 minutes to campus and Kat says she can get to her job at Prince George’s Hospital Center in 10 minutes.
Fernando and Kat are looking forward to living in College Park and fully enjoying the community. They are season ticket holders for Maryland football and attend many Maryland basketball games. They like the many parks in their neighborhood, where they walk their English Bulldog, and enjoy seeing kids playing at local parks and at Duvall Field. It is a place they can see themselves living for a long time – “as a young couple, we were looking for a family friendly place.”
BETH ST. JEAN & MELISSA NISWONGER
Beth St. Jean and Melissa Niswonger had been renting in Burtonsville, Maryland for three years, starting when Beth began teaching at the University of Maryland. Beth is an assistant professor in the University’s College of Information Studies, and at the outset of their real estate search, heard advice not to look at College Park. She was warned about crime and traffic, so they looked elsewhere. Although they learned of a house in College Park with the amenities they were looking for, they did not consider it. At the time a house they were looking at in Columbia, Maryland fell through, Beth heard about the College Park City-University Partnership Home Ownership Program from a talk President Wallace Loh gave to the University Senate as well as from a colleague. Beth decided she’d run over from campus to check out the College Park house “just to rule it out.” As Beth recalled, “I called Melissa and told her it took me 2 minutes to drive to the house!” – and loved it.
In College Park’s Yarrow neighborhood, the house had space for a dog to run, an office for Melissa to work from home, and a first floor bedroom for Beth’s mother. The house and neighborhood were the perfect fit, but still wary, Beth decided to research what she had heard about crime in College Park. She looked for data online (she mentioned “SpotCrime.com”) and found that the neighborhood is safe, with very little crime.
Beth and Melissa both said they mapped the local bike trail system and are excited they can bike to campus without ever having to get on a road, other than their local street. They feel they are closer to restaurants they like and they are especially eager to frequent the numerous local farmer’s markets in the community.
Another amenity they both look forward to taking advantage of is the University pool in the Eppley Campus Recreation Center. Beth said she has long had a membership to the campus pool, but never had time to use it. In fact, time is extremely important to Beth and she explained, “as a tenure-track professor, time is the most valued thing.” Living about a mile from campus allows her to save about “an hour and a half each day from being stuck in traffic.” Both are excited to live in College Park and Beth summed it up for them both by saying “we are in a nice neighborhood near campus.” Melissa noted, “My father was a long-time professor at Smith College (in Northampton, Massachusetts), I grew up knowing what it was like to have faculty living in and around a campus community,” and she looks forward to living in a more walkable, bikeable, sustainable environment.
DON LYNCH & MELISSA AVERY
Having worked at the University of Maryland for six years in the Physics Department of the College of Computer, Math and Natural Sciences, and having previously lived in surrounding communities, Don and Melissa were eager to have the opportunity to live in College Park. They heard about the Home Ownership Program through the City-University Partnership’s weekly e-newsletter, “College Park News and Happenings,” and thought it would be fantastic to take advantage of the opportunity.
Melissa notes the momentum in College Park and said, “We wanted to buy, we have lived around College Park, but not in the city – before we felt we were on the outside looking in … College Park, in my impression, is very organized and on the move. We feel like we’re really a part of the community here.”
Don says he wanted to live closer to the University, in order to walk to work. He is a walker – “that’s what I do” – and enjoys his 1-mile walk to work while noting there are also two UM Shuttles they can take that stop near their home.
Their house, in the Crystal Springs neighborhood, was a former rental property. One of the big draws to the community was the positive flow to the neighborhood – homes with kids and families, as well as students. Melissa, a master gardener, is looking forward to tending a garden in her own yard, noting the position of the sun’s rays that will energize next spring’s plantings.
The local businesses of College Park were another big draw for them. They are both big supporters of the ‘buy local, eat local’ mantra, and referred to themselves as ‘Zip Car people’ since they got rid of their car four years ago. They especially like the amenities coming into the city, like the recently opened TargetExpress. One of their favorites is the Board and Brew – a restaurant and café that also serves beer and wine that opened last year in the Varsity development. “The Board and Brew is wonderful, we’ve been getting their breakfast, their coffee is great – and locally roasted, and [the café] has very nice owners.”
MARK FUGE & CELESTE ROSCHUNI
Mark and Celeste both joined the University’s A. James Clark School of Engineering one year ago – Mark as faculty and Celeste as a lecturer. They rented for a year in Berwyn Heights, and as they started looking for houses to buy, they learned of the newly launched City-University Partnership’s Home Ownership Program. They had been a car-free family the year before, living near UC-Berkeley, and became a one-car family when they moved to Maryland. They were interested in commuting by bike or on foot and leaving the car at home. Using the Home Ownership Program to help purchase their home in College Park’s Berwyn neighborhood has helped them achieve that dream.
Their house sits just off the College Park Trolley Trail in the Berwyn neighborhood, and they love its proximity. It provides an enjoyable place for them to walk their dog, and the trail is also their daily route to campus. With a 7-minute commute by bike to his campus office, or a 20-minute walk, Mark likes the convenience of coming home for lunch, letting the dog out, and being back on campus easily.
When asked what they love about living close to campus, Mark smiled and said, “I can bike from home to work faster than folks living far away can walk from their campus parking spot!”
Additionally, they love Lake Artemesia, the 38-acre lake and natural area in College Park that is accessible by our local trails. “Lake Artemesia is a selling point” for College Park, they both agreed.
While renting in neighboring Berwyn Heights, they found College Park to be a “nice area.” Celeste grew up in Bowie, and her family is still there. As a local, she was familiar with College Park but noted with optimism how things seem to be changing in the area with more redevelopment.
Together, they both say they look forward to walking to new and future businesses along Baltimore Avenue and in the Berwyn commercial district, discovering our local trails, cycling the rural roads through the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, and becoming involved in the community.