The Diamondback

Long-term city residents hope for positive student relations

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (Sept. 13, 2013)

Last week, 90-year-old Amelia Murdoch heard students outside her house on Hartwick Road.

She opened her door to a group of young college men: her new neighbors. But they weren’t there to tear down parts of her fence. They weren’t milling about on the corner, yelling and leaving trash.

They were there to ask her to a party — and Murdoch couldn’t say no to a barbecue.

Some local businesses disappointed by Black Friday weekend: Discounts spur sprees for other small retailers

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (Dec. 5, 2013)

When shoppers stampede to retail giants on Black Friday each year, small businesses can be left in the dust — and in student-filled College Park, the holiday shopping weekend wasn’t on some stores’ radars.

Nationwide, Small Business Saturday — a day to garner support for local shops between Black Friday and Cyber Monday — led to better-than-ever sales numbers, as consumers across the country spent $5.7 billion at independent retailers.


Off-campus apartments increase security after rash of College Park crimes

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (Feb. 14, 2013)

Kelsea Gerrety and Adrian Dipple were eating breakfast in Stamp Student Union at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

There, in a bustling hub of morning student activity, the juniors felt safe. But anywhere off the campus, or after dark, was a different story.

“We commute; he won’t walk to my car alone at 9 p.m.,” Gerrety, a psychology major, said.

“I feel like during the day it’s OK, but not any time after that,” added Dipple, a nutrition science major.


Ballroom dancing competition attracts scores of students

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (Nov. 6, 2012)

It was a fairy tale in an Olympic arena.

University alumnus Alec Zhang lightly grasped his partner’s palm and rested his other hand on the small of her back. Long green feathers from his partner’s dress draped over his uplifted arms. The two swirled around the room as one, seeming to take flight in a fusion of graceful, intricate movements. Light from the chandeliers illuminated the rapture on Zhang’s face — he was singing along.

“Previously, I played a musical instrument,” Zhang said after the dance. “Dancing allows me another way to express music.”


College Park retail vacancy rates drop, small businesses thriving

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (March 24, 2013)

Smaller, independent businesses are thriving in College Park, as new developments may add thousands of residential units, along with hotels, restaurants and shops to the city, College Park business representatives said at the city’s annual Real Estate Roundtable.

Retail vacancy rates in the city have dropped 0.7 percent over the past year, with about a 5 percent decline just in downtown College Park, city Economic Development Coordinator Michael Stiefvater told about 50 city business stakeholders on Tuesday.


Opening exceeds owners’ expectations at Garbanzo

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (April 2, 2013)

Despite competition from similar restaurants, students couldn’t seem to get enough of Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill during its opening week.

The Chipotle-style Mediterranean restaurant opened Wednesday in Boston Market’s former spot in the College Park Shopping Center, offering made-to-order pita sandwiches, plates and kabobs to students who praised the food’s vegetarian options and fresh quality.


University hopes to improve College Park housing for faculty

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (April 4, 2013)

In a city plagued with frustrating bumper-to-bumper traffic, linguistics professor Juan Uriagereka enjoys a commute that’s just a brief walk down the street.

The associate provost for faculty affairs lives in University Park with his family and raves about his tight-knit, familial College Park neighborhood.

“It’s a very diverse community, very safe,” said Uriagereka, who is also a professor. “We bike around and walk to work.”

But as a faculty member living in the city, he’s a rare breed in College Park. Just 4 percent of the university’s faculty and staff live in the city, according to a report on faculty and staff housing published this year by Anderson Strickler, LLC.


Scaling (and building) up: College Park high-rise apartment complexes fill up as more slated for construction

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (Nov. 4, 2013)

To long-term College Park residents, it would seem the city had transformed almost overnight.

Seven years ago, the city had a different character, lacking any of the large-scale, high-rise apartment complexes that have since instilled an urban feel in College Park.

But since 2006, a wave of developments has brought five upscale apartment complexes to the city, most recently the luxury complex Domain on Campus Drive. And the city’s housing market saw the sudden influx of thousands of new beds, most designated specifically for students.

Disability housing, facilities options improve on campus

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (March 12, 2013)

Many students grumble about walking long distances across the campus in the cold, but for others at this university, it’s hard just to get up the stairs.

History professor Gay Gullickson had polio as a child and now travels in a wheelchair. Little things students often take for granted — such as walking to the second floor, using the restroom or trudging up a hill to class — aren’t so easy for her.

“I can’t go, say, from here [Francis Scott Key Hall] to Tawes by myself — it’s just too steep a hill,” Gullickson said. “I have to ask somebody to give me a push.”


Super Bowl boosts sales on Sunday

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (Feb. 5, 2013)

As the Baltimore Ravens ran across the field celebrating their Super Bowl victory on Sunday, College Park’s Hard Times Cafe owner Bill Swint was counting his own triumph in wing sales.

The local restaurateur sold almost 5,000 wings on Sunday in orders of 50 to 100 at a time, surpassing last year’s record by almost 12 percent, Swint said. The cafe also sold 400 gallons of chili, served from enormous 70-gallon kettles in the back. Swint owns just one of many local restaurants and bars that experienced soaring sales this weekend, most likely as a result of a local team playing in the Super Bowl, business owners said.


Smile Herb offers customers natural remedies

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (March 13, 2013)

Tucked away in a serene, storybook Berwyn neighborhood is an herbal sanctuary.

The light blue, two-story house conjures nostalgic memories of a childhood home rather than a shop of medicinal herbs. On the white porch, a rainbow of silky, pastel-colored scarves flutters in the wind. Inside, jars of spices and herbs, teas and suncatchers fill the dimly lit rooms floor to ceiling, and herbal candles wish customers good health, love, laughter and prosperity.


County liquor board investigations into fake IDs result in violations, fines

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (April 19, 2013)

EDITOR’S NOTE: A student’s name was withheld because she discusses underage drinking. A worker’s name was withheld to protect his job.

They’d sneak in with friends, pay a few extra dollars or flash an ID depicting a person obviously several years older. Somehow, underage drinkers always found a way to get into the College Park bars, a former R.J. Bentley’s employee said.

But in December, everything began to change. The county liquor board started conducting more undercover investigations at the bars and fining those where they found violations, board chairman Franklin Jackson said. And the bars have responded, implementing stricter policies such as ID scanners and wristbands for minors to cut back on underage drinking incidents, the former employee said.


Survivor of years of assault uses story to help others

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (Jan. 29, 2013)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The last name of an individual in this story was withheld to protect her privacy.

One night when senior Bailey Lamson was 8, she ran into her mother’s and stepfather’s bedroom to escape a nightmare — unaware that she was jumping into another one, worse than anything imaginable.

That night, Lamson’s stepfather began sexually assaulting her, something he would continue for the next six years.

“I was like, ‘Oh, maybe he thinks I’m my mom,’” said the 20-year-old criminology and criminal justice and sociology major. “But it just didn’t stop.”


College Park student volunteer firefighters ‘love’ hectic, strenuous schedule

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (April 9, 2013)

Nick Wilbur doesn’t often get a good night’s sleep.

Earsplitting sirens jolt the 22-year-old awake almost every day in the early hours of the morning. And he’s up, throwing off the covers, sprinting out of his room and flying down two flights of stairs. Within 30 seconds, he’s out the door and on the road, the sound of sirens fading away into the distance.

For Wilbur, a student at Prince George’s Community College and University of Maryland University College, this early morning chaos is part of his daily routine as a volunteer firefighter at the College Park Volunteer Fire Department.


College Park Academy opens for 300 sixth-, seventh-graders

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (Sept. 9, 2013)

The bell rang, and they filed in with their zebra-print lunch boxes, oversized backpacks and neon Converse shoes. In a high-ceilinged room next to a wall of windows, they sat chatting at high round tables or individual cubbies. Then they opened their laptops and got to work.

Teachers from around the world appeared on the students’ computer screens. Class had begun.

University Club apartment complex cuts rates following drop in leases

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (Feb. 4, 2013)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The names of several individuals were withheld to protect their jobs.

While students often see apartment complex rent prices climb from year to year, the University Club recently slashed its rates in response to a drop in student leases.

To increase occupancy rates at the apartment complex, which has traditionally offered some of the cheapest off-campus housing, management decreased prices from about $500 per person a month for a two-bedroom, four-person apartment to just $440. Occupancy rates are now in the upper 80s, compared to the lower 90s last year, according to a person with working knowledge of the property. To reel in student renters, the complex has done everything from holding a pizza party on Wednesday for students who promised to renew their lease, to considering furnishing apartments.


College Park’s age demographics trend toward age 20, affecting life for all

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (May 10, 2013)

For Jissella Urquilla, Berwyn Road’s tree-lined row of brick houses and hole-in-the-wall shops is home.

She’s grown up surrounded by college students for 16 years, accustomed to ever-changing fast-food restaurants on Route 1, loud parties and not knowing many of her neighbors.

“It used to be more families, but now almost every house around is college students,” Urquilla said. “Nobody’s really outside anymore.”

Between 2000 and 2010, the proportion of College Park residents aged 15 to 25 increased from 53 percent to 62 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. City officials and long-term residents attributed the increase to housing developments, expensive rental houses and the university’s rising prestige, which draws in non-local students. With more students coming from farther away, said District 3 councilwoman Stephanie Stullich, more seek housing near the campus.


Roti closes after year of business

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (Sept. 12, 2013)

After a year serving its falafel and pita pockets to students under The Varsity, Roti Mediterranean Grill unexpectedly closed two weekends ago and could be replaced by a larger food and entertainment venue, a city councilman said.

Businesses in the area have struggled with high rents and lack of parking options, and Roti is the fourth business in the strip to shut its doors since The Varsity’s opening in September 2011, said Michael Stiefvater, College Park economic development coordinator.


Applicants’ online lives not focus of admissions

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (Dec. 13, 2013)

Nationwide, more college admissions officers than ever are checking applicants’ Facebook pages and reviewing their backgrounds, but officials at this university said they don’t have the time to do so, except in extreme circumstances.

Kaplan Test Prep recently surveyed 381 admissions officers from across the country and found that 29 percent of officers had Googled an applicant, and 31 percent had looked up their Facebook or other social media pages. Of those officers, 30 percent said they had found something that hurt an applicant’s chance of admission.

But at this university — which received 26,247 applications in 2012-13 — admissions officers said they are so caught up in going through applications that they don’t have time they don’t have time to do extensive background checks on each student, said Shannon Gundy, undergraduate admissions director. An initial read of an application takes about seven minutes, she said.


Terrapin’s Turf hosts thousands

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (Oct. 7, 2013)

On Friday and Saturday, 27-year-old Yasmine Afshar cried coming into work.

They were tears of pure elation.

After a year-and-a-half-long ordeal to get required county permits for her new College Park bar, Terrapin’s Turf, the co-owner said opening the establishment was “unreal.”  On Friday, across from the College Park Shopping Center on Knox Road, the bar opened to about 2,000 people and a line that stretched around the corner of Ratsie’s Pizza even without formal promotions or advertising.


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