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Towson University to convert hotel to student housing

Towson University plans to convert an off-campus Marriott hotel it owns into a dorm next year in hopes easing a shortage of student housing at the growing institution.

University President Kim Schatzel announced the hotel conversion project Thursday during her spring address on campus.

The Towson University Marriott Conference Hotel is at York Road and Burke Avenue, just north of the main campus. Marriott operates the hotel under a contract that expires in June 2018.

"This conversion is a much better fiscal alternative for the university than continuing the property as a hotel and will allow us to better leverage this asset and its prime location for the betterment of our students and their success," Schatzel said.

Once the Marriott contract expires, the university will switch the hotel to "apartment-style" housing that will be available to students starting that fall, officials said.

The hotel is expected to accommodate 300 to 400 students, according to the university. The university now has an estimated shortage of 2,000 to 2,500 beds.

Schatzel said converting the hotel to student housing will add room for students "faster and at significantly less cost than any other option."

The lack of student housing for Towson University students has frustrated some longtime Towson residents. Many have seen homes in their neighborhoods rented to students who cause problems with parties or excessive numbers of cars parked in the streets.

Last year the Baltimore County Council created a pilot program in some neighborhoods around Towson University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County that holds tenants and landlords responsible for "unruly social gatherings," making them subject to fines and community service. The program was expanded this year after neighborhood leaders credited it with cutting down on rowdy parties.

Towson University is targeted for growth by the University System of Maryland. In 1994, the university had 14,551 students. That number has grown to more than 22,000.

The university is expected to top out at 25,000 to 26,000 students in the next decade.

Some in Towson have called for more student housing to be built, but at least one proposal for off-campus housing has run into opposition. DMS Development proposed 248 units for 610 students in an 11-story building north of the university on York Road. Neighbors opposed the project, called 101 York, and the County Council denied a request last year for the project's zoning.

Another project, the proposed mixed-use Towson Row along York Road between Chesapeake Avenue and Towsontown Boulevard, would include 225 student housing units. But Towson Row has been delayed after developer Caves Valley Partners ran into geological problems that required the company to eliminate an underground garage from the proposal and rework parts of the project.

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