Best Use of Your College Housing Money

Best: Bribe someone with a nearby apartment you can use as a pied-à-terre for parties, dorm contraband

Second-best: Move into the Towers at University Town Center in Hyattsville

Living at the Towers saves you from the seemingly crappy parts of on-campus housing. There’s a game room, a rooftop deck with a pool. Just one thing seems to be missing from the 16-story building: residents.

According to Kim Moss, the Towers’ director of community operations, 61 percent attend the University of Maryland at College Park while the remainder are split between Howard, Catholic, American, and Georgetown students. But what sounds like a recipe for intermural mixing doesn’t often work out that way—when there is no reason to leave your suite, nobody does, even when there’s free pizza in the game room. A typical room in the Towers has a double bed and private bathroom. You share a full kitchen, a washer and dryer, a dining room table, and black leather couches in the living room with two to four other people. (Other amentities, according to the Towers’ Web site: two turbo stand-up tanning beds, billiards, shuttle bus to College Park). It’s billed as luxury living for college students, but luxury alone doesn’t seem to fill the halls—last fall, those who renewed their lease or referred a friend stood to win a Vespa, a 40-inch TV, an iPod Touch, or a MacBook Air. “So far our leasing season has been great,” counters Moss in an e-mail. “We have a 24% renewal rate and are 30% preleased for the fall semester.” Moss also notes that the Towers are currently 94 percent occupied.

So what do you get for your average rent of $755 per month (plus $120 for use of the parking garage)?

Food, Drink, Entertainment

Within a half-mile radius of the building, there’s Regal Cinema and Target. Restaurants Quoda, Five Guys, Three Brothers, Old Dominion, Carolina Kitchen, Hank’s Tavern & Eats and the Original SoupMan are all within the UTC complex, right next door to the Mall at Prince George.

A Chance to Make It to Graduation

Last February, Donald J. Smalls Jr. was murdered in his 10th-floor apartment during a drug deal that went bad. Since then, security has been tight. Unfortunately, having guards at the door can put quite a buzz kill on your party. Guests must leave their ID cards at their desk before they can enter, and you need a resident to swipe an ID card to use the elevator, providing full protection from criminals too lazy to take the stairs.

Amenities Unsullied by Use

The first floor game room, with its pool and table tennis, its foosball and flat-screen TVs is almost always empty (possible explanation: No alcohol is allowed). The treadmills in the fitness center feature individual television monitors, so you don’t even have to watch the same thing as the person working out next to you. And the underground garage ensures residents that they can get through the day with as little human interaction as possible. The pool, where you could possibly strike up a conversation with another resident, is outdoors and closed most of the year, and the community room is usually converted into a study hall for those students trying to get away from the abundance of distractions in their rooms/entertainment pods. It would make a great place to host a party, assuming you’ve made friends before you moved in. How you’re supposed to make new friends (beside the security guards) is unclear.