Posts about Hyattsville
The owners of the Cafritz property in Riverdale Park want a zoning change to build a major mixed-use development on a wooded, 37-acre single-family-zoned property with, at best, mediocre access to transit. If Prince George's County is serious about its commitment to smart growth and development around its 15 Metro stations, it will deny the rezoning.
The county is desperate to attract high-quality mixed-use development, but all too often, this desperation leads it to act against its own best interests. Each time the county allows a huge project in any arbitrary location, it becomes less likely that the right kind of development will come to the Metro sites.
The Cafritz owners want to build 2 million square feet of mixed-use commercial, residential, and hotel space, including a Whole Foods Market. Building the retail there would make stores less likely to locate at other sites which are closer to transit and already zoned for high-density mixed-use development, like the Boulevard at Capital Centre near the Largo Town Center Metro, University Town Center at Prince George's Plaza, or Arts District Hyattsville.
On February 2, the Prince George's County Planning Board of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) will resume its deliberations over whether to recommend the rezoning to the County Council. The County Council will then hold a second public hearing and receive additional public comments before deciding whether to rezone the property.
Recently, I argued that the Boulevard at Capital Centre is a better location for the Whole Foods and the rest of the project. Alex Block argued, "Metro isn't the be-all and end-all of transit. The [Cafritz] project is a perfectly reasonable infill development site."
The Cafritz property site may indeed be perfectly reasonable for some kind of infill development, such as a suburban residential subdivision of 200 homes with some limited "corner store"-type convenience retail. But 2 million square feet of development, including 995 housing units and more than 370,000 square feet of retail, office, and hotel space, is not a reasonable infill project for that location. That's more than 4 times the size of the current development at the Boulevard at Cap Centre, near a Metro station.
Without excellent existing transit options, this much development will induce a disastrous amount of auto traffic. Even the Planning Board staff says the traffic generated by this proposed development will exceed countywide master plan of transportation vehicle limits for the US-1/East-West Highway area. (See pp. 33-36 of the staff report.)
Meanwhile, the 69-acre Boulevard site can easily accommodate the level of development proposed for Cafritz Property. It's also already zoned for high-density mixed use development. In fact, the county's 2002 General plan designated the Largo Town Center station area as a "Metropolitan Center," suitable for the most intensive "downtown-style" development in the county. The county Revenue Authority owns the Boulevard site, so it could easily facilitate this development.
The Boulevard site is already cleared, so developing there would not require further deforestation and could even improve stormwater treatment by replacing the existing sea of surface parking with buildings and additional trees. The Largo Town Center Metro would absorb more of the travel demand, and deevlopment here would be more consistent with the county's master plan of transportation and with smart growth principles generally.
Besides taking retail and housing demand away from potential Metro sites, the Caftitz project could detract from nearby mixed-use projects already in progress. The brand-new 25-acre Arts District Hyattsville development is just 1 mile south of the Cafritz site. Although construction is still underway on the first phase of that development, the entire project will eventually have 500 housing units and 40,000 SF of commercial space when completed.
Similarly, about 1.3 miles to the west of the Cafritz site, near Prince George's Plaza Metro Station, sits the 56-acre University Town Center development. Construction began in earnest on that site in the 1990s and was really beginning to gain momentum in the mid-2000s, until the economy tanked. Recently, several buildings in that development were foreclosed upon and are being held by Wells Fargo, until the original developer can recover or a new owner is found.
There is still oodles of space remaining at UTC for high-density mixed-use residential and commercial development of the type proposed for the Cafritz site, without the need for any zoning changes or clearing of wooded land. Furthermore, UTC is within a half-mile of a Metro station and can accommodate any additional need for high-density retail, residential, and commercial development in the surrounding retail market area, which includes nearby Riverdale Park.
Before authorizing the up-zoning of new greenfield sites like the Cafritz property, the county should insist that developers maximize the development potential at existing Metro stations, such as the Boulevard at Cap Centre or University Town Center, or at existing inner-Beltway mixed use projects like Arts District Hyattsville. If Prince George's County is going to be successful in attracting the type of quality investment and development it says it wants around its Metro stations, its leaders have to be disciplined about following the county's comprehensive land use policies.
The county can't keep approving the wrong type of development in the wrong locations just because a particular property owner or developer wants it. It would be great for the county to gain 2 million square feet of high-quality transit-oriented development, but that needs to happen at the Largo Town Center Metro or one of the other existing Metro station areas in need of such high-intensity development.
Last week, I argued that that Capital Bikeshare can and should be as integral DC's suburbs as it has become to the city. One suburb well-suited for such a transformation is the city of Hyattsville.
Much of this Prince George's County city of about 17,500 is highly conducive to biking already. It boasts quiet streets with slow traffic, bike paths and parks, and numerous destinations at convenient biking distances from residents and transit stations.
West Hyattsville already has the highest bicycle mode share of any Metro station. It is a prime candidate to become a bike sharing hub.
2 Metro stations and a MARC (Camden Line) station serve Hyattsville. Unfortunately, none of these stations serve the core downtown area along Route 1 near EYA's Hyattsville Arts District development. It and three other shopping centers have a healthy mix of retail and residential, but the Metro, MARC, and several bus lines do not converge at any one of them.
College Park Metro, a few miles north, is such a hub. Unfortunately, it is surrounded by spread-out office parks and low-density residential. If bike sharing existed throughout Hyattsville, it would enable travelers to reach all major destinations in the city from any mode of mass transit without neccessitating a transfer up in College Park.
Though potential exists to create a highly bike-friendly environment across Hyattsville, infrastructure improvements would be neccessary along the axes connecting West Hyattsville, Prince George's Plaza, Riverdale Park, and the Hyattsville Arts District. A simple fix would be to add bike lanes or a cycle track to Queens Chapel Road, which was restriped a few years ago from a
four six-lane road to a two four-lane one.
Making this a bike corridor would directly connect West Hyattsville to Prince George's Plaza and Riverdale Park. This, along with bike lanes along Route 1, Jefferson Street, and Queensbury/Belcrest Road would form a bicycle network that would connect all major destinations within the city.
Certainly the transit stations would be top candidates for Capital Bikeshare station locations if the system were to come to Hyattsville. Prince George's Plaza and West Hyattsville Metro stations are obvious, but Riverdale MARC and a future Purple Line station in nearby Riverdale Park are also prime contenders.
CaBi stations at University Town Center, the Arts District, the Mall at Prince George's, and shops along major roads would grant transit users convenient access to retail. Civic institutions such as schools, the District Courthouse, and major parks could also host stations. Fill in the gaps with stations in in the heart of residential areas, and a bike share network in Hyattsville might look a little something like this:
Click for an interactive version.
By virtue of the city's permeable street grid layout, the excess roadway on Queens Chapel Road, and its multiple transit, shopping, residential, and other destinations, Hyattsville might be the best place in the DC area to set up a suburban bike sharing network. Assuming Capital Bikeshare expansion within the District brings the system up Rhode Island Avenue towards Mount Rainier, this system could help link the entire Route 1 corridor together while reducing congestion along this well-traveled route.
happy hour on Wednesday, August 18th, beginning at 6:00 pm on the second floor of SOVA, which is located at 1359 H Street NE.
Make sure to raise a drink to laying down streetcar rails in DC. And between rounds, talk with other streetcar supporters about the next steps to getting the network built.
Greater Greater Happy Hour: The day after the Sierra Club's happy hour, Greater Greater Washington will gathering for an opportunity to meet old and new friends, share a drink, and debate the things that make Greater Washington great!
DC State Fair: Residents of the 50 states have state fairs to showcase the food and artistry of their citizens. And DC will no longer be left out. A DC State Fair has been organized on August 28 at Tubman Elementary Field (11th & Irving NW). So whether you're from the District or not, make sure to come check out the talents of our residents.
Columbia Heights Day: The At the same location as the State Fair is the annual Columbia Heights Day festival. Turn out to experience music, food, dance, and much, much more. The festival runs from 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday, August 28.
Hill and Go Seek: Running from 5-8 pm on Saturday, August 28th is a bicycle-based scavenger hunt called Hill and Go Seek. Participants will have to chart routes between several points on Capitol Hill and will be judged on creativity and speed, among other things. Winners will be announced at an after party hosted by the H Street Country Club. The event benefits Ready, Willing, and Working.
It's time for another GGW Happy Hour. And you're invited!
We'll be gathering at 6:30p at Hank's in University Town Center on Thursday, August 19. Hank's is located at 6507 America Boulevard in Hyattsville, near the Prince George's Plaza Metro station on the Green Line.
We'd love it if you could make it. It's always nice to put faces to 'handles'. So come out and meet contributors and fellow commenters. And have some cold ones while you're there.
The Sierra Club and streetcar supporters are also holding a happy hour the previous day on H Street, NE to celebrate streetcar successes and discuss next steps.
We don't close main arterial streets at night even if a road is less safe. So why do many local governments close walking paths and bicycle trails, even ones that are used as commuting routes?
Reader Bianchi wrote in with a report:
My S.O. and I bought a house in Historic Hyattsville this fall. He uses the Northwest Branch bike trail to get to either West Hyattsville metro or Fort Totten. Last night, on his way home between 6 and 6:30 pm (when it was already dark), a PG County cop car came up behind him while he was on the bike trail and pulled him over.Bianchi contacted Hyattsville Mayor Bill Gardner. Here was his response:
The officer told him the trail was closed when dark because there had been some reports of mugging. S.O. asked the officer (rhetorically) if he thought riding on the street with cars with no bike lane was really safer.
He feels the question of which route is safer to bike should be left to him, the biker. The 'no use at dark' prohibition affects the morning commute too. I guess one solution to street (or bike trail) crime is to just prohibit people from being on the street.
Almost all of the parks and the trails in the County are owned and managed by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC). The Commission's policy is that park facilities close at dark, period. It has been a struggle to get them to change, although apparently they did re-designate a trail in Montgomery Co. near a Metro as a commuter route a couple years ago and it is open after dark.All park facilities? M-NCPPC doesn't close the roads that go through their parks, like all the roads crossing the portion of Rock Creek in Montgomery County. NPS doesn't close the GW Parkway. The difference is that park agencies see those as commuter transportation facilities
We have met with them to request they change the policy, given that the trails in our area are commuting routes. After a bit of work and some publicity, M-NCPPC provided lighting and cameras along a couple short sections of the trail near the metro station. They didn't agree to "open" the trails after dark in other areas. The trails are policed primarily by the M-NCPPC police, but they do collaborate with the county and city police.
Leaving aside the question of whether it's right to have commuter transportation facilities a major part of a parks agency's mission, a bike and walking trail is a transportation facility as well. Just because people use it for recreation doesn't make it not a transportation facility; many people jog on streets, too.
Commenter Woodley Parker wrote about the Klingle trail, "I live right above the proposed trail and I would prefer that it not be lit at night. In fact, the trail should probably be closed at night just like many other parks."
I disagree. It shouldn't be closed any more than Beach Drive is closed, or Porter or Tilden Streets (none of which is closed). Klingle Valley isn't going to have a vehicular road, but it's still going to be a pedestrian and bicycle through route. As such, it should have lights (though they could be much smaller than the lights on a roadway) and be open at all times. So should the trails in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties that serve a transportation function as well as a recreational one.
While LifeSci Village, Percontee's proposed community of homes, shops and research facilities in Calverton, waits for Montgomery County's approval, they are turning to Hyattsville, where they've envisioned one of the most ambitious urban redevelopment projects in the region.
The existing Belcrest Plaza is a 1960's-era garden apartment community built by the Gudelsky family. Percontee seeks to redevelop most of the 783-unit complex, behind the Mall at Prince George's on Belcrest Road, into an urban neighborhood comparable to Reston Town Center or Bethesda Row.
The area around the Prince George's Plaza metro station, has become a nationally-recognized example of Smart Growth. A case study of the adjacent University Town Center, a redeveloped office park, appears in the recently-published book Retrofitting Suburbia. Two luxury apartment complexes flank Belcrest Plaza. Across East-West Highway, a new hotel and an office tower are planned atop the Metro station.
At build-out, Belcrest Plaza's thirty-five acres would have 2,750 townhomes and apartments, 200,000 square feet of office space, 55,000 square feet of retail, and space for a library and recreation center. Toledo Terrace and Toledo Road would become treed boulevards lined with buildings from five to seventeen stories, while a thirty-three story "iconic building" would sit at the corner of Belcrest Road and Toledo Road. "We want something . . . to send the signal that this is a vibrant area," says Genn of the tower, which like the rest of the complex was designed by the Vienna-based Lessard Group. "The reason is to make a signature and a statement."
Left: Aerial view of apartment buildings in the redeveloped Belcrest Plaza.
Right: site plan of the redeveloped Belcrest Plaza. Images courtesy of Percontee.
While nearby garden apartment complexes are just renovating buildings, Percontee seeks to do tabula rasa, clearing the site and starting over. The redevelopment would happen in phases, starting closest to the new Post Park apartments on East-West Highway and moving east. In May, Genn told the Prince George's Sentinel that it was "less cost effective to make repairs" than to build new. "We don't feel it is the most responsible way to move forward by retrofitting ... rather than by changing what is there."
While community support for LifeSci Village is high, neighbors of Belcrest Plaza are less enthused. Current apartment tenants seem ambivalent about redevelopment. "It doesn't come as a surprise," one tenant told The Sentinel in May. "The owners and management have to stay up to date to compete." At a meeting in August, residents from neighboring University Park complained about everything from pollution to the potential for gentrification. Current residents will be able to move to buildings on Toledo Place that will not be redeveloped. "We want to minimize dislocation as much as possible," says Genn.
While Lambert says there will be "some provisions" for affordable housing, Prince George's County has no requirements for how many units must be built at Belcrest Plaza. Percontee claims that the new community, with nearly four times as many homes as the original, could have fewer school-aged children because of its drastically different demographic make-up.
Left: high-rise apartments and a public green at Belcrest Plaza.
Right: mid-rise apartments along Toledo Terrace. Images courtesy of Percontee.
There was also some skepticism about the success of previous upscale development in Hyattsville. University Town Center has had difficulty filling its retail space and selling apartments; a mile away, the Arts District Hyattsville development (which JUTP visited in 2007) has stalled due to the recession.
Despite its large size, Belcrest Plaza is racing towards completion. Percontee will submit a full site plan for approval by Prince George's County next spring, with construction to begin as early as 2012. Full build-out should take "ten to twelve years," Genn says. "A lot of people have a general resistance to change," responds Genn. "We believe big in Hyattsville and its potential. We do think it can be like a Bethesda Row or some of the great exciting places to be in the DC area. We see it as helping to stimulate more investment in the area."
For more images, check out this photoset on Flickr.
Hyattsville has seen a great deal of promising development in the last few years. The crown jewel, the Hyattsville Arts District, has inspired the moniker "the new Bethesda," insinuating good houses, potential for retail, and transit access. It's one place in Prince George's County where elements of transit oriented development are starting to flourish. Hyattsville hosts two Green Line stations. Adjacent Riverdale Park hosts a Camden Line MARC station and two future Purple Line stations.
Recently on Imagine, DC, I featured the West Hyattsville Metro Station, opining that transit oriented development could continue across the Anacostia River/Northwest Branch Park into nearby Chillum. At the heart of that area, less than 900 feet from the Metro platform, is an industrial area west of the intersection of Chillum Road and Queens Chapel Road. A commenter pointed out toward this Gazette article which tells of Washington Gas's plans to construct a liquefied natural gas plant on the site.
There are several major issues with such heavy industry being placed at this site. Low and medium density residential development completely surrounds the site, much of it even closer than the Metro platform. Heavy industry this close to residences has proven highly detrimental to health and quality of life, such as in River Terrace in Northeast, adjacent to a
coal power plant. Residents there are 3 to 5 times more likely to have cancer, asthma, or chronic bronchitis than other DC residents. On top of this, Chillum residents' real estate values will also plummet.
Since residential development surrounds the site, industrial traffic will need to drive through residential areas to reach the new Washington Gas facility. Neither Chillum Road nor Queens Chapel Road are exactly industrial corridors. Though there is already other industrial traffic induced by the site's current uses, a fuel plant on the site will undoubtedly increase the amount of HazMat cargo on these residential roads.
The site also sits atop the Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park about a mile and a half from where it connects to the Anacostia River. This is disturbing considering the horribly polluted state of the Anacostia, and it could potentially counteract efforts to clean up the river.
Finally, and most importantly, locating heavy industry so close to mass transit is a very poor use of land. This spot ought to hold a mixed-use transit-oriented development, being just a 5-minute walk to the Metro. There is even a pedestrian bridge over the Northwest Branch, almost anticipating this type of development. Heavy industry on that site could very well deter people in Chillum from walking to the station, which would in fact counter efforts to redevelop the north side of the Metro station.
Washington Gas needs to build this plant to meet rising demands, and this is their most cost effective alternative. But is it worth it to sacrifice a community of this sort? Industry such as this ought to be constructed along industrial corridors or near interstate highways that can better facilitate industrial traffic. Plots of land surrounded by residences and near parks and mass transit should be used for something better for the regional economy than a fuel plant.
Sometimes, even sidewalks are controversial. In Hyattsville, many narrow streets never had sidewalks; as the city has grown, this has become a pedestrian safety problem. Yesterday, the Hyattsville City Council passed a resolution to add sidewalks to a few neighborhood streets around Prince George's Plaza.
Some residents had argued against the change, of course. Some feared they would lose on-street parking (they would not). Some feared the streets would become too narrow for trucks (they would not, and the traffic calming effect will help the neighborhood). Some cited "character of the neighborhood". As a compromise, the Council added sidewalks on the main neighborhood through streets and left some more lightly used streets alone.
More broadly, the Council also approved the city's Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, which identifies safety priorities and promotes more coordination between city officials and citizens around safety.
- Community stories show the shift to a walkable lifestyle
- Focus transportation on downtown or neighborhoods?
- Young kids try to assault me while biking
- Some are pushing to limit sidewalk cycling
- Where is downtown Prince George's County?
- Endless zoning update delay hurts homeowners
- Metro bag searches aren't always optional