Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

West Hyattsville Commons plans presented

City Council will view pedestrian-friendly development plans Monday

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Representatives from the proposed West Hyattsville Commons presented a conceptual plan for the project’s development to the Hyattsville Planning Committee and other city residents Monday evening, a little more than a year after the County Council sent the plan back to developers and county planning staffers for more work.

The development, a joint project of Centex Homes and Gunston Hall Realty, both based in Virginia, will sit on 44.5 acres at the northwest portion of the intersection of Ager Road and Hamilton Street. Once all of the plans are approved, it will take about 10 years for the development to be completed, said Shawn Weingast, vice president and general manager of Gunston Hall Realty.

In January 2007, the Prince George’s County Council, acting as the District Council, remanded plans for West Hyattsville Commons back to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission citing, among other things, the lack of a pedestrian-friendly environment and transit-oriented development.

Brad Frome, aide to County Councilman Will Campos (D-Dist. 2) of Hyattsville, said the councilman, city and developers have worked over the past year to come up with a plan on which all parties can agree.

‘‘Is it exactly the plan that we would have if we were to build it ourselves? No. But life is about compromise,” he said. ‘‘Now we have a better overall plan.”

The new plan aims to have 60,000 to 85,000 square feet of retail, about 200,000 square feet of office space, a 15,000 square-foot community center and up to 1,400 residential units, which would be both multi-family and townhomes.

The plan now highlights Hamilton Square, an area that is larger than a football field and can hold events like farmers’ markets and other outdoor activities, said Stephen G. Gang, planner and architect for the project. The square also creates a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere, he said.

Additional changes include moving bus stops to encourage pedestrians to walk in the square and situating retail so it also is nearby.

Hyattsville Planning Committee Co-Chairwoman Maureen Foster said she would like to see more of a link to the rest of the city’s arts district designation. The Hyattsville Planning Committee is a volunteer committee appointed by the mayor and council that advises the council on issues related to development and planning. The Gateway Arts District is a state art designation designed to attract artists and businesses to Mount Rainier, Brentwood, North Brentwood and Hyattsville.

‘‘I think bringing arts into the development will benefit the development and help link the city together,” she said.

Michael Breen, restoration specialist for the Anacostia Watershed Society, agreed that incorporating the arts into West Hyattsville Commons was important.

‘‘If we’re going to call ourselves an arts district we should actually have things that support the arts instead of just supporting the next coffee shop,” he said.

The developers will present their plans to the Hyattsville City Council at its meeting Monday.

E-mail Maya T. Prabhu at