Prince George's (and Hyattsville) show urbanist progress

The newer development in the Hyattsville-College Park corridor shows how urbanism can be done right, argues a guest blogger from the Hyattsville Wire blog site. Ryan Teague Beckwith says evidence on the ground shows how Prince George's County's urbanist future has promise.

/By Ryan Teague Beckwith<>Hyattsville Wire/ Dan Reed, a smart young urban planner who runs the Just Up the Pike blog about Montgomery County, argues in the Washingtonian that the [Prince George’s] county “just isn’t into urbanism” compared to other D.C. areas like Rockville and Tyson’s Corner.

Prince George’s leaders want to keep pace—there are plans for a town center next to the Prince George’s Plaza and New Carrollton Metro stations and for urban-style developments in Hyattsville and Greenbelt—but their constituents aren’t so sure.

A lot of these new developments, it turns out, look like the neighborhoods many Prince Georgians fled decades ago. Which may explain why some locals have resisted efforts to follow the lead of other inner-ring suburbs. In 2007, officials in Hyattsville pushed back on plans approved by the county to build 14-foot-wide townhouses. Invoking the suburbanite’s time-honored bugaboo, they argued that smaller homes would promote transience.

The piece is worth reading because it makes some often-overlooked points about why many African-American professionals moved to Prince George’s County in search of the midcentury suburban dream.

But Reed overstates the case when it comes to analyzing the area’s current trends. He has a point when he says there has been localized opposition to projects like the new Whole Foods in Riverdale Park or the proposed townhouses at the Bluebird Cab site.

At the same time, there’s always opposition to change. When I was a teenager, I used to key in surveys for my dad, who is an urban planner, and I remember marveling even then at the number of people who would argue that a bike path would lead to more crime and reduce home values. (They actually do the exact opposite.) And I’ve heard some interesting folk theories of urban planning as a city reporter in both Washington state and North Carolina.

But what matters is what happens in the end. Arts District Hyattsville was completedA 24-hour Safeway opened at University Town CenterUpscale apartments are being built near the Prince George’s Plaza MetroWhole Foods is coming to Riverdale Park.

College Park is building a huge hotel not to mention urban-style student housing and apartmentsTownhomes are being built next to the Greenbelt Metro stationAnd more development may come to the West Hyattsville Metro.

The greater Hyattsville area isn’t just into urbanism, it’s making it happen.

This post first appeared April 29, 2016 in Hyattsville Wire. Cross-posted by permission.