A hip Hamilton Street, and other visions for West Hyattsville
By Dan Behrend
Some future weekend, after shredding the nearby mountain bike skills park, residents may admire the public art, new apartment buildings, and expanded parks, as they head to a street festival next to a favorite local business on Hamilton Street.
“While change may seem sudden, it rarely happens overnight,” said Scott Rowe, a planner in Prince George’s County Planning Department, in a video describing the county’s long-range community planning.
The Staff Draft West Hyattsville-Queens Chapel Sector Plan, released on July 28, 2022, gives the community a preview of the changes the county envisions around the West Hyattsville Metro station — and another opportunity to provide feedback.
Shaped like a piece from a challenging jigsaw puzzle, the area covered by the plan extends about 2 miles along Queens Chapel Road, from the border with Washington, D.C., to East-West Highway. At its widest point, it spans roughly 1.5 miles, from Hamilton Street near David C. Driskell Community Park’s entrance in the east to the intersection of Chillum Road and 16th Avenue to the west. It includes parts of the City of Hyattsville, the City of Mount Rainier, the Town of Brentwood and the unincorporated Avondale area.
To achieve the long-term vision for the area, the plan outlines dozens of policies and strategies.
The county aims to support mixed-use development within walking distance of the West Hyattsville Metro station. Denser development would center around the station, including redevelopment of the land owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and south of Chillum Road.
The plan encourages the creation of more public places for community gatherings. For example, it recommends making Hamilton Street between Queens Chapel Road and Jamestown Road “a hip, lively, walkable corridor that serves as West Hyattsville-Queens Chapel’s Main Street and is the heart of the community.” Improvements to Hamilton Street would include reducing the number of lanes between Ager and Queens Chapel roads, adding bike lanes and more space to walk, and temporarily closing the street to car traffic during events like farmers markets, street festivals and music performances.
Making the area more walkable is a recurring theme throughout the plan. Planners include strategies to address the challenges faced by people traveling by foot, bike and bus. The plan adopts street design standards to better accommodate the needs of all users, and suggests engineering changes to reduce vehicle speeds and increase driver awareness. It also recommends safety improvements, like protected bike lanes on busier roads, continuous sidewalks and improved bus stops.
Under the plan, several greenways, or linear parks, will be added. One of the proposed greenways would include a promenade-style bridge across the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River. The bridge would be for pedestrians and cyclists and would connect the area around the Metro station with development south of Chillum Road. The promenade would eventually serve as a replacement for the pedestrian bridge that the Department of Parks and Recreation (PG Parks) closed near this location in September 2020 after severe damage from flooding. While experiencing delays, PG Parks continues to work to replace that damaged bridge in the interim.
The sector plan also grapples with the environmental impacts of development near the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River and its flood plain. Some proposed development would require elevating areas out of the flood plain and offsetting the stormwater issues caused by those changes. The plan recommends that state and local governments coordinate to purchase the commercial properties on the north side of Chillum Road, close to the riverbank, and convert that land to open space for flood mitigation and natural restoration. The plan also outlines sustainable practices, like reconstructing streets as green streets, adopting other stormwater management best practices to reduce runoff, and pursuing environmental conservation and restoration efforts.
The proposed sectional map amendment, released with the draft plan, would update the zoning for the area to match the uses in the sector plan.
With the release of the draft plan, the county planning department has been conducting public outreach and education, including a virtual information session at the beginning of June to explain the purpose of sector plans, zoning, sectional map amendments and the processes related to the development and adoption of sector plans. A recording of the information session and other resources related to the plan are available online at pgparks.com on the project page.
In early August, the county planning department also posted a four-minute video summarizing the vision and goals of the plan on Facebook.
The Prince George’s County Planning Board and the Prince George’s District Council will hold a joint public hearing on Oct. 11. Interested residents should visit the project website at pgparks.com for information on how to submit written testimony or to sign up to speak at the hearing.