By Sophie Gorman Oriani
The development company Urban Investment Partners (UIP) is seeking community input on how to develop approximately 30,000 square feet of retail space on the east side of Baltimore Avenue between Hamilton and Jefferson Streets. Steven Schwat, the principal at UIP, envisions an all-day community gathering space, supported by food, retail options and entertainment.
The retail space, which is part of the Canvas Apartments project, is divided into two spaces: an area with just over 11,000 square feet of retail space and, on the opposite side of the project by Crossover Church, one with over 18,000 feet. Both areas have an adjoining outdoor section.
Steven Schwat, the principal at UIP, says that he has been coming to Hyattsville for many years and has employees who live in the city. Schwat imagines using the larger retail space for a food hall-style setup. “What I envision … it’s really just a starting point for a conversation,” stressed Schwat, laying out a hypothetical scenario in which a number of individual merchants were selling a range of items — anything from art to fresh fish to prepared food — out of booths, with shared seating and entertainment for the whole venue.
Schwat noted that Hyattsville lacks a casual hangout spot with eateries and sees the outdoor area as a particular benefit, especially for families with children. He suggested that the “piazza,” as he calls it, could transform over the course of the day. “The space is always activated; it’s always indoor/outdoor space,” he said, envisioning a transformation from coffee and donuts in the morning into a bar and music at night.
Schwat also said he hoped to welcome a small grocery store, one which would feel like a real neighborhood grocery. But the plans aren’t limited to food only. Artists and other artisans could rent stalls, too. “The space sort of becomes this community space,” Schwat said, stressing that “it’s always kid friendly.”
James Chandler, director of the City of Hyattsville Community and Economic Development Department, called the project “highly unusual” because UIP hasn’t requested any variations from the standards of the Gateway Arts District Sector Plan, which specifies details such as setback measurements, parking space requirements, lighting, and so on. “[UIP] deliberately designed the project in a way to comply with the standards that are in place, so it’s a positive from our perspective,” Chandler said.
Schwat plans to break ground on the project in January or February of 2022, once all the necessary permits come through and the planning process is complete. Building the entire project will take about two years, he said, although the retail should be able to open sooner, as it is on the first floor. COVID-19 hasn’t changed much about the design, particularly since the area was already designed with a lot of outdoor space, according to Schwat.
Chandler said that UIP has been very upfront about wanting the retail to reflect the values of the Hyattsville community. “What we want to know is what the people want and what they would use,” said Schwat. He plans to hire a local to curate the offerings “so it’s representative of the people that are living there.”
To fill out the survey about what you would like to see, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QJDFNRG