Proposed Armory Apartments to bring big change to Route 1
By KRISSI HUMBARD — A new apartment development planned for Route 1 will change the landscape of downtown Hyattsville in a big way.
Urban Investment Partners (UIP), a D.C.-based real estate and development company, presented plans for Armory Apartments to the Hyattsville City Council on July 16. The development would be a mixed-use retail and residential complex — that includes public park space — spanning Baltimore Avenue from Hamilton Street to the Crossover Church.
The plans include 284 apartments:, 25 studios, 174 one-bedroom apartments and 85 two-bedroom apartments. The proposal also includes 32,000 square feet of retail space, with 400 feet of frontage along Baltimore Avenue, featuring a mix of restaurants, convenience stores, health and beauty shops, fitness centers and boutiques. There are also plans for a parking garage with 680 parking spaces, about 100 of which would be public parking spaces.
Armory Apartments would be the developer’s first major project in Prince George’s County.
Brook Katzen, vice president of development for UIP, said the development team has “grown very fond of this community and this neighborhood. We’ve met a lot of great people, and we’re thrilled to be making this investment here.”
During the presentation, Katzen compared the proposed development to the EYA property across the street, noting that the two are similar in size and scope.
The development would replace five vacant buildings in downtown Hyattsville. After purchasing the properties last year, UIP teamed up with Green Owl Design and local artists to “fight the blight” with murals and a park — dubbed Polka Dot Park — while the development proposal began working its way through the planning system.
The architecture of the Armory Apartments is broken into four design pieces, Katzen explained, to give the feeling that the project was developed over time. He said the design team incorporated design elements from the surrounding neighborhood: corrugated metal borrowed from Franklins Restaurant, Brewery and General Store and natural stone from the Armory building, playful colors inspired by the murals and elements from historic buildings in the area.
Residents at the council meeting and the city’s planning committee meeting were a bit wary about the design, though.
During public comment, one resident said that “the exterior architecture could use some work,” calling for a “more durable, classical design.”
During the planning meeting, residents and committee members also talked about the architecture and facade. Corrugated metal was not popular among those who spoke about the project. Others suggested using bolder colors, upgrading the materials, making the look of the development funkier and more unique, and incorporating the murals that are currently in place.
Katzen said the development team is open to suggestions from the public about the look of the buildings.
“It’s not built yet, so we’re flexible, and we can make adjustments based on people’s feedback,” Katzen stated. “We want to build a project that the community is happy with, and that people think is beautiful,” he explained at the planning board meeting. “We wouldn’t want to impose a building that people are uncomfortable with.”
As with any development project in Hyattsville, residents and councilmembers were concerned about the number of students that might be added to the overtaxed school system with the development of this project.
The proposed units are predominantly studio and one-bedroom apartments, but a study done by UIP projected that 38 elementary students, 15 middle school students and 21 high school students would live in the development. Development companies are required to pay school surcharge fees; for this project, that would amount to $2,361,044.
Another point of concern is traffic, which is already a problem on Baltimore Avenue in downtown Hyattsville. Members of the planning board voiced concern that the project could further increase in traffic in the area.
UIP has designated three entrances into the development’s multi-level parking garage: one from Route 1 for retail parking; one from Hamilton Alley for parking for Crossover Church members; and one from Jefferson Street for residential and additional church parking. Katzen said the parking garage will also have bicycle storage and an electric vehicle charging station.
UIP also aims to make the area safer for pedestrians and vehicles with its design. Their proposal features a wider sidewalk, “which makes for a better retail experience but also a much safer pedestrian environment along the street,” Katzen said. The development team also wants to help control traffic flow and increase safety by relocating the Hamilton Street intersection and aligning it with the development’s entrance, and by adding a traffic light at Hamilton Street and Baltimore Avenue, with left-turn signals and signalized pedestrian crosswalks.
The development team has visited the area many times and has already been involved in community events. Steve Schwat, principal of UIP, spoke about building spaces for the community at the planning committee meeting.
The north end of the building, which borders Crossover Church, would have a public park that acts as a landscape buffer. Plans for the park include water features, outdoor dining, benches, umbrellas, a stage for performances and cafe seating.
There would also be a public outdoor park on the south side of the development with a sculpture or water feature to serve as a visual focal point. Polka Dot Park 2.0, the team is calling it. Plans also call for an arts alley on the backside of the property, with an entrance through Polka Dot Park 2.0.
“We recognize that this project is going to be an important part of the fabric of this community … and that’s a responsibility that we don’t take lightly,” Katzen said.
If approved, construction on the project is expected to begin in early 2019.