Residents wary of proposed redevelopment of Municipal Building
By HELEN PARSHALL — On Sept. 7, residents were invited to the Hyattsville Municipal Building for an open house discussion of the upcoming redevelopment of the site. The structure has long been in need of repairs, but the question over what to do with the site and the services it houses has only just been opened to the public.
“The possibility of relocating our administrative offices came about because the police force has outgrown their space and needs to move,” said Jake Rollow, city public information officer. “The current municipal building would likely need costly repairs to continue to be fully functional.”
Presentations were given by both Dillon/Warner and Flywheel Development, laying out the scope of two vastly different proposals for transforming the site into residential areas over the course of the meeting’s first two hours. Residents were given opportunities to ask questions of each company and delve deeper into each of the proposed sites. Dillon/Warner brought forth pictures of modern residential living, describing their “Gallatin Lofts” project as a “nontraditional” vision for activating the Route 1 Corridor. Gallatin Lofts would combine community and residential living under a green-roof construction, offering 126 residential units as well as areas designated for community spaces and artist lofts and studios. The driving force of the proposal is that residents can “live, work and play” in the same space.
Flywheel’s proposed “Arcade Row” would alter the Gallatin Street site into 31 units of for-sale, net-zero-energy townhomes. The Flywheel plan draws cues from neighboring community sites such as Vigilante Coffee in order to become “part of the community fabric.” By transforming the space into single-family homes, Flywheel’s vision of activating the community spaces would also echo the Victorian styles of the historic district.
What was absent from the meeting was equal discussion of the potential reuse of the current building structure, rather than its demolition.
“At this point, the city does not have an estimate of the total cost of repairing the building, and there is no projected timeline for making a decision as to relocation or repair,” said Rollow. “Such a decision would require council approval.”
Many residents expressed wariness about dramatic changes to the existing city center.
“It just doesn’t make good sense,” wrote one resident on the group email list for the Hyattsville Organization for a Positive Environment (H.O.P.E.).
Concerns at the meeting ranged from the effects of such large-scale development on the residents already living in the community to the aesthetics of each project merging with the already existing, vibrant structure. A resident lamented that in moving the Municipal Building away from the city center “something gets lost in the harmonious transition between the historic and commercial parts of the city.”
Both projects assume the relocation of the services within the current Municipal Building, but no decisions have been made at this time. A poll conducted by the Hyattsville Life & Times supports this finding. As of Sept. 29, 60 percent of respondents believe that the city should renovate the existing Municipal Building rather than sell it for redevelopment.
In July 2015, the City of Hyattsville issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for firms interested in the redevelopment of 4310 Gallatin Street. Responses were accepted from the two firms, and in February 2016 the city issued a Request for Proposal to move forward with more detail. City officials stated at the meeting that their target is the end of December 2016 for moving forward on the future of the 4310 Gallatin Street site.