BY SUSIE CURRIE — Hyattsville residents are a step closer to having another grocery store in town. On May 7, city and county officials joined ECHO Realty executives to break ground on a 55,000-square-foot Safeway at University Town Center (UTC).

Two more businesses have recently signed leases there that together make up about 9,000 square feet. Unleashed will open as a smaller, boutique version of pet-supply company, Petco, while Phenix Salon Suites will offer space for independent beauty professionals.

Unlike the more controversial Whole Foods-anchored development just 1.3 miles away, which divided residents and led to hundreds of hours of public hearings, this project has enjoyed widespread support from city and county officials.

“I think it’s going to be a wonderful opportunity for UTC and the city,” Mayor Marc Tartaro said when ECHO first described its plans to the city council. “There’s a vacant lot now, and [this plan] will create a front door off East-West into UTC. This will jump-start that whole area.”