By REBECCA MARX –
Certain changes for West Hyattsville are fast approaching. Others may be decades off.
A county planning team invited residents to comment, from Sept. 20-24, on video presentations of three alternative planning concepts, as part of the process of making a new West Hyattsville-Queens Chapel Sector Plan.
All three growth concepts aim to increase development around the West Hyattsville Metro station, adding approximately 5,000 new housing units. They also each include an enhanced trail system with consistent paving, continuous lighting, seating, and trash receptacles. Two of the three concepts include wide pedestrian-oriented bridges over the river.
Each concept approaches walkability and commercial space differently:
Growth Concept 1 proposes a flexible, walkable Hamilton Street that can be closed to traffic for festivals and markets, as well as a walkable section of Queens Chapel. It would add trees, seating and wider sidewalks, and no new bridges.
Growth Concept 2 extends Buchanan Street to create a new walkable commercial corridor connecting the east and west sides of Queens Chapel Road, intended to strengthen existing retail, as well as add retail and a series of plazas. It includes a bridge from the Queenstown Apartments area.
Growth Concept 3 proposes that Chillum and Ager roads be transformed into pedestrian-and bicycle-friendly green streets, with nodes that connect to trails and allow for gatherings, plus a widened bridge from Chillum.
A draft West Hyattsville-Queens Chapel Sector Plan will be published next summer. The planning team continues to hold virtual office hours.
Comprehensive redevelopment may still be a long way off; what’s happening in the interim?
On Aug. 2 Gilbane Development Company presented a new preliminary plan for multifamily buildings in a section of the Riverfront community near West Hyattsville Metro to the city council.
Already approved are 183 townhouses and 300 multifamily units, plus commercial space and a medical complex with a Kaiser Permanente building along Ager Road.
Townhouses are under construction and are for sale. Two-bedrooms cost $467,990 and three-bedrooms, $563,990.
The new preliminary plan presented in August includes multifamily buildings, an amphitheatre, and green space for stormwater management. Stormwater will filter through a gravel wetland that looks and functions like a natural wetland. The stormwater will run horizontally through the system, entering through two sediment forebays. Three deep pools will sit beyond the forebays for removal of solids.
Amenities include playful sculptural furniture, a tree grove, seating nooks, outdoor dining space, built-in grills and a bar area with overhead string lights.
Replacing the KFC
During a Sept. 21 city planning committee meeting, Harvey Maisel, founder of the company that owns Queens Chapel Town Center, suggested that West Hyattsville may not be ready to develop for another 15 to 20 years.
Maisel asked the committee to recommend that the city support keeping the drive-thru attached to the vacant building at the corner of Hamilton Street and Ager Road, where a KFC operated for 20 years. Maisel said that finding a new tenant will be difficult if using the drive-thru is not allowed, and that renovations to eliminate the drive-thru and fastfood aesthetic would be too expensive for potential small business tenants.
All but one planning committee member opposed the drive-thru. Yohnannes Bennehoff was the most outspoken, noting a city preference for walkable, rather than auto-centric, development, and saying the drive-thru “takes us in a direction that’s different from where the city it headed.”
The single dissenter, Will Seath, said a lot more has to change in West Hyattsville for the former KFC site to be walkable, and reiterated the owner’s primary point: A vacant site is not desirable. He suggested that cars pulling in and out of the drive-thru might slow traffic, rather than risk fatal accidents, as other committee members feared.
During the same Sept. 21 planning committee meeting, Kate Powers and Jim Chandler announced that a developer is considering building 8-12 units of housing in a vacant parking lot on the east side of Ager Road.
Separately, a 0.92-acre property at 5402 Jamestown Road is on sale for $9 million. Online listings show this wooded area between the metro station and the Northwest Branch trail reenvisioned as a 176-unit building with a coffee shop.
In the short-term, the City of Hyattsville is considering acquiring Hamilton Street from the state highway administration, a possibility discussed at the Oct. 4 city council meeting. According to City Council Member Joseph Solomon (Ward 5), Hamilton Street is not a priority for the state, which is why it has not been well maintained and does not have consistent sidewalks.
Lastly, one of the two liquor stores on Hamilton vacated a now-empty building in 2021, and reopened down the block in the old Pizza Hut building. The city council voted Oct. 4 to ask the liquor board to revoke its liquor license.
According to the city, the liquor store, formerly Lee’s, now Hyattsville Spirts & Grill: Beer, Wine & Spirits, is open without an operational commercial kitchen, in violation of its liquor license.