College Park’s New Hipster Spot

Photo of Milkboy in Philadephia from Flickr user karmacamilleeon

Photo of Milkboy in Philadephia from Flickr user karmacamilleeon

College Park is borrowing a little bit of hipness from Philadelphia.

Next year, MilkBoy+ArtHouse will open on Route 1 next to Ten Ren’s Tea Time. It will be a partnership between MilkBoy, a live music venue and restaurant from the City of Brotherly Love, and the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, according to the Diamondback:

The first floor of the building is planned as a cabaret-type space where people can eat, drink and watch a show, while the second floor will serve as a larger performance space. The venue aims to host performances or events three to five times a week, but that number may fluctuate based on the season.

The partnership is the latest sign that the University of Maryland is serious about its plans to turn College Park into a major college town, alongside a $115 million luxury hotel and scads of new student housing. MilkBoy is well-known in Philly, where the website Billy Penn described it as a place “where bright neon, loaded sandwiches and blaring music define the vibe.”

Construction is underway at the location, based on designs by MSR Design of Hyattsville and Morgan-Keller construction of Columbia, according to city documents. The venue has events scheduled as early as January.

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Prince George’s Mall Slated for Remodel

Photo by Flickr user Elvert Barnes

Photo by Flickr user Elvert Barnes

The Mall at Prince George’s is getting an upgrade.

The mall’s owners, a publicly traded real-estate investment group, have committed to a $30 million renovation, including new exteriors, entrances and storefronts. Work is expected to begin early next year and finish in 2018.

In a statement, Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust CEO Joseph Coradino attributed the remodeling to recent high-end development in the area, which includes upscale apartmentstownhomes and the new Safeway at University Town Center.

“The property has just begun its transformation into an elevated, vibrant shopping and dining destination commensurate with the development that has occurred in the surrounding area which creates a significant opportunity to densify the property in the future, enhancing the experience between the mall and surrounding developments,” he said.

To put that in plain English: The mall’s owners are looking to upgrade it from the traditional 1980s-style shopping center with an ocean of parking into a more modern shopping center that ties into the surrounding area better. Also, fancier stores.

On that front, the mall has landed new tenants in ULTA, a fast-growing beauty store and salon chain that is known to drive significant foot traffic, and H&M, a trendy clothing store popular with millennials, along with Designer Shoe Warehouse.

The renovations should help complete a key part of the puzzle in the area around the Prince George’s Plaza Metro station, which has seen a lot of new development in recent years. The mall, which opened in 1959, was last renovated in 2001, when Target moved in.

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“Cheap Eats” Recognizes Route 1

Eat Shop EnjoyThree Hyattsville restaurants made the annual influential Washingtonian “Cheap Eats” list.

Cafe Azul-Caracas de Ayer, which serves authentic Venezuelan food; Spice 6, a Chipotle-style Indian restaurant; and Shagga Coffee & Restaurant, which serves Ethiopian food, all made the Washingtonian‘s list this year.

That’s something of an achievement considering that the magazine searches from a huge geographical area in Washington, Virginia and Maryland to compile its list.

The rankings seems to be an indication that the rest of the greater metro area is realizing that the Route 1 corridor has a lot to offer.

Earlier this year a Washington Post critic noted that a short drive up Route 1 in Beltsville is an international food hotspot with tasty Vietnamese, Kenyan, Guatemalan, Filipino, Peruvian, and Greek dining options.

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Bikesharing Comes to College Park

Photo courtesy of Zagster

Photo courtesy of Zagster

Bike-sharing has finally come to College Park, moving the greater Hyattsville area closer to a more comprehensive transportation system.

The University of Maryland and the city of College Park launched a bike-sharing program called mBike, using bicycles supplied and maintained by Zagster, a Massachussetts-based company that services a number of other college towns.

The 120 bikes are spread around 14 stations, including seven on campus and one at the Metro stop. Riders can sign up for $6 daily, monthly, six-month or $65 annual passes. Rides are free for the first hour and $3 an hour after that.

The idea of bike-sharing has been around since the 1960s, but it wasn’t until technology came along to prevent theft and vandalism in the late 1990s that it really took off. Capital Bikeshare has been in D.C. since 2010 and extends all the way to Takoma Park.

Because it uses a different company, mBike doesn’t link up to Capital Bikeshare, which is too bad because it means you can’t check out a bike and ride it to a neighboring city. For now, that’s not a huge deal, since the vast majority of users are making short trips anyway, and city officials said Zagster was cheaper.

Hyattsville has explored getting a state grant— as College Park did—to add bike-sharing stations, and Prince George’s County has looked into adding bike-sharing in Greenbelt and other places on Route 1.

But future bike-sharing along Route 1 will now face a choice between expanding College Park’s system or joining up with the larger Capital Bikeshare system.

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Siphon Coffee at Vigilante

vigilante-coffee-siphonVigilante Coffee has upped the coffee game in the D.C. area once again.

The Hyattsville coffee shop serves siphon coffee—a brewing technique so old it’s new again and one that’s a treat to watch.

Siphon coffee makers look like something Bill Nye the Science Guy would use, with two glass chambers and a Bunsen burner-like flame at the bottom. The technique uses water vapor to force the hot water to defy gravity and a partial vacuum to bring it back down.

Coffee aficionados swear the technique helps the water maintain the perfect brewing temperature, but regardless of how fine your palate is, you’ll enjoy watching it brew. (Videos abound on YouTube of people making “vacuum coffee” or “siphon coffee” for this reason.)

A cup of siphon coffee at Vigilante costs about $6 and takes longer than most of your other coffee drinks. It’s not something you’ll want to get while rushing to work. But only one other coffee shop in the D.C. area offers siphon coffee, and it’s usually found only in high-end coffee shops in places like San Francisco and New York.

And in other news, Vigilante has posted a notice that it’s applied for a beer and wine license.

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Actually, Hyattsville is Into Urbanism

IMG_5493An article about urbanism in Prince George’s County has struck a nerve.

Dan Reed, a smart young urban planner who runs the Just Up the Pike blog about Montgomery County, argues in the Washingtonian that the county “just isn’t into urbanism” compared to other D.C. areas like Rockville and Tyson’s Corner.

Prince George’s leaders want to keep pace—there are plans for a town center next to the Prince George’s Plaza and New Carrollton Metro stations and for urban-style developments in Hyattsville and Greenbelt—but their constituents aren’t so sure.

A lot of these new developments, it turns out, look like the neighborhoods many Prince Georgians fled decades ago. Which may explain why some locals have resisted efforts to follow the lead of other inner-ring suburbs. In 2007, officials in Hyattsville pushed back on plans approved by the county to build 14-foot-wide townhouses. Invoking the suburbanite’s time-honored bugaboo, they argued that smaller homes would promote transience.

The piece is worth reading because it makes some often-overlooked points about why many African-American professionals moved to Prince George’s County in search of the midcentury suburban dream.

But Reed overstates the case when it comes to analyzing the area’s current trends. He has a point when he says there has been localized opposition to projects like the new Whole Foods in Riverdale Park or the proposed townhouses at the Bluebird Cab site.

At the same time, there’s always opposition to change. When I was a teenager, I used to key in surveys for my dad, who is an urban planner, and I remember marveling even then at the number of people who would argue that a bike path would lead to more crime and reduce home values. (They actually do the exact opposite.) And I’ve heard some interesting folk theories of urban planning as a city reporter in both Washington state and North Carolina.

But what matters is what happens in the end. Arts District Hyattsville was completedA 24-hour Safeway opened at University Town CenterUpscale apartments are being built near the Prince George’s Plaza MetroWhole Foods is coming to Riverdale Park.

College Park is building a huge hotel not to mention urban-style student housing and apartmentsTownhomes are being built next to the Greenbelt Metro stationAnd more development may come to the West Hyattsville Metro.

The greater Hyattsville area isn’t just into urbanism, it’s making it happen.

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Spotted in University Park

IMG_3450Here’s something you might have walked past without realizing it.

The Hyattsville Wire spotted a mounting block on Pineway in University Park which is a set of stairs to get on and off a horse more easily and was typically used by young and old riders and women riding side saddle. Next to it is a post for tying up the horse.

We aren’t sure when this was built or if it was ever used for that purpose. It’s possible it was added later as an affectation.

Either way, it’s a reminder of the long-standing history of University Park and one of those things that makes the area quaint and charming.

University Park was incorporated in 1935 and much of the community is a national historic district and on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Franklins: One of D.C.’s ‘Underrated’

IMG_2417Franklins Restaurant, Brewery and General Store is well-known around Hyattsville, but the Washington Post recently listed its upstairs taproom among 11 of the D.C. area’s most underrated bars.

For his story, critic Fritz Hahn decided to revisit “highly enjoyable bars” that get overlooked “just because they’re no longer the shiniest, newest thing.”

For 14 years, Franklins has been the go-to place for fresh, local beer in Prince George’s County. It’s no longer the only brewpub in the county, but its beer remains the best. Regulars know the downtown Hyattsville restaurant has many faces: a toy store packed with goodies for all ages; a wine and beer shop; a family dining destination with pizzas and sandwiches. But the star is the copper-topped bar upstairs, which offers a view into Mike Roy’s brewhouse. Roy’s strong suits are IPAs and sour beers: The standout on my last trip was Sourhopnado, a well-made sour ale packed with resiny, citrusy hops. Get there between 4 and 6:30 p.m. for the daily happy hour, with $1 off all beers and discounted food, including a bowl of giant onion rings that might be too much for one person to finish.

Hopefully the piece will inspire more than a few D.C. residents to make the trip up to Franklins to see what the fuss is all about.

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H&M is Coming to Hyattsville

Photo courtesy of bit.ly/1rqptFg.

Photo courtesy of bit.ly/1rqptFg.

Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT) recently announced H&M has signed a lease at the Mall at Prince Georges, which is scheduled to undergo a $25 million renovation to include new retail, restaurants and entertainment, according to an article in today’s Washington Business Journal.

Renovations to the mall will be done in phases and will start with a new 20,000 square-foot H&M slated to open this fall.

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24-Hour Safeway Opens at University Town Center

IMG_5439

The new 24-hour Safeway grocery store opened up earlier this month at University Town Center in Hyattsville, giving residents yet another option.

The new 54,000-square-foot center is one of Safeway’s “lifestyle” stores and features a Starbucks coffee bar, a deli and a meats and seafood section, and even a pizza bar. Between the new Safeway and Whole Foods Market opening later this year at the new Riverdale Park Station, not to mention Yes! Organic Market and Giant.

The new grocery is part of a large, mixed-used project by commercial real estate developer Echo Realty, which recently announced MedStar Health and Town Center Wine & Spirits have signed leases to join its Gateway at UTC project. They join Safeway and other new retailers including Unleashed by Petco, Le’s Nails, and Phenix Salon Suites, according to Echo’s website.

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