Meet Hyattsville’s Honey Bee Farm

Hyattsville is home to a craft brewer, a coffee roaster and it even has its own apiary: The Hope Honey Farm.

Beyond producing honey, the farm makes soaps and lip balm, some of which you can buy at the new Whole Foods at Riverdale Park Station, Brentwood Arts Exchange, and at Franklin’s General Store.

Given the plight of the bee, it’s also helping the environment. As the Washington Post noted recently, a bumblebee species was placed on the endangered species list for the first time ever:

One state, Maryland, shows how eerie and perilous the decline has been for professional beekeepers. In 2015, the state lost more than 60 percent of its hives, each containing up to 20,000 honeybees. Beekeeper Steve McDaniel, owner of McDaniel Honey Farms, lost half of his hives in Manchester, Md., and all of them where he kept bees in downtown Baltimore. Hives with up to 20,000 bees cost about $1,200.

If you’re interested in trying your hand at beekeeping, here are two local groups to contact: The D.C. Beekeepers Alliance and the Bowie-Upper Marlboro Beekeepers Association.

Also noteworthy: Hope Honey Farm is the only Certified Naturally Grown urban honey bee farm inside the Beltway.

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Why Prince George’s County’s Banned Styrofoam

Here’s a fun Earth Day tidbit: Prince George’s County banned styrofoam last year.

Since July 1, the use of polystyrene packaging (known as “packing peanuts”), cups and takeout containers has been prohibited in the county.

The county was at the forefront of a nationwide movement to get rid of styrofoam, which breaks down into smaller pieces that end up in waterways, where they are ingested by birds and fish.

Though environmentalists have raised concerns about polystyrene’s effects on human health (the science is still out, though styrene levels in blood are being studied), it’s the harm to waterways that seems to have won the argument.

Many of the more than 100 cities and counties that have banned styrofoam either have significant local rivers or ocean access. Locally, ban supporters called for making the Anacostia River “one of the first styrofoam-free watersheds” in the country.

Critics of the bans charge that polystyrene can be recycled, though in practice that’s difficult and rarely done. They seem to be losing the argument. With Prince George’s, Montgomery County, Takoma Park and Gaithersburg having already banned styrofoam, the legislature is considering a statewide ban this year.

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State-Chartered Bank Comes to Riverdale Park

If you’re not happy with your bank, you’ll have another option soon.

Old Line Bank, a state-chartered bank with 21 branches around Maryland, is coming to Riverdale Park Station.

Given that large national banks score about as well as health insurance companies on consumer satisfaction surveys, you may find that good news.

Here’s how it works. Banks can choose to be chartered either federally or by an individual state. In both cases, they’ll have federally managed deposit insurance, so your money is not at risk, and all banks have some federal supervision.

In the past, many banks chose to become federally chartered to avoid certain state regulations. Most of the banks you can name off the top of your head—such as the nearby Wells Fargo—are chartered this way.

In recent years, some smaller banks have chosen to go the other route, arguing that the state understands their needs better than the federal government.

There’s no guarantee that state-supervised banks are any less likely to run into the same troubles that the so-called “too big to fail” national banks have had in recent years. But for consumers who are fed up with their current bank, it’s nice to have another option.

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How the University of Maryland Is Driving Development

Rendering of planned mixed-use development in College Park by Design Collective Inc.

The University of Maryland has become a prime mover in the Route 1 renaissance.

In the past few years, the administration has become focused on turning College Park into one of the nation’s premier college towns with new high-end student housing, a $115 million hotel and conference center and better shopping and dining options.

The Washingtonian recently noted that the university is “at the forefront of Washington’s largest college-led neighborhood transformation.”

The College Park City–University Partnership—a nonprofit funded by the University of Maryland and the city of College Park—aims to make the neighborhood around the university one of the nation’s best college towns by 2020. It’s working with developers such as Toll Brothers and Southern Management to recast Route 1, long known for seedy motels and dive bars, as Prince George’s County’s answer to Ann Arbor.

The story notes that the next big project in College Park was inspired by a visit to Brookland’s Monroe Street Market, which was developed on land owned by Catholic University.

The new project will be on the site of the now-closed Plato’s Diner and the Quality Inn on Route 1 near Guilford Drive. Slated for $110 million, it will include 300 high-end apartments, 100,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, including fast-casual restaurants (places like Panera) and neighborhood-oriented shops.

Bozzuto, which was behind the Palette at Arts District apartments and Monroe Street Market, is also reportedly looking for a “high-end grocery tenant” as an anchor, either a Trader Joe’s-sized store or a larger traditional store.

College towns may be the closest thing in the U.S. to centrally planned economies. As a state-run institution, the University of Maryland has the budget, the access to lawmakers and the land to remake the town around it, and it’s making full use of those abilities.

But it’s not happening in a vacuum, either. In recent years, the towns along Route 1 have gotten new townhomes in the Arts District and Editor’s Parkhigh-end apartments around Prince George’s Plaza; and a Whole Foods, restaurants and townhomes at Riverdale Park Station. The university’s efforts will feed into that momentum, and feed off it.

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Hyattsville Library Moves to Temporary Location

The Hyattsville public library has moved to a temporary location ahead of its demolition.

The temporary library is located at 6502 America Boulevard, in a first-floor space across from Bonchon at University Town Center.

Construction is set to begin this summer at the old library site on Adelphi Road on a $32.7 million new library.

Along with a more modern and airy look, the new library will have new interactive play areas for children, including some exhibits inherited from the now-closed National Children’s Museum at National Harbor.

The 36,000-square-foot building will also have a green roof and green spaces that are integrated with neighboring properties as well as the beloved saucer.

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University Park Gets Ready for Bike Rentals

University Park is getting ready for its own mBike rentals.

The town has started prep-work on two bike rental stations, one on Queens Chapel Road near Town Hall and the other at the intersection of College Heights Drive and Wells Parkway.

The 10 bikes at both stations will add to the 125 bikes at 14 stations in College Park and on the campus at the University of Maryland.

The mBike share system is run by Zagster, a competitor to the company behind the Capital Bikeshare program popular in D.C. which is expanding to Hyattsville and other spots along Route 1 next year.

But given that many faculty and staff for the college live in University Park, it may have made more sense for the town to link up with its northerly neighbor.

Along with the pending completion of the Trolley Trail through Riverdale Park, solid local bike shops in College Park and Hyattsville, the new bike share locations are helping turn the Route 1 area into a bicycling haven.

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Riverdale Park Station Preserves History

At the entrance of the new Whole Foods is a circular brick structure that surrounds some interesting local history.

The brick itself is new. It serves as a protective veneer to an important archeological site: one of only three remaining 19th century ice houses in Prince George’s County.

Before the development of modern refrigeration, one technique to keep food from going bad was to build a large structure, mostly underground, and fill it with blocks of ice and snow in the winter.

Food was sometimes kept in ice houses. At other times, block of ice were brought into the home each week for use.

Ice house in Upper Marlboro, photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

The Riverdale Park ice house dates to the 1860s, when the land was owned by the George Calvert family, who built the Riversdale Mansion, now a museum down the road. Local historians refer to it as the MacAlpine Ice House because it later became part of the MacAlpine Farm, which Calvert’s son, Charles, built on the site. There were several other ice houses at Riversdale, none of which survive.

An archeological survey of the site done before the development began found the remains of the brick lining of the icehouse:

Excavations around the ice house consisted of three exploratory trenches inside the structure to determine its size and its state of preservation. The upper portions of the brick-lined ice house were robbed and the opening was used as a trash dump through the 1940s and 1950s. The nature of the rubble deposit inside the ice house prevented further excavation and the base was not reached.

Because the regrading of the site would have exposed the ice house to further damage, the developers agreed to build the brick structure around it to preserve it, with an access hatch to allow future archeological surveys and interpretive signs that explain the site’s history.

The result is a win for all sides. The ice house was preserved without disrupting the overall plans for the development and it ended up providing an interesting landmark near the entrance as well.

It’s especially apt, since the ice house was used to store food, and many of the people passing by it are heading to a grocery store.

Interior of an ice house at Upper Marlboro, photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

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Whole Foods Draws Attention to Route 1

Whole Foods Riverdale Park Prince George's County

The new Whole Foods has already had an effect on Route 1.

The opening of the grocery store chain at Riverdale Park Station has received a ton of attention from Washington-area media.

The Washington Post wrote more than one story. Business-oriented publications like the Washington Business Journal and Bisnow wrote about it. The Washingtonian magazine included it in a list of “coolest developments” coming in 2017. ABC affiliate WJLA, CBS affiliate WUSA and NBC Washington had segments. It was covered on radio station WTOP, while “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” on WAMU devoted 20 minutes to the topic. Even Washington Hispanic chimed in.

The stories were almost entirely positive, too. Here’s a snippet from the Post:

And the store has already become a selling point to new residents in this part of Prince George’s, real estate agents say, noting that homes nearby are selling quickly. Many are going to millennials looking to settle in an area where housing is more affordable than in other parts of the Washington region but with the same amenities.

It’s hard to calculate the value of this saturation coverage—what the public relations industry refers to as “earned media”—but it’s substantial. Due to industrywide cutbacks on local news staffs, small towns like Riverdale Park don’t get as much attention as they used to, so major coverage like this is even more valuable.

This summer, a lot of potential homebuyers are going to come check out Route 1, and more than a few of them will have first heard about it from one of these stories.

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Capital Bikeshare Headed to Route 1

Capital Bikeshare Prince George's Hyattsville Route 1

Creative Commons licensed photo by Flickr user @36871124@N04

By next year, you’ll be able to rent a bike and take it from Riverdale Park to Mount Rainier—or even all the way into D.C.

The popular bike-sharing program Capital Bikeshare will install stations on a stretch of Route 1 by spring of 2018, according to the Washington Post.

The plan calls for 250 bikes in 25 stations along Route 1, including Mount Rainier, Hyattsville, Brentwood, Cottage City, Colmar Manor and parts of Riverdale Park and Bladensburg. Future stations would be added in Greenbelt, College Park and Langley Park.

A feasibility study from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in November identified these communities as being good locations for bike-sharing because of good local trails, good regional transit and the right population density.

One obstacle it noted was the existence of the mBike bike-sharing program at the University of Maryland, a competitor that isn’t compatible with Capital Bikeshare rentals.

Bike-sharing has been around since the 1960s, but technological advances in the 1990s caused it to really take off. Capital Bikeshare has been in D.C. since 2010 and extends all the way to Langley Park.

The expansion of the Capital Bikeshare means that commuting by bike will be more of an option for some Route 1 residents, as well as weekend bike trips to Takoma Park or Mount Rainier.

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University Park Mayor on the Kojo Nnamdi Show

Tune in today, April 12, to The Kojo Nnamdi Show at 12:00-12:30 p.m., to hear University Park Mayor Len Carey talk about Riverdale Park Station and the new “Whole Foods Effect.”

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