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 completed. A 24-hour Safeway opened at University Town Center. Upscale apartments are being built near the Prince George’s Plaza Metro. Whole Foods is coming to Riverdale Park.
College Park is building a huge hotel not to mention urban-style student housing and apartments. Townhomes are being built next to the Greenbelt Metro station. And more development may come to the West Hyattsville Metro.
The greater Hyattsville area isn’t just into urbanism, it’s making it happen.