Why College Park’s Dining Scene Is So Interesting

Gong Cha College Park Terrapin Row

Creative Commons photo of Gong Cha by Flickr user @kynaborlasa

College Park’s dining scene will soon get even more diverse.

Six restaurants have signed leases for ground-floor space in the Terrapin Row apartment complex on the southern edge of the University of Maryland Campus adding to the town’s growing mix of interesting fast-casual spots.

They include SeoulSpice, which takes a Chipotle approach to Korean street fare and has locations in NoMa and Friendship Heights; Poki District, which takes a Chipotle approach to the Hawaiian poke trend and has a location in Penn Quarter; Gong Cha, a Taiwanese bubble-tea place with locations in New York and Texas; and Cheers Cut, a casual Taiwanese restaurant with a handful of locations on the East Coast.

Wings Over, which serves chicken wings, will also have a location.

The restaurants reflect the growing number of international students at the University of Maryland today — some 6,000 students from 129 countries in 2016 — as well as the most popular countries of origin. China tops the list, with 2,000 students in 2016, followed by India, with 1,000; then South Korea, Taiwan and Iran, with a few hundred.

That has spurred College Park to have a more interesting dining scene, if one that leans a little heavily in the fast-casual direction. Japanese restaurants like Kiyoko and Hanami; Chinese/Taiwanese restaurants like Northwest ChineseIvy Noodles and Ten Ren; Kung Fu bubble tea; Aroy Thai; Vietnamese restaurants Pho Thom and Pho D’Lite; Indian restaurant Krazi Kebob and South African chicken chain Nando’s.

Most of these places are good for a late-night bite or even a casual date on a Saturday afternoon (several were runners-up in our Best of Route 1 readers poll), but the new restaurants at Terrapin Row will be a welcome addition.

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Go Inside the Hyattsville Library One Last Time

Hyattsville public library demolition

Before the old Hyattsville public library goes, a librarian decided to pay a final visit.

In an episode of “Hard Hat Librarian,” Prince George’s County library system manager Michael Gannon gives a deadpan tour of the historic library, set to be demolished soon to make way for a $32.7 million new library.

The unusually watchable three-minute video is highlighted by Gannon’s deadpan delivery and some interesting facts about what was once state of the art about the library when it was built in 1964. A few highlights:

• The library was first named for John F. Kennedy, but Robert Kennedy asked the library board to change it so JFK’s name wouldn’t be diluted.

• Among the state-of-the-art touches in 1964: heating elements in the sidewalk to melt snow, wall-to-wall carpeting and a book elevator.

• The flying saucer, which will be saved when the new library is built, will feature a “reading garden” underneath it.

• The new library’s children’s section will feature a castle, dragon, talking tree, troll bridge and a classic literature theme.

You can watch the video online here.

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College Park Grill Coming Next Spring

College Park Grill Maryland restaurants Cambria hotel

The owner of Potomac Pizza and Bagels ‘n Grinds will bring a high-end bar and grill to College Park next spring.

Located in the 150-room Cambria hotel under construction on Baltimore Avenue, College Park Grill will focus on classic entrees such as ribs, steaks, chicken and fish in an upscale setting.

Owner Adam Greenberg told the Hyattsville Wire that his goal is to create a “power breakfast, lunch and dinner spot” in College Park, with ample parking, midpoint pricing and classy touches like a wood-burning pizza oven and a baby grand piano with live jazz music on many nights.

The menu will include at least 100 wines, including 10 to 15 by the glass; 12 beers on tap; classic dishes like house-made spinach dip, salads and sandwiches; and seasonal touches like grilled artichoke.

“I’ve always dreamed of building a restaurant like this,” he said.

College Park Grill will join a growing local restaurant scene that includes the similar Old Maryland Grill at the Hotel at the University of Maryland, where Greenberg runs his pizza and bagel restaurants; Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville; and the upcoming Burtons Grill at Riverdale Park Station.

But Greenberg thinks there’s room for a place that’s classy but not too expensive. His goal is an average price of $35 per person for a dinner that includes two entrees, two drinks and a shared appetizer.

That fits the hotel, which is designed to be a more affordable hotel for the overflow from the Hotel at UMD, and should help provide a regular supply of customers.

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Town Center Market in Riverdale Park to Expand

 

Riverdale Town Center Market beer wine liquor Riverdale Park Maryland bourbon

Town Center Market in the heart of Riverdale Park started as a corner store and turned into a destination. Now it’s expanding it’s outdoor seating area to accommodate an even larger crowd.

The Spiropoulos family bought the building in 1988 along with some other real estate around the historic train station at the center of Riverdale Park.

They then took over the existing Dumm’s Corner Market, which they renamed in 2012 as the Town Center Market, and moved to a newer building less than 100 feet away.

Today, the Town Center Market focuses on grocery staples like ketchup and cereal as well as an extensive beer, wine and liquor section, including beer and wine on tap, a growler filling station and wines from Maryland and Virginia as well as Europe, Australia and California.

But as on other parts of Route 1, alcohol has turned out to be quite the attraction, owner Jim Spiropoulos told the Hyattsville Wire in an interview.

“We’ve always had a great base of the regulars, but the store has attracted people from outside of the area as it’s become a destination store for hard to find craft beer and bourbons,” he said.

He noted that the store recently had some 10-year and 12-year bottles of Pappy Van Winkle, a rare, limited-edition bourbon, as well as George T. Stagg, both of which are “very difficult to come by.”

The market also holds regular tastings and other events, often bringing in local food trucks to serve customers on its outdoor patio.

Now, Spiropoulos is expanding the outdoor section to include permanent roof and space for outdoor heaters that will allow people to sit outside comfortable, even when it’s cold and wet, offering a three-season patio.

“This mini expansion gives us more seating outside and protects customers from the elements,” he said.

Spiropoulos is waiting on some permits to clear and says the patio expansion should be completed by the spring.

When asked what he thought about the new development along Route 1 and specifically in Riverdale Park, he said:

“With the arrival of the Cafritz development with Whole Foods being there, it’s really changing the face of the area, especially our town, and I think it’s great to watch it happen. Though we are anxiously awaiting the opening of the bridge. We’ve been a little choked off since they closed Lafayette Ave.”

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Hyattsville Named Top D.C. Suburb in 1903

With all the new development along Route 1, the area has gained a reputation as a top D.C. suburb. But it’s not the first time.

The Hyattsville Wire came across an interesting news clip from the Washington Times’ May 3, 1903, Sunday edition entitled, “Beautiful Suburban Environments of the National Capital.”

Hyattsville was featured as a flourishing community with easy access to D.C.

Here are two particularly interesting excerpts from the article:

Electricity has overcome all these unfavorable conditions through the supplying of an adequate car service. Hyattsville is now brought within a half hour’s ride of the Treasury building, in the center of the city, Government printing, Office officials find the trip from five to ten minutes shorter, and Capitol employes save a like amount of time in going to and from the country in that direction in Washington.

The article praises the streetcar service in detail:

Taking the car at Fifteenth and G streets, or anywhere along the line up through Eckington, the suburbanite gains the advantage of a restful, pleasant ride, through green fields with extended views here and there, to his healthfully-located home in Hyattsville. He has his daily traveling companions from places along the City and Suburban line—Eckington, Brentwood, Woodridge, Ellaston Terrace, Riverdale, and other flourishing communities—and their comfort in making the trip back and forth is considered in the providing of compartment cars.

To read the entire article, go to: http://1.usa.gov/UgR3Re.

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College Park’s Solar-Powered Charging Station

Soofa solar powered bench Lake Artemesia

If you need to charge your phone at Lake Artemesia, you’re in luck.

The nature park in College Park and Berwyn Heights has a free charging station for cell phones and tablets on its northern end, although you might have biked right past it without knowing.

Installed by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the Soofa charging station is powered by a solar panel on the top, and has a battery inside to allow for charging during evening hours and overcast days. You can get power through two USB ports in the front, though you’ll need to bring your own cord.

The benches were designed by engineers at the MIT Media Lab, who named them as a variation on the acronym for “smart urban furniture appliance.”

“There isn’t too much knowledge or perception around renewable energy these days because people are removed from it—it’s either on the roof or set aside somewhere that you don’t see it,” co-founder Sandra Richter told Mashable. “We wanted to change the way people see its immediate benefits by putting something out into public spaces.”

The benches aren’t just charging batteries, either. They’re also recording information such as ambient temperature, air quality, noise level, pedestrian traffic and radiation, which local governments can use to track issues in the area.

Other Soofa benches have been approved for spots in Oxon Hill, Upper Marlboro, Walker Mill, the Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex and the College Park Airport Operations Building.

The base model bench costs about $3,800, compared to a standard city bench, which can cost between $2,000 and $3,000 and lasts about 10 years.

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Developer Eyes Hyattsville’s WSSC Building

WSSC Hyattsville historic district building Washington Suburban Sanitation CommissionA real estate developer once again has eyes on the former home of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

The 115,000-square foot building, which dates to 1939, is the subject of a proposal by Werrlein Properties, a Maryland developer which has already built some new homes inside the Hyattsville Historic District.

At a presentation this week, the developers proposed demolishing the long-empty building and constructing a mix of row homes and single-family homes.

The 14 single-family homes would be along Hamilton Street and 41st Avenue on the northern and eastern edges of the property — a move clearly designed to placate neighbors who have long held that the property should be restored to the types of homes on it decades ago.

Those homes would likely be designed along the lines of the developers’ other new homes in the historic district, with smaller garages, porches and a handful of design flourishes that evoke the area’s bungalows. (You can see an example here.)

On the southern edge of the property, which doesn’t face any existing homes, the developers proposes 81 row homes, which would also have some  nods to the historic architecture of the area. (You can see a photo of one proposed design here.)

The biggest obstacle for developers remains the property’s zoning. The area was zoned for low-density residential — basically the single-family homes part of the proposal, but not the row homes section — and is grandfathered in for use as schools or offices.

It seems pretty clear by now that there’s not a developer interested in clearing the site just to build single-family homes. (Even at $600,000 a house, the property probably wouldn’t fit enough homes to justify the time and expense.) Nor is the area very attractive right now for offices. (It’s not the right area for that, and neighbors might still object.)

The proposal from a developer with some history in the area seems to be a compromise between what neighbors have long demanded and what a developer wants to make money on the deal. But the neighbors hold the upper hand on the rezoning.

That means they can either demand some concessions on the design and layout or they can fight the project entirely and risk seeing the property remain idle.

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Relive the Streetcar Era Along Route 1

Photo of the 82 streetcar in Riverdale Park in the 1950s courtesy of http://bit.ly/U4br4E

Long before there was Streetcar 82 Brewing Co, the 82 Streetcar Line used to take commuters and shoppers to and from Washington, D.C., at 5th & G, near what is now the Verizon Center, to towns along Route 1 including Eckington, Woodridge, Mt. Rainier, Hyattsville, and College Park.

Tracks from Washington, D.C. were first laid to Mount Rainier in 1897,  then reached Hyattsville and Riverdale Park by 1899, and went onto College Park by 1900.

A nice summary of part of this historical development can be found in the “Hyattsville Historic District Style Guide,” created by architecture students at the University of Maryland:

During the 1890s, private companies began building streetcar lines to carry streetcars out from the city to the railroad suburbs of Prince George’s County. The City and Suburban Railways laid tracks from Washington, D.C., to as far as Mount Rainier (two miles south of Hyattsville) by 1897. In 1899, the tracks finally reached Hyattsville.

Now there was a convenient method for the middle class to commute from Washington to Hyattsville. The streetcars brought a wide range of Washingtonians to the small city, from the working class to the upper-middle class, with the majority being middle class. Riders from Hyattsville could buy their tickets at Well’s Drugstore, located near the streetcar stop at Rhode Island Avenue and Crittenden Street, and ride the streetcar, which ran fairly parallel to the B&O rail tracks, into D.C. in a matter of minutes.

The guide breaks Hyattsville’s development into two major phases: the streetcar era from 1899 to 1929 and the automobile era from 1930 to today. But the streetcars actually ran through towns along Route 1 until 1958, when they were replaced by regional buses.

The conversion of the rail line from an abandoned trolley bed to a trail began in the late 1990s and has become what is known today as the Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail.

You can hop on the 82 Streetcar Line with this video by Greater Greater Washington which takes you from 5th & G in D.C. all way up to College Park.

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See the Future of the College Park Metro Station

Artist's rendering of proposed installation at College Park Purple Line station courtesy of Purple Line Transit Partners

Artist’s rendering of proposed installation at College Park Purple Line station courtesy of Purple Line Transit Partners

The College Park Metro station will be unrecognizable in a few years.

The Prince George’s County planning board has approved preliminary plans for an apartment and retail building just south of the Metro stop on River Road.

Gilbane Development, which is also building townhomes near the West Hyattsville Metro station, has proposed a 440-unit building with 13,000 square feet of retail space.

A plot of land just north of the development will also be spruced up with new landscaping and bikeshare stations, according to the Prince George’s Sentinel.

“Other tasks detailed as conditions for approval by the planning board staff include updating the nearby bike and pedestrian tunnel with lighting and paint, replacing and relocating old and damaged signage in the area, and adding crosswalks through nearby streets,” the Sentinel noted.

The apartment complex is not the only change in the area. The nearby Discovery District research park has become a hip place for businesses, and the Purple Line will soon come through the area, even bringing with it some new public art.

The College Park Metro may have been in an out-of-the-way location when it was built, but it won’t stay that way much longer.

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The Ercoupe Flies Again at Riverdale Park

Photo courtesy of Riverdale Park Station

Route 1’s most famous airplane is flying again at Riverdale Park Station.

The ERCO Ercoupe was manufactured by the Engineering and Research Corporation in Riverdale. Designed to be “the airplane that anyone could fly” and “the world’s safest plane,” it was a media sensation when it debuted in 1945, though sales soon collapsed.

Housing for ERCO workers was once located on the site of the new mixed-use development featuring Whole Foods, so developers decided it needed to be recognized. (The planes themselves were built in the area now known as Discovery District.)

This week, developers put an ERCO 415-C Model single-propellor aircraft on a pole over the historic ice house at the entrance to the shopping center.

“The plane symbolizes the innovation in a burgeoning industry that would transform the world into a global economy,” developer Jane Cafrtiz told the Hyattsville Wire in a statement. “We are creating a neighborhood center that recognizes the history and importance of this property while looking toward the future!”

ERCO made around 2,000 of the 415-C models, which sold for around $2,600, or around $32,900 in 2017 dollars — roughly the price of a high-end Honda Accord today.

The developers of Riverdale Park Station bought the plane from Compton, California, and then hired Digital Design LLC to refit it for use as an outdoor display in Arizona.

“We are exited to see an Ercoupe being returned to the land where they were built,” said Aaron Marcavitch of the nonprofit Maryland Milestones. “This is an important part of our history of ‘rivers to rockets’ and Riverdale Park Station is connecting residents and visitors to this history.”

You can also sit in a 1946 Ercoupe 415D at the nearby College Park Aviation museum.

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