Riverdale Park Just Got a Major Piece of Art

Jaume Plensa The Soul of Words I and II sculpture public art Riverdale ParkRoute 1’s newest piece of public art is by a noted Spanish artist.

“The Soul of Words I and II” was recently placed on the grassy area in front of the Whole Foods parking lot at Riverdale Park Station.

The two sculptures are made of painted stainless steel in the shape of words from eight languages, sitting atop a pile of river stones. They are designed to be illuminated at night.

They were made by Jaume Plensa, a Barcelona-born sculptor and artist who has recently became popular for public art in the United States.

Plensa’s other works include “Crown Fountain,” an interactive fountain at Millennium Park that displays LED images of Chicago residents; “Sleep No More,” a beam of light at the Durham Performing Arts Center in North Carolina; and “Alchemist,” a similar stainless steel sculpture featuring numerical symbols at MIT.

Made in 2014, “The Soul of Words I and II” were previously on display as part of exhibitions at the Tampa Museum of Art in Florida, the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens & Museum of Art in Nashville and the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio.

The Route 1 corridor has a lot of great public art, but these sculptures may be from the most well-known artist now represented.

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Inside the New MOD Pizza in Riverdale Park

MOD Pizza Riverdale Park Hyattsville casual restaurantMOD Pizza will have a soft launch Thursday in Riverdale Park.

Located in Riverdale Park Station near the Whole Foods, the fast-casual pizza chain will raise money for two causes on its first days in operation.

On Thursday, 50 percent of proceeds will go towards the “MOD bridge fund,” an employee assistance fund which can be tapped by MOD employees facing an emergency such as the death of a family member or a domestic violence situation.

Then during the grand opening on Friday, all pizza sales will go to Generosity Feeds, a nonprofit which tackles child hunger.

Doors open on Friday at noon, with a free pizza or salad for the first 52 customers, among other giveaways.

Like the similar Blaze Pizza and Lotsa Pizza in College Park, MOD is a build-your-own artisanal pizza place, currently undergoing something of a boom.

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The Route 1 Corridor Puts a Bird on It

Route 1 Three Little Birds the Bird Nido nestEverywhere you look on Route 1, there are birds.

In the Woodridge neighborhood of D.C. along Rhode Island Avenue just south of Mount Rainier, there’s Nido, a Mediterranean small-plate restaurant named for the word for “nest” in Italian and Spanish, which has an avian motif interior decor.

Farther north in Mount Rainier, there’s Bird Kitchen + Cocktails, which also has a bird-themed logo and decor.

In the SoHy area of Hyattsville, there’s Three Little Birds Sewing, which ups the bird quotient in its logo; Tanglewood Works, which has a lot of bird-themed items for sale; and Green Owl Design, an interior design firm and boutique. There are also several bird-themed murals found along Route 1.

That’s not to mention the various bluebird statues put up throughout Hyattsville as part of a 2003 public art campaign, including the sheet-metal clad “Vainglorious” sculpture at Centennial Park, or the yellow-crowned night heron sculpture in University Park.

All of these birds bring to mind the famous “Portlandia” sketch: “Put a bird on it!”

But there may be something to it. Just as up-and-coming hip areas tend to have microbreweries and even distilleries, they also tend to have birds. As everyone from Salon to the Wall Street Journal has noted, birds have been a fashion motif, adorned wallets and prints and even survived the inevitable backlash.

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Distillery Coming to Downtown Hyattsville

Sangfroid distillery Hyattsville brandy whiskey jenever

Nate Groenendyk and Jeff Harner inspect an interior courtyard at the future location of Sangfroid Distillery in Hyattsville.

A distillery will open in Hyattsville sometime next year.

Sangfroid Distilling will make brandy, whiskey and the classic Dutch version of gin, known as genever, in a space to the right of the TESST building on Route 1 in Hyattsville’s historic downtown.

The distillery is the project of two brothers-in-law, Nate Groenendyk and Jeff Harner. The two have been brewing beer and hard cider for fun for about a decade and decided a few years ago to get into distilling.

Groenendyk, 39, a math coach at a D.C. public charter school, was intrigued by Dutch-style gin, which his grandparents had always said was superior to the more common British gins most Americans are familiar with. “The gin we drink now is like a juniper-flavored vodka,” he complained.

Harner, 34, who works for the Government Accountability Office, said he first became interested after he visited Kentucky bourbon country and was disappointed not to see more small-batch producers. “We can do it better and more authentically,” he said.

He planted some apple trees in the front yard of his Takoma Park home to experiment with and recently bought a 45-acre farm in Western Maryland to expand the operation. The farm consists of a number of 80-year-old red delicious and yellow delicious trees, but Harner has been topworking them to graft heritage varieties like Ashmeads KernelArkansas Black and Limbertwig.

The two plan to have a 100-gallon whiskey still and a 50-gallon still for the brandy and gin in the back of the location, with a large glass window to allow people in the tasting room to see the operation.

Though the whiskey will need to age for a year, the distillery will be able to sell brandy and Dutch-style gin not long after opening. They plan to do tastings several days a week in a small space at the front of the distillery, installing a garage-style door to allow them to open out onto the sidewalk on nice days.

Under Maryland law, customers can sample a maximum of three half-ounces in a tasting room as long as it’s part of a distillery tour. The owners can also apply for permits for special events a few times a year such as during the Hyattsville Arts and Ales Festival.

Sangfroid is just the latest alcohol-related venture in downtown Hyattsville. It joins neighborhood stalwart Franklins Brewery and the upcoming Streetcar 82 Brewing Co. and Maryland Meadworks, not to mention a number of other businesses that serve microbrews and cocktails in the area.

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An Office Building Gets New Life as Apartments

University Town Center apartments office conversion HyattsvilleAn office building at University Town Center will soon be reborn as apartments.

Built in 1968, the 10-story building at 3700 East-West Highway is directly behind the new Safeway, around the corner from the movie theater and several restaurants, and just within the crucial half-mile from the Prince George’s Plaza Metro station.

That makes it an ideal location for a residential building. Developers plan to convert the space to 311 rental apartments, mostly one-bedroom, and add amenities such as a library, gym and conference rooms. The basement will have bike storage and a parking garage with 95 spaces.

The redevelopment is symbolic of broader changes in the area.

The building, known as Metro II, was originally constructed as part of an effort to create a “Rockefeller Center in the countryside” that would have prominently featured federal agencies as anchor tenants to a complex with an ice rink, cultural center and apartment buildings. It was designed by the same architect as the Kennedy Center downtown.

But that vision never came to fruition. A planned spur to Interstate 95 was canceled, and the area languished as the Green Line was the last to be developed in the Metro system. Even today, Prince George’s County has fewer federal leases than other D.C. suburbs.

But while Rockefeller Center never came to be, the area around the Prince Georges Plaza Metro has become hot place to live. Upscale apartments and even row homes are cropping up, the mall is undergoing a $30 million renovation and interesting new restaurants like Bonchon, Pollo Campero and BeClaws have moved in.

That made Metro II an ideal candidate for an office-to-residential conversion, something that may happen more in the greater Washington area thanks to a sluggish office rental market and high demand for housing.

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Why the Mall at Prince Georges Just Got Cooler

Mall at Prince George's renovations Hyattsville shopping center

The Mall at Prince Georges turned even cooler overnight.

As part of the ongoing $30 million renovation, the front of the mall facing East-West Highway now includes tasteful white exterior accent lighting and decorative horizontal color-changing LED lights.

The lights add a fun, modern touch to the outside which already has a more updated look and feel since the renovations began.

The Hyattsville Wire caught up with an electrician working on site who said they can change the color of the LED lights to recognize special events, like to blue and white to celebrate a big Yankee win, for instance.

The mall’s owners have also announced it will get another sit-down restaurant soon. Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust has confirmed that it is working to land a family-style restaurant on a lot apart from the main mall near T.J. Maxx.

PREIT has already lined up three new walk-up restaurants slated to open this winter: Five Guys, Chipotle and Mezeh Mediterranean Grill.

The food court is also getting new high-top tables with built-in electric sockets to charge your phone or other electronic device while you eat, according to the Hyattsville Life and Times.

And you can see an updated directory map of the mall showing the location of the new stores   here.

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Studio 3807 Commissions $200,000 Worth of Art

Studio 3807 apartments Brentwood Maryland Route 1

A new apartment complex scheduled to open next spring in Brentwood is getting serious about art.

The developers of Studio 3807, a mixed-use building kitty-cornered from the volunteer fire department on Rhode Island Avenue, have commissioned $200,000 worth of art for permanent public display.

“The more time I spend in the area, meeting people, experiencing the art and taking advantage of the amazing retail, restaurants and studios, the more I want to help promote this special place,” said Peter Siegel, CEO of Landex Development, in a statement.

The building will have 147 apartments, 6,322 square feet of retail space and 3,000 square feet of artist studios and gallery space called Portico. Developers also plan for regular artist talks and curated displays of public art.

Other plans include two “sculptural bus stops” in front of the development and social media campaigns to promote the area.

Landex also recently finished taping three days of interviews with area residents for a video showcasing the Route 1 arts community called “Experience the Art of Living.”

“Our goal is to support the arts community and celebrate what makes the neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods special,” added Siegel.

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The Roustabouts Release Their First Album

The Roustabouts blues band Hyattsville

Photo courtesy of the Roustabouts

After more than a decade playing gigs around the D.C. area, the Roustabouts have recorded an album.

The blues-and-roots band, which has ties to the Route 1 area, held a release party for “Plenty of Blues” at the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt on Friday.

The album features 12 tracks, 11 of which are original, written by founding members Andrew Wiley and Pete Daniels, whom you may recognize from Hyattsville indie-rock band Blue Plains. It was recorded at Tommy Lepson’s Area 51 studio in College Park.

The band also features Jeff Mueller on bass, Dan Shine on guitar and Phil Bucci on drums, while Lepson played keyboard and Mark Wenner of the Nighthawks played harmonica on some recordings for the album.

“We really tried to spice things up and make the sound bigger than the live version of The Roustabouts,” Daniels told the Hyattsville Wire.

You can buy a CD or download the album by clicking on this link.

The Hyattsville Wire caught up with Daniels and asked him a few questions about the band:

How do you describe your music?

Good-time toe-tapping blues, blues-rock and funk. We keep it lively and interesting. When some people here “blues” they get a specific picture in their mind, but we break the mold quite a bit, in part because of the fiddle, which is an instrument you don’t typically hear in modern blues bands.

What is the local music scene like? Where are your favorite places to play?

Hyattsville has been great to us. We played Summer Jam for the fifth year in a row this year. We’ve played at PG Pool a number of times. Our favorite nearby venue is the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt, which hosted our CD release party. Great people, great setup, great vibe in that place. Wish we had something like it in Hyattsville.

Who are your musical influences?

Lead singer Andrew Wiley and I got into the blues up in Syracuse New York where we both attended Syracuse University. We were lucky enough to make friends with some locals who knew the scene very well. You’ll see names like Phil Petroff, Tom Townsley, Colin Aberdeen and Roosevelt Dean in the “thank you” section of the album. All of those guys are Syracuse musicians.

There are of course many other influences. Contemporary blues artists like Chris Cain & Matt Schofield. Some funky influences like JJ Grey. Our bass player Jeff Mueller spent some time in New Orleans and brings his love of that region’s music to the table as well.

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BeClaws Cajun Restaurant Opens in Hyattsville

BeClaws Hyattsville Cajun restaurant

BeClaws Cajun-fusion restaurant opened in Hyattsville last week.

The University Town Center location is the second for the chain, which was started in Wheaton by Vu Huynh, who also runs frozen yogurt chain Yogiberry.

The restaurant focuses on seafood, with Cajun and Asian influences. You can order crawfish, shrimp, clams, mussels, snow crab, king crab and lobster by the pound; try traditional Louisiana entrees like a seafood po’ boy, gumbo and crawfish étouffée; or have a bowl of Cajun seafood pho or ramen.

There’s also lots of fun drink options, with a daily happy hour starting at 7:30 p.m. And the kids menu includes chicken tenders, fish and chips and grilled cheese, although more adventurous kids can add crawfish to their macaroni and cheese.

BeClaws will also expand the area’s brunch options, with a special menu that includes Cajun shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, bananas foster pancakes and breakfast tacos.

The interior decor has a few fun Louisiana touches including a tin ceiling, lights made with mason jars and wall of different colored shutters. It’s also very light and airy, with classy touches like a gas fireplace and ambient lighting that would make it a great option for date night or brunch with the in-laws.

Manager David Neal told the Hyattsville Wire that the restaurant will have a grand opening celebration at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 13, including some special guests.

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Hidden Brunch Spot: The Common

If you are looking for a new brunch spot, check out The Common.

Set on the first floor of the College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center on the eastern side of campus at the University of Maryland, the restaurant opened in 2013 and offers American cuisine, a classic brunch and pub fare, craft beers and artisan spirits. There’s even a mini-Starbucks on site.

It’s newly decorated with ample natural lighting and there’s never really a wait for a table. The restaurant is spacious so there is a generous distance between tables and the staff are always quick to serve. And it’s a great place to take kids of any age.

While hotel restaurants aren’t typically associated with good food, The Common is on another level being part associated with the Marriott and part associated with the university. Before the new Hotel at the University of Maryland opened, this was where university administrators would often bring out-of-town academics to impress them.

On the weekends, the-all-you-can-eat-breakfast buffet, which ends at 12 p.m., includes fresh fruit, breakfast breads, granola, oatmeal and eggs, bacon, sausage and the usuals, and you an even have a chef make you a personalized omelette. And the chef uses herbs from the in-house garden. And the beer, wine and spirits are from local brewers, winters and distilleries. They even offer locally sourced ice cream.

But they don’t just offer breakfast and brunch on the weekends. Light fare, lunch and dinner are also offered. And the Common stays true to its roots, so you’ll find things on the dinner menu like Maryland Jumbo Lump Crab Cake and Crab Mac & Cheese

The restaurant’s motto is “Where Great Minds Gather” and the description on its website refers to it as “a dynamic academia-inspired casual pub.”

If the weather is favorable you can eat outside in their courtyard which has comfortble outdoor seating and umbrellas.

Other notable brunch spots along the Route 1 corridor include Busboys & Poets in Hyattsville, the newly opened Old Maryland Grill in College Park and Bird Kitchen and Cocktails in Mount Rainier.

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