Demolition Completed at Hyattsville’s WSSC Site

The Hyattsville Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission building is no more.

After a last-minute attempt to halt the demolition failed, the 115,000-square foot building, which dated to 1939, has been torn down completely.

Developer Werrlein Properties is moving ahead with its plans to build row homes and a handful of single-family homes on the site in Hyattsville’s Historic District coming as early as next spring.

Citing its modernist architecture and its location, groups such as Preservation Maryland and Save Our Sustainable Hyattsville had hoped to save the building, but ultimately they weren’t able to muster a solid enough legal argument.

In the end, preservation efforts were lost years ago, when the building was allowed to sit empty for years without a plan to reuse or redevelop it.

Communities along the Route 1 corridor have done pretty well at keeping the area’s historic architectural fabric intact, but more could always be done to protect other buildings from following the WSSC’s path.

If you’d like to do more to help, consider joining the Hyattsville Preservation Association, a local nonprofit that does a lot of work identifying and preserving historic properties. Dues are just $25 a year.

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Southeastern Roastery Needs Help to Open

Photo courtesy of Southeastern Roastery

Specialty coffee company Southeastern Roastery has launched a Kickstarter to help cover costs for its planned move to Riverdale Park.

In a video on the fundraising site, owner and head roaster Candy Schibli explained that she is trying to combine roasting, packaging and retail operations currently in D.C. and Williamsburg, Va.

A regular at the Riverdale Park Farmer’s Market, Southeastern is looking to move to a building at 4701 Queensbury Ave., formerly the home of the Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation.

But Schibli said the build-out will cost about $300,000 more than she has lined up, so she’s looking at loans, grants and the Kickstarter for options.

“We’ll use these funds to install our plumbing and HVAC, upgrade our electricity, install fire rated dry-wall, our roasters, light fixtures, seating, etc.” she wrote. “Inside this family-friendly safe-space cafe, we will open for coffee cuppings, work-space, local author sessions and books, outdoor meet-ups, community based foods and goods, community driven demos and talks.”

Southeastern roasts about 250 to 300 pounds of coffee a month for clients such as Village Cafe at Union Market.

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How Route 1 Could Honor Toni Morrison

Photo courtesy of Ron Cogswell

In a 1989 interview, the late Toni Morrison spoke about the lack of historical markers commemorating the country’s brutal history of slavery.

“There is no place you or I can go, to think about or not think about, to summon the presences of, or recollect the absences of slaves,” she said. “There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath, or wall, or park, or skyscraper lobby. There’s no 300-foot tower, there’s no small bench by the road.”

A giant of American literature, Morrison was arguing that her book, Beloved, would have to serve that role instead. But a group of her most dedicated fans took her words in a different direction, setting on a mission to install “a small bench by the road” in places around the country.

Since 2008, the Toni Morrison Society has helped place 20 benches in spots around the country, including Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina; Walden Woods in Massachusetts; and the Schomburg Library in Harlem as well as Paris and Martinique. Many of the places are key to African-American history as spots on the Underground Railroad or homes of abolitionists, while others are important spots in local history.

In the greater Washington area, where Morrison was once both a student and a professor and first began writing “The Bluest Eye,” a bench is located on the campus of George Washington University, where it marks the first integrated theater in D.C.

There are several places around the Route 1 corridor where such a bench would be appropriate: the port of Bladensburg, where slaves were imported; the Riversdale House Museum or the Bostwick House, where slaves were integral to their functioning; the Kingdom Missionary Baptist Church, which has a backstory worthy of a Morrison novel; the University of Maryland, likely constructed with some slave labor; or Lake Artemesia, once home to the black community of Lakeland, to name a few options.

A two-seat bench is available for $3,500, while a four-seat bench costs $5,000. Either one is well within reach for the parks budgets of any of the Route 1 communities.

In the meantime, be sure to check out Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am at the Old Greenbelt Theatre, which opens Aug. 16.

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Hidden Gem: Subbs by Carl

If you’re looking for an old-school sandwich shop, Subbs by Carl fits the bill.

That’s because it hasn’t changed in decades. As Carl himself will explain to even the most casual visitor, he didn’t want to be kicked out of his building, so he arranged to buy it not long after it opened more than 30 years ago, and he’s stayed put.

He’s also resisted making any changes to the menu. You won’t find Subbs by Carl online or on Instagram. There are no tables or chairs, although you can sit on an alcove by the window. And you won’t find any hot menu items or even a microwave inside.

“You’ve got to hold the line somewhere,” Carl explained to a recent customer.

What you will find: Cheap, well-made and hearty sub sandwiches like the No. 1 (Genoa salami, provolone, pepper ham and capicolla) or the No. 5 (roast beef, turkey and provolone) or the No. 8 (cooked ham, provolone and turkey).

Every sandwich is made with lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise and onions, and you can get hot or mild peppers if you ask. (Beware the hot peppers live up to their name.) For sides, you have a variety of Utz chips and sodas, including locally made Rock Creek.

Most customers call ahead with their order (you can find a menu online here, such as it is) at (202) 529-6225. Located at 2208 Rhode Island Ave. in Woodridge, D.C., Subbs by Carl is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed on Sundays.

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More Development Popping Up Around PG Plaza

Courtesy of Miller’s Ale House

More development is coming to Hyattsville around the Prince George’s Plaza Metro station, adding to the area’s growing housing and dining options.

A development company has filed preliminary plans for a 520-unit apartment complex on what is now a surface parking lot north of the Prince George’s Medical Center at University Town Center.

That would put the apartments right at the outer limits of the crucial half-mile from the Prince George’s Plaza Metro station — the farthest that most people will walk for mass transit.

Combined with the new Highline apartments in the nearby 10-story Metro II building, that means a lot more people will be living in the city center, a boon to nearby restaurants and coffee shops, which will see more foot traffic.

In addition, this fall the Mall at Prince Georges will add a Miller’s Ale House, a Florida-based chain centered on beer, chicken wings and televised sports. (It’s a popular spot to watch Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views.)

Members of the city council pressed developers to make the exterior of the 8,285-square-foot restaurant, to be located at 3430 East-West Highway, more pedestrian-friendly, but overall the mall remains fairly car-centric.

Two other chain restaurants — Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse — are similarly located on spots in the mall’s parking lot.

As noted by the Washington Business Journal, the real estate trust that owns the mall recently reported that it’s making $45 more per square foot there than it did the year before, thanks in part to new dining options.

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Riverdale Park’s Bikram Yoga Adds Coworking

Courtesy of WorkStrive

Riverdale Park’s Bikram Yoga studio has joined a coworking startup in D.C. that allows users to work and workout for the same price.

The brainchild of Rockville entrepreneur Sarah Hostyk, WorkStrive offers a marketplace where freelancers and remote workers can sign up to get work done for the day and also take an hourlong fitness class for the same price.

The initial partnerships are in some trendy locations: Mint D.C. in Dupont Circle and two Yoga Heights locations in Petworth and Takoma.

The fitness studios set up tables and chairs in separate spaces that aren’t heavily used otherwise, so workers aren’t right next to people working out. Hostyk got the idea while doing door-to-door sales for another startup.

“I would go by all these gyms and yoga studios that were in all these high-rent areas that were completely empty during the day,” Hostyk told the Washingtonian. “I said, ‘There’s something here,’ and that was the lightbulb moment.”

WorkStrive is onto something. Coworking giant WeWork has already started to branch out into fitness with spinning, yoga, meditation and dance classes at some locations. The Equinox gym chain has been adding communal work areas with wi-fi.

Coworking and fitness have similar business models: Large floorplans, monthly memberships, groups of strangers meeting up. It makes sense that they’d look to partner.

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Greenbelt’s Role in the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Courtesy of NASA

When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon 50 years ago this week, he was talking to Houston, but his words were sent to Greenbelt first.

During the Apollo 11 mission, the Goddard Space Flight Center was the main control center for sending and receiving messages and information between the spacecraft and mission control in Houston, as highlighted recently by Maryland Milestones.

Here’s how the Washington Post described it at the time:

“About two seconds after Apollo 11 emerged from behind the moon on its crucial first lunar orbit Saturday, a green light flowed on a computer control in NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. The Goddard computer began talking to its mate in Houston, passing on to Mission Control the message that the maneuver had gone well… Shortly afterward came a sign that Mission Control’s computer had digested and processed the data flowing out of Goddard. Another green light blinked on the computer console. ‘A command,’ said Stetler. A message from Houston, advising Apollo 11 of necessary course corrections, had just passed through the Goddard computer. In about 1.9 seconds, the message was to be transmitted to Andover, Maine, across the Atlantic to Madrid, and finally to the spacecraft circling the moon. In a few minutes, Apollo was about to circle behind the moon for the second time. In a room full of beeps and bleeps, engineers in headsets sat listening. ‘There it goes,’ one said. ‘It just went behind the moon.’ ‘Just went,’ somebody else said, taking off his headset.”

A NASA spokesman at the time said that Goddard was the heart of the mission, and that they could not afford to have anything go wrong in Greenbelt.

To commemorate the moon landing, the Goddard visitors center at 9432 Greenbelt Road will hold a model rocket building contest from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday. While you’re there, be sure to check out the mock-up of the Apollo capsule used for training in its outdoor Rocket Garden.

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How Route 1 Became an Authentic Taco Haven

Taqueria El Mexicano Hyattsville Mexican restaurant

In recent years, the Route 1 corridor has become home to a thriving taco scene.

A number of locally owned Mexican taquerias have opened from the outskirts of Langley Park east to Riverdale Park and south to Edmonston, several of which have gained notice among foodies around the greater D.C. area.

On University Boulevard, there’s Taqueria Garibaldi and Taqueria El Mexicano, which has repeatedly been recognized by the Washingtonian‘s Cheap Eats.

In Riverdale Park, there’s Taqueria El Rey near the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and the longstanding Taqueria Tres Reyes off Kenilworth Avenue.

In Edmonston, there’s La Fondita in a small house on Decatur Street, which has been singled out by critics at the Washington Post for its extensive taco menu.

And Hyattsville is home to Taqueria La Placita, which has been singled out for praise by the Post and the Washingtonian.

Eater D.C. even recently dubbed the area around Kenilworth Avenue Maryland’s “Taco Triangle,” calling it “one of the best areas for Mexican food in the greater metropolitan area.” (Their list of recommended spots included La Sirenita, Taco Rico and El Tapatio in nearby Rogers Heights as well.)

The area has even drawn popular taco places from D.C. College Park has Taqueria Habanero, a second outpost of the popular Mexican spot in D.C.’s 14th Street corridor. Riverdale Park Station has District Taco.

What’s behind the boom in taquerias? A growing population of immigrants from Latin America is increasingly interested in Mexican food (especially second-generation kids). Cheap rent, especially along Kenilworth Avenue and University Boulevard, helps with a traditionally low overhead cuisine. And then there’s classic economic theory, which holds that similar businesses will locate near each other.

Regardless of the reasons, Route 1’s taco scene is a real boon for the area.

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The East Coast Greenway’s Route 1 Connections

Photo courtesy of Baltimore Heritage

A bike trail that will eventually run from Maine to Florida goes right through the Route 1 corridor on its way to Washington, D.C.

Organizers of the East Coast Greenway aim to connect 3,000 miles of walking and biking routes through 15 states and 450 communities.

Since its founding in 1991, the nonprofit East Coast Greenway Alliance has helped designate 900 miles of protected, off-road greenway. The gaps between bike trails are connected by a path of recommended roadways.

In Maryland, the East Coast Greenway stretches from Wilmington, Delaware, through Havre de Grace to Baltimore, south to Annapolis, then west through Bowie to Greenbelt and south on two paths to Washington, D.C. (You can see an interactive map here.)

The section along the Route 1 corridor starts at the Spellman Overpass, which crosses the Baltimore Washington Parkway into Greenbelt. From there it passes on Crescent Road to Cherrywood Lane, connecting to the Anacostia Tributary Trail System at Lake Artemesia.

The trail heads south, parallel to the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia River, through Riverdale Park before splitting in South Hyattsville.

One route heads south along the river on the existing trails, crossing into D.C. on the 11th Street Bridge, which will soon be upgraded with a $60 million bridge-park billed as equivalent to New York’s High Line.

The other route heads west along the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia, past Magruder Park, into Mount Rainier on Arundel Road, hopscotching on city streets until it reaches the Metropolitan Branch Trail in Brookland.

More could be done locally to complete the greenway, particularly in Greenbelt and Mount Rainier, but for now it’s a solid segment of an ambitious project.

The East Coast Greenway Alliance even named the Anacostia trails one of its 15 favorite segments of the greenway, calling it a “pleasant, family-friendly ride along the river.”

“You will be amazed by the natural scenery and animals you may spot so close to D.C. along this stretch of trail,” the group wrote.

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New College Park Townhomes Now for Sale

Townhomes in a new development along the Route 1 corridor in College Park are now for sale.

Four homes at Metropolitan at College Park at 4701 Cherokee Street
are available now, with another five coming in August. In all, 45 homes will be built eventually.

The four-story, 2,500-square-foot homes just north of University Boulevard, which include a two-car garage and a rooftop terrace, are selling for around $500,000.

If you’re an employee of the city of College Park or the University of Maryland, you could qualify for up to $15,000 in forgivable loans to buy one of the row homes through the  University of Maryland and City of College Park’s City-University Partnership’s Homeownership Program.

The property was previously the site of a small, one-story commercial building facing Baltimore Avenue with woods in the rear.

Townhomes have become popular along the Route 1 corridor in recent years with developments such as Arts District HyattsvilleEditor’s Park, Riverdale Park StationGreenbelt Station and upcoming projects like Riverfront at West Hyattsville Metro.

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