Riverdale Park’s Unusual White Fire Trucks

Riverdale Park fire trucks white MarylandAsk a kid to draw a fire truck, and they’ll draw a big red truck.

But since the Riverdale Park fire department was started in 1923, its trucks have been white on the top and black on the bottom with a gold stripe in between.

A history of the fire department says it’s a tradition that just stuck:

This is the way it was in the 1920’s in Riverdale and the that is the way things are today. With the fire service changing constantly, with new innovations and standards being set, it is refreshing to see in Riverdale that some traditions remain. From the original pictures of our rescue boat, motorcycle with side car and our very first pumper to our new ninety-five foot elevating platform, it is basically the same color scheme. Some things should and do remain the same.

The history notes that at one time, the Riverdale Heights fire department had a red truck and a pumper painted blue, so people would sometimes see red, white and blue trucks at the scene of a fire.

White fire trucks are more noticeable at night than red ones. In fact, psychological studies of visual perception found that lime green is the safest color for fire trucks. But most trucks these days come with reflective stripes that make the truck color less important.

Fire departments also tend to go with red since they tend to be leased, as one captain told the Washington Post a few years ago.

“At the end of the lease, when you turn them back in, it’s easier to sell a red and white truck, as opposed to white or green. People want the traditional red firetruck,” he said.

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Hidden Gem: Taqueria El Mexicano

Taqueria El Mexicano Hyattsville Mexican restaurants panaderiaYou’ve probably driven right past one of Hyattsville’s best taquerias without noticing.

Tucked into an unassuming shopping center on Riggs Road, Taqueria El Mexicano has few frills, but makes up for it with flavor.

The restaurant serves dishes from the Mexican state of Puebla, where owners Bernardo and Clara Vargas are from. One particular specialty is mole poblano, a thick smoky dish made with chocolate and chili peppers, among other ingredients.

Washingtonian magazine has repeatedly recognized Taqueria El Mexicano as one of its “Cheap Eats,” including in 20152016 and 2017. And it landed a breathless review in the Washington Post just last year.

Two doors down is Panadería El Mexicano, also run by the same couple, which features a wide array of pastries.

During a recent visit, the owners told the Hyattsville Wire that they are expanding to another plaza on Riggs Road.

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See the Plans for Apartments Behind the Mall

Belcrest Plaza Alterra apartments Hyattsville Mall at Prince George's

Illustration courtesy of Torti Gallas & Partners

Construction is underway on a new apartment complex behind the Mall at Prince George’s.

The building at 3420 Toledo Terrace is the latest project as part of a larger overhaul of the area.

When complete, it will join the nearby 3350 at Alterra and Post Park farther down the road, plus the upcoming The Edition at Kiplinger across East West Highway as more urban-style apartments in Hyattsville.

The four-story apartment building includes a five-level parking garage, three interior courtyards and 8,500-square-feet of space for amenities—typically things like a pool table or coffee bar for residents.

The project will greatly increase density in the area. The site, which previously was home to 35 walk-up apartments, will have 330 units and 1,500 square feet of retail space.

Like the other apartment projects, 3420 Toledo Terrace falls within the crucial half-mile from the Prince George’s Plaza Metro station, which means residents will consider it walkable to mass transit.

The project is being built by Old Town Construction for Percontee Inc., which bought the land in 1958 and developed the original Belcrest Plaza apartments in the early 1960’s.

When completed, there will be seven new buildings all together with 2,400 residential units and 500,000 square feet of office and retail space.

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UMD, College Park Make Pitch for Amazon’s HQ2

amazon@collegepark Amazon Prime student College Park

College Park will make its pitch for Amazon’s second headquarters.

The proposal is a longshot, as nearly every municipality in the country that even remotely meets the qualifications is putting in a bid.

But the proposal makes a strong case that the town meets Amazon’s criteria.

Population: Amazon wants a metropolitan area with more than a million people. That would include Washington, D.C., which is considered a strong contender since owner Jeff Bezos already has a home here.

Transit: Amazon is looking for good mass transit, low congestion and access to airports. College Park has a MARC commuter rail stop, a Metro station, the upcoming Purple Line, a small airport of its own and easy access to the area’s three regional airports.

Environment: Amazon wants a diverse area with an excellent college. The University of Maryland is the state’s flagship school and attracts a diverse student body. The under-construction Brendan Iribe Center shows the school’s potential.

“We hit the marks in every category–land availability, business friendly environment, labor force, logistics, cultural community fit and so much more,” said chief strategy officer Ken Ulman for the university.

The college will be pitching the Discovery District research park, which includes 2.7 million gross square feet of space and already counts as tenants the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration Center for Weather and Climate Prediction and the America Center for Physics, among others.

Amazon already has a pickup location in College Park, and Amazon-owned Whole Foods recently opened in nearby Riverdale Park.

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Row Homes Selling Well at Editor’s Park

Editor's Park The Edition apartments homes townhomes Hyattsville
The townhomes at Editor’s Park in Hyattsville are almost halfway sold.

A map at the row home development on East-West Highway near the Home Depot shows 54 have been sold already, about half the houses that will be available in the project.

The more spacious Matisse and Picasso models are almost sold out, with only a few left.

Built on the former site of Kiplinger Editors Press, Editor’s Park will also include The Edition, a 368,000-square-foot high-end apartment building, with 348 units and more than 8,800 square feet for a clubhouse, yoga studio and exercise room, among other amenities.

The entire project is within the crucial half-mile of the Metro station at Prince George’s Plaza, the rough distance that most people are willing to walk for transit.

Row homes have become increasingly popular on Route 1, as landlocked cities look to boost their density while homebuyers look for places near a Metro station and closer to D.C.

In addition to Editor’s Park, there’s Arts District Hyattsville, Riverdale Park Station and Greenbelt Station, plus the upcoming Riverfront at West Hyattsville Metro.

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Bagels ‘n Grinds’ Secret: New York Water

Bagels n Grinds College Park Maryland

College Park’s newest bagel shop has a trick up its sleeve: New York water.

Bagels ‘n Grinds, which opened in the Hotel at the University of Maryland this weekend, has a special in-store water treatment system that cost $50,000.

The goal is to replicate New York City’s famously soft water, which has low concentrations of calcium and magnesium. Hard water can strengthen the gluten in dough, and it has often been blamed for the chewy bagels sold outside the Big Apple.

The treatment system makes three different types of ultra-purified water, which is also used in the restaurant’s coffee, iced tea and soda. You can even fill up your water bottle with New York City H2O.

It’s more than just the water. Owner Adam Greenberg told the Hyattsville Wire that the restaurant has a 10-step proprietary process for ensuring its bagels are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Apart from the bagels, soups and salads, and hot and cold sandwiches, the menu also features muffins and other baked goods made on site, espresso and cappuccino, and bialys and flagels on the weekend—think of it as a more authentic Panera.

The inside has a stone fireplace and free Wi-Fi, so if you’re looking for a nice place to get some work done, this may be your new hangout.

Greenberg also owns Potomac Pizza, which opened up a location at the hotel this weekend. The area chain serves New York-style pizza and will offer free late-night delivery.

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District Taco to Open in Riverdale Park This Fall

Photo courtesy of District Taco.

District Taco will open at Riverdale Park Station this fall.

A representative of the D.C.-based Mexican chain told the Hyattsville Wire they don’t have an exact opening date yet, but construction is “well underway” on its first restaurant in Maryland.

Owner Osiris Hoil personally scouted various options in Maryland last year, but he liked Riverdale Park because of the new Whole Foods and its proximity to the University of Maryland.

Hoil doesn’t just expect students to be regulars at the restaurant, but as an avid cyclist he has also sponsored the college’s cycling team for the past year.

“People aren’t shy about speaking up on locations they’d like to see us in,” spokeswoman Abby Campbell told the Hyattsville Wire. “We’ve had a lot of people pushing for us to be in that area for a while.”

The restaurant will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with its popular breakfast tacos as another draw for commuters.

The Riverdale Park location will be the 11th for the chain, which is everywhere from Dupont Circle to Rosslyn. Another location is underway in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and the chain will then look for more in Maryland and around Philadelphia.

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A Sneak Peek of Old Maryland Grill’s Menu

Old Maryland Grill Mike Franklin College Park restaurant

Old Maryland Grill takes its name very seriously.

Mike Franklin’s soon-to-open restaurant at the Hotel at the University of Maryland in College Park will feature a number of signature dishes from around Maryland.

The owner of Franklin’s Restaurant talked with the Hyattsville Wire recently about the two and a half years of research he spent building the menu.

Appetizers include coddies, deep-fried balls of codfish and potatoes served between two saltine crackers with mustard which were first sold by Jewish immigrants from pushcarts in Baltimore in the 1900s. (The saltines and mustard will be made in-house.)

Alongside deviled crab and an Amish cheese board on the starters menu is smoked beet kitfo, a variation of a popular Ethiopian dish that is a nod to the sizable immigrant population in Maryland.

The lunch menu includes St. Mary’s County Stuffed Ham, a classic dish from Southern Maryland whose origins are shrouded in mystery.

The restaurant will also serve 24 beers and 16 wines from around Maryland. Local spirits will be used in all crab cocktails.

The dishes are all served with a focus on authenticity. “Nobody wants a deconstructed crab cake,” Franklin said.

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Inside the New Home of College Park Academy

College Park Academy public charter school

College Park Academy’s new location feels like a cross between a school and a tech startup.

The public charter middle and high school, whose students are chosen by lottery, moved into a brand new building in the University of Maryland’s Discovery District research park over the summer.

The Hyattsville Wire recently took a tour of the new facility and learned that the whole school is built around the latest technology. Classrooms come with giant touch-screen virtual chalkboards. The cafeteria has high-resolution video projectors for assemblies. Even the PA system has programmable audio and text cues.

But the most notable differences from a typical school are architectural.

The entire school was designed around College Park Academy’s curriculum, which features a blend of in-person and online instruction using Connections Learning, a set of online courses developed by Pearson.

Students take core classes like math in traditional classrooms from teachers who use the Pearson curriculum and related services as a base. They then take self-directed elective courses in subjects such as art theory and journalism led by online teachers.

They complete that work on their own in an “independent learning center” with high-top group tables, private study carrels and individual rooms.

“What the kids love is they’re not waiting for other people,” Executive Director Bernadette Ortiz-Brewster told the Hyattsville Wire.

The goal is to create students who excel at self-directed study, work comfortably both online and in-person and can quickly master new material—the kind of workers that modern companies are looking for.

In spite of all the amenities, Ortiz-Brewster said students were most excited about the most old-school upgrade not available at the old campus at St. Mark’s Church: individual lockers.

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See Mockup of University Park’s New Playground

University Park playground images elementary Maryland

Courtesy of the Town of University Park.

Construction on University Park’s new nature-themed playground will begin this fall.

Located on the current site of the tennis courts behind University Park Elementary School, the highly anticipated playground will feature a play area for kids aged 2 to 5 and another for ages 5 to 12.

The image above, which does not include the fence, accessible paths and nearby trees, is the most up-to-date rendering of the future playground, though some colors will change on site.

Mayor Len Carey told the Hyattsville Wire that construction on the playground will begin in October and November, and fence and access ramps will be built later in the spring as the weather warms up. The playground is slated to open in late March or early April of 2018.

Through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the playground is largely funded by a a Community Parks and Playgrounds Grant

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