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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