Salvadoran Restaurant to Take Benny’s Spot

A Salvadoran restaurant will move in to the spot formerly occupied by Benny’s Chinese restaurant just outside Hyattsville’s Arts District.

Las Comadres will serve dishes from El Salvador as well as Tex-Mex and American food such as hamburgers and salmon.

Loosely translated as “the godmothers,” the women-owned restaurant aims to be a casual, family dining place serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner and will be open until late.

Renovations are underway at the restaurant on the corner of Route 1 and Madison Street in Riverdale Park. Owners Sara Reyes and Claudia Cubyas said they are currently planning to open sometime in August, once the interior work is completed.

Given the success of El Comalito just north of the restaurant, Cafe Azul – Caracas de Ayer just south of it, and the large Central American population in the area, Las Comadres should do pretty well.

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Solar Power Grows on Route 1

Studio 3807 Brentwood apartments solar panels

A new apartment complex will be the greenest yet along Route 1.

Studio 3807 in Brentwood will have solar panels on the roof that will reduce consumption by almost 80 percent and charging stations for electric cars in the garage. It will be built to LEED Gold Standards, the second-highest rating for energy efficiency.

The complex, slated to open next spring, is being marketed as “sustainable, solar-powered, energy efficient living.”

While this project is a leap forward for environmental design in the area, the amenities are part of a broader trend in Route 1 communities.

Mount Rainier City Hall has solar panels on its roof. The Renaissance Square Artists Housing in Hyattsville has solar-heated water. And residents of Hyattsville have banded together to buy solar panels in bulk to install on their roofs.

Other buildings along Route 1 with solar power systems include University Park Elementary School, the University Park Church of the Brethren and Franklin’s Brewery, Restaurant and General Store. University Park Elementary School is the first public school in Prince George’s County to host a rooftop solar project. The University Park community even established a solar power generation plant for residents.

One proposed project would go even further.

Flywheel Development, which aims to be the “Tesla of home building,” has put in a proposal for the 4310 Gallatin Street redevelopment that would build 31 townhomes designed to such high efficiency standards that the solar panels could power both the house and an electric car.

The developers are currently building four townhomes in Mount Rainier as a test case, as explained in a recent story in the Washington Post:

The 1,800-square-foot homes would be built under stringent European energy guidelines seldom attempted in the United States that cut energy use to about one-fifth that of a standard house and would generate as much energy as they expended thanks to rooftop solar panels. They would pack twice the insulation of a standard code-built home and feature a combined green roof and solar panel system that had never been installed in an American dwelling. This development would not only launch Flywheel, they hoped, it would help turn sustainable building from a boutique industry into a mass movement.

More could be done. The Flywheel Development project in Hyattsville has not yet been approved. Townhome projects in the Arts District, along East West Highway and at Riverdale Park Station would be perfect for rooftop solar, and more homeowners and public buildings should join the trend.

But it’s already clear that Route 1 is ready for more solar power.

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High-End Red Door Spa Comes to College Park

The new hotel in College Park will bring another amenity to the area: a high-end spa.

The Hotel at the University of Maryland will include an Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa when it opens sometime in July.

Founded in 1910 by cosmetics pioneer Elizabeth Arden, Red Door Spas still has a fairly exclusive portfolio, with just 30 spas, mostly clustered around New York City and the greater Washington area.

Red Door Spa locations tend to be in upscale areas. Other nearby locations include the Willard InterContintental Hotel in D.C., around the corner from Saks Fifth Avenue in Chevy Chase and at Pentagon Row in Arlington.

The Route 1 area already has a number of spas and nail salons, including Ivy Lounge in Riverdale Park and Essential Day Spa in Hyattsville’s Arts District, but the Red Door Spa is in another league.

For example, facials range from $85 for the traditional standard treatment to $550 for an ultrasonic exfoliation, lactic acid peel and “microcurrent” electrical stimulation followed by a vitamin C mask and LED light therapy.

As with grocery stores, restaurants and Starbucks, spas and nail salons have become a popular addition to new real estate developments because they are considered “Amazon-proof”—service-oriented retail that can’t be ordered more cheaply online.

Like the hotel and the nearby Iribe Center, the spa is also designed to help build the University of Maryland’s image as a cutting-edge university, but Route 1 residents will get to enjoy it as well.

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DeMatha’s Draft Pick Gets National Attention

DeMatha has produced yet another NBA draft pick.

The selection of Markelle Fultz Thursday marked the 23rd time a graduate of the Hyattsville Catholic school has produced a pro basketball player, second only to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, according to a count by USA Today.

The Washington Post notes that the school has done even better with top picks, like Fultz.

Fultz figures to be DeMatha’s fifth top-six pick in 42 years, following Adrian Dantley (sixth in 1976), Kenny Carr (sixth in 1977), Danny Ferry (second in 1989) and Victor Oladipo (second in 2013).

Five top-six picks in 42 years? That’s absurd. It’s more than Michigan or Michigan State, more than Louisville or Cincinnati, more than Florida or Arizona. That’s as many as Boston College, Clemson, Pitt, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, combined.

The Philadelphia Inquirer noted that DeMatha’s strength in basketball has a long history:

DeMatha’s rich basketball history dates back to the 1950s. The Stags were recognized by media polling as the nation’s best team in 1962, 1965, 1968, 1978, 1984 and 2006.

The team has also produced Basketball Hall of Famers in Adrian Dantley, who went on to an illustrious college and pro career, and coach Morgan Wootten, who compiled a 1,274-192 record and was coach for five of those top DeMatha teams.

Deadspin went even further, arguing that all of Prince George’s County has for years been “to hoops what Champagne is to Champagne.” It attributed the county’s basketball culture to the exodus of D.C. residents in the 1960s, connections to the Washington Bullets and strong youth basketball teams:

“You know how they say in life, it takes a village to raise a child? That’s how we take the basketball programs in this county,” Brown says. “It’s everybody. Everybody knows everybody. We have so many coaches, guys who played AAU here and then went off to play college basketball and are coming back home to work with kids at the young ages, when they’re just 8 to 13. The level of competition here from a young age is like nowhere else.”

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A Historical Photo of the Singer Building

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

The Singer Building is getting ready for a renovation. Here’s a look at the historic Mount Rainier building in days gone by.

The photo was taken on a glass negative and donated by Herbert A. French, owner of the National Photo Company and an inaugural member of the White House News Photographers when it was founded.

“During the administrations of Presidents Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, the National Photo Company supplied photographs of current news events in Washington, D.C., as a daily service to its subscribers,” the Library of Congress notes.

Renovations on the Singer Building, which was built in 1936 in the 3300 block of Rhode Island Ave, are expected to be completed by the end of the summer. One tenant will be a restaurant from the people behind the popular Cafe Saint-Ex in Washington.

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University Park Named D.C.’s ‘Best Value’

University Park was named the “best value neighborhood” in the greater Washington area.

In a study by the online real estate site Trulia, University Park scored well on affordability, local restaurants, commute times, schools and crime.

“The neighborhood ranks high for schools and low crime and has a median list price of $455,189,” Trulia noted. “The median listing price in Washington is $558,500.”

Other top neighborhoods include Kingman Park in the District, Fairlington-Shirlington in Arlington, Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County and North Springfield in Virginia.

Though Trulia made a minor mistake (calling University Park part of another town), the ranking is spot on.

University Park Elementary is well-regarded, the town has a low crime rate and easy access to the Prince George’s Plaza and College Park Metro stations, and prices are comparably low for the greater Washington area.

We’d argue the area should have scored even better for restaurants, considering that Route 1 has become a foodie haven, with sit-down options like Franklin’s, Busboys and Poets and the upcoming Pizzeria Paradiso, as well as fun alternatives like Nando’s Peri-Peri, Bonchon and Pollo Campero.

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Hyattsville’s Unexpected New Public Art

Hyattsville’s latest piece of public art is in an unexpected spot: Traffic signal boxes.

Using grants from Prince George’s County, the Hyattsville Community Development Corporation has commissioned colorful art to be wrapped around 11 traffic signal boxes from Adelphi Road to Hillcrest Heights.

For now, only two of the traffic signal boxes are in Hyattsville, but another 22 in the city were identified for future art.

The designs were chosen by a jury of local artists and an online poll. The artists include  Harper Carter Matsuyama of Hyattsville and and Joel Traylor of Mount Rainier.

Traffic signal boxes are one of those pieces of urban infrastructure that you tend to pass by without thinking—dull gray metal boxes that can be targets for vandalism and graffiti. (In one case, a Hyattsville traffic signal box was adorned with hipster wheatpaste art.)

The new public art initiative is a smart way to fight that problem while adding to the great public art in the Route 1 corridor.

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Café Saint-Ex Owner Coming to Mount Rainier

Singer Building Mount Rainier Maryland Route 1

A group of veteran restaurateurs will open a new bar and restaurant in the Singer Building in Mount Rainier.

Erin Edwards and executive chef Jesse Miller from the popular Bar Pilar and Café Saint-Ex restaurants in D.C. and Garrick Lumsden, formerly of Passion Food LLC, have signed on to open the new spot this September.

“We love the close-knit, artistic community that already is thriving in Mount Rainier,” the co-owners said in a statement. “We hope to create a welcoming spot where neighbors can eat, drink and gather throughout the day, and look forward to working side-by-side with other businesses, artists, and residents to create new opportunities in the heart of the neighborhood.”

Built in 1936, the three-story building is being renovated this summer. Other planned tenants include Annie’s Ace Hardware, which already has locations in Brookland and Petworth; and arts incubator ReCreative Spaces.

Bar Pilar and Café Saint-Ex, which is named for the author of “The Little Prince,” are both known as laid-back neighborhood watering holes in the 14th Street Corridor. The new space is across the street from the similarly oriented Bird Kitchen + Cocktails, which should help both restaurants.

Economists have long found that restaurants do better when they are near other restaurants, and the new addition to Mount Rainier should further spur the Route 1 corridor’s growing foodie reputation.

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New Tech Center Takes Shape in College Park

Brendan Iribe Center University Maryland computer science innovation

Illustration courtesy of the University of Maryland

The outlines of Route 1’s next big addition have become clear this week as construction continues at the entrance to the University of Maryland on Campus Drive.

Named for a co-founder of Oculus VR, the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation will be a striking counterpoint to the Hotel at the University of Maryland going up across Baltimore Avenue.

The six-story building will house student labs on robotics, virtual reality and artificial intelligence as well as makerspaces and open work areas. Each floor will also have a “reset room,” to offer opportunities for casual collaboration—especially appropriate since the founders of Oculus, who met while students at the University of Maryland, gave $38 million for the building’s construction.

The building’s architecture is a refreshing change from the usual brick-and-ivy look, with generous use of glass, a grassy terrace and a rooftop garden named for Oculus co-founder Andrew Reisse, an avid hiker who was tragically killed when he was struck by a car involved in a police chase in Los Angeles.

Overall, the project looks like it will integrate nicely with the trails leading to the Varsity student housing and shopping complex just north of it. Between the Iribe Center, the new hotel and all the student housing, the University of Maryland is doing a lot to change the look and feel of Route 1 in this section of College Park.

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A Famous Bob Dylan Song’s Hyattsville Ties

Folk singers Joan Baez and Bob Dylan perform during a civil rights rally on August 28, 1963 in Washington D.C. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Folk singers Joan Baez and Bob Dylan perform during a civil rights rally on August 28, 1963 in Washington D.C. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On Aug. 28, 1963, Bob Dylan was 22 years old and William Devereux Zantzinger was 24.

A folk singer from New York, Dylan performed at the civil rights march on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. At a courtroom 70 miles north in Hagerstown that same day, Zantzinger was sentenced in the death of an African-American barmaid.

Their two lives would soon intersect in ways that illuminate American history, and Hyattsville played a role.

The story begins on Feb. 8, 1963. Zantzinger, who managed his family’s 630-acre tobacco farm in Charles County in southern Maryland, went to a white-tie society ball in Baltimore with his wife. He was wearing a top hat and carrying a 25-cent wooden toy cane he had picked up at a carnival.

Zantzinger, who had already been denied service at a restaurant for being too rowdy, twirled the cane like Fred Astaire. As the night wore on, he hit several hotel employees with the cane and used racial epithets.

He then approached the bar and ordered a drink from Hattie Carroll, a 51-year-old who worked part-time at the Emerson Hotel. When she took too long, he struck her with the cane repeatedly, again using racial epithets. Carroll fled to the kitchen, where she told co-workers she felt “deathly ill.” An ambulance was called.

Zantzinger was charged with disorderly conduct and released on bail. But the next morning Carroll died of a stroke, and he was charged with murder.

In an interview as the trial started, Zantzinger made comments that led him to decide to avoid speaking with journalists ever again.

“Hell, you wouldn’t want to go to school with Negroes any more than you would with French people,” he said.

At the trial, which was moved to Hagerstown due to the publicity, Zantzinger testified that he didn’t remember hitting anyone. His lawyers argued that Carroll had other health problems that could have caused the stroke, and the charge was reduced to manslaughter. He was sentenced to a $500 fine and six months in the county jail—timed so that he could complete the tobacco harvest.

The UPI wire service ran a story, “Farmer Sentenced in Barmaid’s Death,” which was printed in the New York Times. A friend showed it to Dylan, who reportedly grew so incensed he stayed up all night writing a song about the case.

“William Zanzinger (sic) killed poor Hattie Carroll / With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger /At a Baltimore hotel society gathering,” began “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” which appeared on his next album, the classic The Times They Are a-Changin’, released in January of 1964. Dylan got a few facts wrong, including the number of Carroll’s children, the spelling of Zantzinger’s name and his “high office relations in the politics of Maryland.”

In fact, his father, Richard Chew Zantzinger, was only a Republican state legislator for a single term in the 1930s. However, to Dylan’s larger point, his obituary notes that he was “prominent in Southern Maryland social circles,” founding two hunt clubs, belonging to the Society of the Cincinnati and serving on the state planning commission.

The Zantzingers’ prominence and wealth came in part from deals made in Prince George’s County, especially Hyattsville. Richard Zantzinger and his brother, Otway Jr., were real estate developers who worked a lot in the Hyattsville area with the firm O.B. Zantzinger Co. Otway Zantzinger subdivided the Hyattsville Hills neighborhood and built a number of homes in the historic district.

One of those homes, a brick bungalow at 4018 Hamilton St., was featured in this year’s Historic Hyattsville House Tour, which has tried to raise awareness of social issues in recent years. “[Otway] Zantzinger’s property deeds contain language that may not have raised eyebrows at the time, but today remind us of Hyattsville’s less than stellar history of racial exclusion—explicitly restricting residents of ‘Negro descent’ from owning the property—as well as prohibiting the making, selling and keeping of ‘spiritous liquors,'” the tour description notes.

These racial restrictions were once common throughout the United States. The land donated to become Magruder Park in 1927 even included a restriction noting that it was for white residents only, and all homes in University Park came with them. Though the Supreme Court ruled restrictive covenants based on race unconstitutional in 1948, they continued to be adhered to in private real estate sales and weren’t outlawed until the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Richard and Otway Zantzinger’s father, meantime, was also a real estate developer, whose biggest project was creating the Capitol Heights subdivision in 1904. As a history of that Prince George’s County community notes: “Advertisements noted that the segregated subdivision was intended for whites only.”

William Zantzinger, who died in 2009, declined to speak about the death of Hattie Carroll for years. But in a rare interview with Dylan biographer Howard Sounes, he called the future Nobel laureate a “no-account [expletive]” who had distorted the facts of the case.

“I should have sued him and put him in jail,” he said.

The Zantzingers’ restrictive covenants are now, thankfully, consigned to history, and today Hyattsville proudly cites its racial diversity as a strength. But “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” stands as a reminder of the not-so distant past.

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