Old Town is New Again with Arts Scene

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Just two miles from Washington, D.C., lies one of Prince George’s County’s oldest towns booming with young, artistic energy.

Arts District Hyattsville is part of the Gateway Arts District, where public art abounds, new businesses are flourishing, and the community is growing. Two new townhome complexes—The Bristol and the Calvin II—are already sold out.

It is a racially diverse, established commuter neighborhood with affordable housing, high household incomes, a large college-educated workforce, and a focus on improving the safety of its residents— the actual number of crimes against people is drastically decreasing and arrests are increasing. Rape and attempted rape are down 33 percent, robberies and car jackings have fallen by 27 percent and 67 percent, respectively.

It is the perfect storm of location, opportunity, and means to gentrify and expand the economic base of a town with roots in transportation. The first stagecoach route passed through Hyattsville, followed by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Named Hyattsville in 1859 by Christopher Clarke Hyatt in his application to be postmaster, the town was officially incorporated in 1886.

Transportation

With growth, transformation, and an influx of visitors, comes the need for infrastructure and amenities.

Long-time Hyattsville resident Ed Clayton, who was relaxing on his patio in an established neighborhood that borders the new Arts District, looked around and remarked, “Twenty years ago, there wasn’t half this traffic.”

Transportation issues are not unique to Clayton. In a 2015 resident satisfaction survey, the top three issues residents wanted addressed were traffic flow, the quality of economic development, and the condition of the streets and sidewalks.

But Hyattsville offers several modes of public transportation. Satisfaction with WMATA Metro service was 79 percent, WMATA Bus service was 62 percent, and University of Maryland Shuttle bus was 55 percent.

To address transportation woes, the city has launched a study to create the Hyattsville Transportation Plan.  “Its transportation network will prioritize people-friendly streets that add energy and vitality to their surroundings while accommodating the inevitable flow of traffic into and out of the City.” The policies are meant to complete the street grid, design lower-speed roads, prioritize pedestrian traffic, change traffic circulation, improve the comfort of bicyclists, improve intersections, improve access from Metro stations, and integrate trails.

The transportation changes come as the town is transforming.

Gentrification

The Arts District has brought in new restaurants—Busboys and Poets, Elevation Burger, and the like—as well as studio spaces such as Art Works Now and DC Glassworks, art retail shops like Tanglewood Works, and new residential development.

Franc Rosario is  a metal fabricator at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, which moved from Silver Spring in 2016 as Hyattsville’s art scene evolved, where he maintains the historic Arcade building (once home to a silent movie theater, a church, a bowling alley, and an arcade) and fashions tables, storage, and anything metal needed for the nonprofit and the artists.

Rosario, also a photographer and woodworker, said he has been pleased with the center’s move from Montgomery County. “I love it here. I feel like there is a strong creative energy, a creative hub. I think it provides an opportunity for folks to be involved in the arts that might have been more difficult before we came.”

The arts center is a hub for printing and paper arts. Letterpresses and bindery arts line the first floor of the center as you wind your way to the staircase to find the gallery lined with brick walls, unique archways, and studio spaces tucked in corners. The center, which offers classes to the public, has drawn some of its regulars from Silver Spring.

“People seem excited and curious about us.”

 

 

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