Developer proposes 18 townhouses for former Bluebird Cab site

October 6, 2015

BY REBECCA BENNETT — Rockville-based Haverford Homes has proposed an 18-unit residential townhome development for the former Bluebird Cab site at 5334 Baltimore Avenue, donned “The Blue,” according to a presentation at the Oct. 5 Hyattsville City Council meeting.

Haverford Homes President Sevag Balian said that he grew up on Toledo Terrace across from Prince George’s Plaza. Balian said he started Haverford Homes in 1992 after graduate school on Belcrest Road in Hyattsville where its offices were located for 20 years.

Balian said he bought the former Bluebird Cab property in 2005 with a different plan in mind.  They first tried to buy the Beds To Go building next door, he said, and then bid when the City of Hyattsville sought proposals for what is now Renaissance Square nearby on Jefferson Street.

“Eager to make a difference in Hyattsville, having grown up here with offices only around the corner, I jumped at buying the Bluebird site when it was for sale,” Balian said.  Property records show the company paid $535,000.

Over the years since, Balian said various people approached him wanting to buy the site.  Proposed uses, he said, included a mechanic shop, an auto-related details shop, or a medical office building.

Balian said that it’s time to do something special with what is not an aesthetically-pleasing site.  “It is special to me.  I want to make it nice.  I want to make it look good,” he said.

Consultant Mark Ferguson said eight townhouses would be constructed facing Baltimore Avenue. Ten units would be situated facing the western boundary of the property, which butts up against the steep gradient for the private parking lot of Crossover Church.

Balian said each unit will have three bedrooms and two or two-and-a-half baths and balconies on the rooftops.

A private driveway will come into the 24,000 square foot site from Route 1, according to Ferguson, which would serve all 18 garages, as the 10 back units would be rear-facing.  He also said they expect the entrance to be right-in-right-out-only from Baltimore Avenue.

“There will be small, little yards behind the rear units, which will all be landscaped with trees,” Ferguson said, which would amount to a little private outdoor room.  He also said there would be trees along the site and along Route 1, which would be landscaped to the theme that was established by EYA.

5334 Baltimore Avenue proposal

A private drive would give residents access to townhome garages. The back 10 units would be rear-facing with their garages facing Baltimore Avenue.

Each unit would have two garage spaces, Ferguson said, though only 1.5 parking spaces per unit is required.

“That’s going to be a problem.  It’s a problem with EYA and it’s going to be a problem here, It’s not walkable. People don’t walk, they drive,” Councilmember Paula Perry (Ward 4) said.  When the townhomes are sold, the parking problem is left to the city, she said.

Ferguson said this development is different, because there is no option to park on the street, as the nearby EYA townhomes have, so guests will have to use city lots and residents will have to park in their garages.  “We believe that the discipline imposed by the constraints will make a large difference,” he said.

“I beg to differ.  You are going to have many parking problems,” Councilmember Ruth Ann Frazier (Ward 5) said. “And we are going to be left with the problems.”

“I would say that the concerns the city has been facing have been principally been due to the commercial uses, not to the residential uses,” Ferguson said. “It won’t be the same kind of issue that it is around the restaurants.”

Councilmember Edouard Haba (Ward 4) said if something could be done with the site, it was a welcomed cause.

“The subject property is located in the Town Center Character Area of the Gateway Arts District and is subject to the use and development standards defined in the Gateway Arts District Sector Plan,” a city memo said.

Ferguson said they believed they are in compliance with all of the guidelines in the Arts District Sector Plan with the only exception that the buildings don’t abut.

Haverford Homes is currently awaiting stormwater management concept approval, a city memo said. Ferguson said they are waiting on that approval soon, so they will submit a Detailed Site Plan and Preliminary Plan of Subdivision, which a city memo said\

Mayor Candace Hollingsworth referred the proposal to the Hyattsville City Planning Committee for comment, which will meet next on Oct. 13.