My Two Cents: Pausing for wise development

A graphic of the proposed development plan to the WSSC building site located at the corner of Hamilton and Gallatin Streets near Magruder Park. The new plan includes space for 71 town homes and 14 single-family homes. Courtesy of Werrlein Properties

BY LOIRE PRZYGRODZKI — I am an architectural designer at a mid-sized firm in Bethesda. During an informal meeting at our office, I thought a lot about development and Hyattsville. My boss was talking about our social responsibility to help developers see how construction can enhance a community. As architects and designers, we have the responsibility to balance the desires of the developer and the health of the community. I am not anti-development. Development needs to be well thought out, contribute to the existing community, and use quality materials and beautiful details. There is so much opportunity for developers to make money and communities to get lasting, exciting architecture that fills a multitude of needs and attracts a diverse group of people. I think EYA did a fantastic job with their Arts District development on Baltimore Avenue, and they have had years of experience getting it right. Their work added to the already successful community centered around the Historic District. It was sited appropriately and didn’t impact what was already successful — it added and enhanced, it balanced. For example, when the community rallied to save the Lustine showroom, which was historically important, the development benefited, and the developer went on to win awards.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel as enthusiastic or hopeful regarding the proposed development at the WSSC site and parking lot. I am uncomfortable about the proposal to change zoning in a 100-year flood plain and the proposed development to infill high-cost, high-density multifamily housing at the WSSC site and parking lot adjacent to Magruder Park. I am concerned about the impact of this development on existing home prices, on the already-taxed public schools, on traffic, on the environment, on Magruder Park and on fixed-income neighbors. This project doesn’t benefit Hyattsville; it benefits the developers. There is no balance. This would be the first large-scale development that this company has done. I don’t think that the WSSC site and Hyattsville deserve to be experimented on. Hyattsville has come too far for that.

Inertia is a terrible thing, and the desire to see something, anything, happen at a seemingly forgotten site, can cloud one’s vision in terms of long-term consequences. I want to see the WSSC site and parking lot developed, and developed well. I want to see a range of economic options so our teachers and policemen and elderly can stay in Hyattsville. I want to see a beautiful public school large enough to meet the needs of our growing community. I want to see what is historically relevant preserved and reused. This is an opportunity to pause and decide who we want to be and what we want Hyattsville to look like in the future. I don’t want to be another community that wasn’t paying attention and lost to opportunity and opportunists just because they showed up.  

The first attempts to modify zoning have started. Follow the application #DSP-18004, and become a person of record. You can also follow the development review process and offer comments on the city’s website.

Loire Przygrodzki is a resident of Hyattsville and and architectural designer in Bethesda.

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