Two communities tapped by state for redevelopment

Hyattsville, Crisfield would get planning aid and priority for funding

April 20, 2005|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,SUN STAFF

Redevelopment projects in Hyattsville and Crisfield have been tapped for state help under "Priority Places," the Ehrlich administration's version of Smart Growth focused on revitalizing existing communities in Maryland.

The two projects -- one to revive the U.S. 1 corridor through Hyattsville, a Prince George's County community, and the other to build homes and shops along the waterfront in Crisfield, Somerset County's faded "crab capital of the world" -- would receive state planning assistance and priority for any state funds that might be available, though none specifically accompanies the designation.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was scheduled to visit Hyattsville today to announce the two projects' selection in the second round of the program his administration unveiled last summer. They join redevelopment efforts previously selected in Baltimore's Poppleton neighborhood and in Leonardtown in St. Mary's County.

An inner suburb of Washington, Hyattsville -- population 15,000 -- is working with a private developer and a nonprofit housing group to revive its downtown along U.S. 1. An Arlington, Va.-based development company plans to invest more than $100 million in about 500 townhouses and condos, plus restaurants and shops on a former car dealership that straddles the highway, according to Aakash Thakkar, an executive with the firm, Eakin/Youngentob Associates.

A nonprofit group, the Housing Initiative Partnership, also plans to build artists' residences and workshops and a YMCA on the site of an old municipal office building nearby.

The city and developer have asked the state to spend up to $5 million beautifying U.S. 1 through downtown Hyattsville, adding benches, widening sidewalks and installing crosswalks to make it more pedestrian-friendly.

Hyattsville Mayor William F. Gardiner said yesterday that he was excited to earn the state's recognition of his city's ambitious downtown renewal projects, even if the state has yet to pledge money toward the highway improvements.

"We wanted the designation, even thought it didn't come with any guarantees, because we felt having the state as an important partner in revitalizing our downtown was really critical."

"The state and the county are going to work together on making Route 1 a priority in Prince George's County," said Charles Gates, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Planning, which coordinates state review of the Priority Places applications.

In Crisfield, the state would be providing technical help as the city develops a plan for revitalizing its once working waterfront around the state-owned Somers Cove marina, Gates said.

After losing 600 jobs over the past 15 years because of declines in Chesapeake Bay fisheries, Crisfield, a town of about 2,700, is seeing signs of real estate development interest along its downtown waterfront.

The state Department of Natural Resources had announced plans to privatize operation of Somers Cove Marina, but recently delayed plans to give the city time to develop a more comprehensive plan for its waterfront with business owners.

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