Werrlein Properties, LLC has submitted a proposal for the reuse of 4017 Hamilton Street (former WSSC Building). The presentation is attached to this Forum. 

The application will go through the City's Development Review Process, detailed below. You are invited to provide public comment at any public meeting, within this Forum, or by email to cityclerk@hyattsville.org.

Questions should be directed to the City Planner, Katie Gerbes, at kgerbes@hyattsville.org or (301) 985-5059 OR to Werrlein Properties at info@werrleinproperties.com

 

Presentation of Proposal

February 5, 2018, City Council Meeting, 3rd Floor Council Chambers

Presentation of Proposal

February 27, 2018, Planning Committee Meeting, 2nd Floor Prangley Room

Discussion of Proposal

April 16, 2018, City Council Meeting, 3rd Floor Council Chambers 

Action on Proposal

May 7, 2018, City Council Meeting, 3rd Floor Council Chambers 


1 Attachment

Attachment: Document - Magruder Point Development Presentation

Description:

The attached document was presented to the Hyattsville City Council on Monday, February 5, 2018. 


    I think this development is not the best idea for this site. Adaptive reuse of the current building should be part of the development, and it should include some type of community use. I have lived in Hyattsville since 1987 and have watched this building close down, be considered as a school, be considered for tear-down, and more. If our community has a focus on sustainability, tearing this building down is not the way to go. I would like to see a different kind of development in this area--some housing (single-family, rowhouse, etc.) but not such a high number of dwellings that will wreak havoc on our local schools. Let's not "settle" for something that is not an excellent solution. We are a desirable community so let's do some things that are going to be good for all of us.

    0 Comments 6 Votes Created

    I appreciate Werrlein Properties (WP) leading tours through the building a few weeks ago. I live directly across the street, and had no idea of the beautifully aged interior and fantastic design details from three distinct periods in the 20th century (early industrial era, 50's modernism, and 70's funk). My immediate thought was "Whoa! Why has this place not been used for film, TV, and photography shoots this whole time?!" It seems a huge loss of built-in capital that could only be possible through the "deterioration" over time. I imagine many creatives and producers would pay top dollar for using the site. Not to mention the rampant instagrammers that have been hitting Green Owl's murals along Route 1--they'd probably pay an easy 5 bucks to be allowed in the WSSC building with their iphones. So, while I was involved in the difficult conversations around the building's historic value and the residential potential WP sees in it, this thought remained in the back of my mind. Then this past weekend, I became acquainted with the amazing Heather Roymans (Partner & Executive Director of IFDC) through her participation in the Her Story panel at Pyramid Atlantic. It is lucky for us that such an experienced producer lives in the neighborhood. This gave enough legs to my left field idea that I'm sharing now: What if WP used their capital to purchase and stabilize the building enough so that it could be used as an income-generating site for film and photo shoots? What if Roymans advised, with her expertise and background? WP could own, maintain and profit from production uses; the building’s “deterioration” becomes an aesthetic asset, rather than a blight, and the multi-use parking lot remains available for community uses while also being a staging area for production companies. This idea has not gone away for months, which signals to me that it’s worth sharing. And perhaps, if all parties are willing, at least it’s worth a meeting between city council, WP, and Roymans. I am an art historian by trade, and am willing to offer whatever advice I can, though I can’t speak to the actual financial feasibility of this idea. But again, we seem stuck between a rock and a hard place as a community, and I am compelled to share my out-of-the-box idea. –Josh T. Franco

    I don't follow the argument that we have to agree to this proposal or risk being branded as anti-development. In the six years I've lived in Hyattsville the pace of new development has been off the charts (most of it welcome), so it seems clear that our community is desirable and will remain so regardless of what happens with this one project.

    As Maureen writes in her post (you should read it), a chief reason Hyattsville is so desireable for new development and new residents is that there is such a strong sense of place here. That's the civic asset we should be most concerned with protecting.

    I am sympathetic to the neighbors of the current building who are sick of it, but there's clearly a lot of potential for this piece of land to elevate the city, rather than simply get turned into a row of townhouses.

    PS - If this project does go through, we should insist they drop the "e" from "Pointe". That's just not neighborly.

    0 Comments 8 Votes Created

    I am writing to express my strong opposition to the Magruder Pointe Development proposal by Werrlein Properties. I am deeply dismayed by the proposed demolition of the existing WSSC building, as well as the loss of potential open space for our community. While I realize that it can be difficult for many people to get beyond the "run down" nature of a vacant building, I would like to provide my professional opinion as a preservation architect, that this building offers great potential for adaptive reuse. Unfortunately, Werrlein has dismissed this possibility outright.

    It has been proven over and over again that people appreciate historic architecture as being essential to the identity and unique character of their communities. Hyattsville is a historic neighborhood - people are attracted to Hyattsville precisely because of its historic building stock and, even more so, as the recent wave of adaptive reuse projects have created lively community spaces like Pyramid Atlantic, Vigilante Coffee and Pizzeria Paradiso. I would argue that it is exactly these types of adaptive reuse projects that are the reason Hyattsville is now in demand as a desirable place to live. The preservation of buildings that are part and parcel of our community’s history is essential to cultural, social, economic and environmental sustainability.

    I don’t want Hyattsville to succumb to the kind of increasingly fast-paced, anonymous and “placeless” form of urban development that has drastically changed similar neighborhoods in the metro area. The individual character of Hyattsville is a precious commodity that we should not just throw away to the highest bidder. It is the unique identity of Hyattsville as a product of incremental development over time, that helps create a sense of stability and community spirit.

    More specifically the WSSC building offers many qualities that would be lost forever if it is demolished, including:

    1. A richness of design that spans three distinct architectural styles and time periods.

    2. Solid construction and a high degree of craftsmanship and quality materials.

    3. A thoughtful and considerate site design that utilizes the change in grade to negotiate the building’s relationship to both the residential character of Hamilton Street and the existing open character of Gallatin Street.

    4. A tangible connection to our city’s history as the headquarters of a major public utility.

    It is very convenient for developers to say that it isn’t financially feasible to rehab an old building when they have no interest or intention of preservation. It is my professional opinion that the WSSC building is a viable candidate for adaptive reuse and is in considerably better shape than many buildings I have seen brought back from neglect and vacancy to a vibrant new use.

    In terms of the parking lot on which Werrlein is proposing to build town homes, I would much prefer to see this portion of the property remain open space. Its location directly adjacent to the entrance of our largest city park is a golden opportunity that our city should simply NOT pass up. Once this parcel is developed, the opportunity to add additional public green space and recreational opportunities is lost. I would encourage our city leadership to find a creative solution that would add this parcel to our existing park.

    Development pressures are one of the biggest challenges to adding and maintaining green space in cities - it takes the will of the governing bodies to see the value of access to public open space/parks and prioritize that over development. The required zoning change for this proposal provides the city with considerable leverage in negotiating the future use of this portion of the site - why give that away with no benefit to the larger community? Is it because we are worried about getting “a reputation as a community as being anti-development?” (As we know, this is a concern for Councilmember Warner, whom I am quoting). As a resident I am much more concerned about getting a reputation as a city that doesn’t fight for its community values. I can guarantee that the desire for more open space and maintaining historic neighborhood character are routinely listed among the top values that residents site in Hyattsville.

    We can all lament the fact that the city didn’t take earlier opportunities to acquire this property or that previous plans for adaptive reuse fell through or that the building is listed as a contributing structure to the Hyattsville Historic District but which affords no legal protections for preservation, but the fact is we are where we are. I am asking our mayor and council to be the people that stand up for our community values despite development pressure. Why not be the city that sends developers packing when it is not in the best interest of our community?

    I would be happy to elaborate more on my specific criticisms of the proposed site plan (especially the town homes located on the lower lot which are poorly sited and not in keeping with our neighborhood, or even regional, character. Why are we plunking down Savannah in the middle of Hyattsville again?) but my real hope is that the mayor and city council will reject this proposal and will stand up for our collective best interest.

    0 Comments 9 Votes Created

    I do not think this is the right development for the site, especially because of the impacts it would have on Magruder Park. The current lower parking lot should be part of an expanded Magruder park or school (provided the floodplain issue can be dealt with). Converting this lot to single family homes would alter the character of the park for the worse and the park is one of the gems of the city.

    I wouldn't be against a smaller scope development for the WSSC building site only, though I would also like the city/county to seriously consider options for the site for a school or community center, or even limited mixed use and take into consideration the historical significance of parts of the building. On the whole, I would rather see the building reused as much as possible. It is better to wait and make the right decision.

    0 Comments 8 Votes Created

    If you’re curious what I’m thinking, as a member of the decision-making body, I don't yet know if I will support this proposed plan for redevelopment of the former WSSC building site. This is an important decision that involves weighing a number of considerations and I'm still evaluating this. I’m not an advocate for one side or the other, but I’m trying to come to a decision in the best interests of the community. Here are some factors I'm considering that I shared yesterday on the neighborhood listserv:

    • Considerable public interest in preserving the former WSSC building. • Uncertainty about the condition of the building and if its preservation is even possible (without incurring expenses more prohibitive than anyone would realistically be willing to pay). 17 years is a long time for a property to stand empty. I don’t think anyone has spoken knowledgeably about the condition and salvageability of the building. • Ecological/flood concerns about building in the lower parking lot. • Neighbors in the immediate impact zone who have had to live next to an abandoned and decaying building for many years who are in favor of the plan. As it stands, I have heard complaints monthly, if not weekly, from immediate neighbors about this property since I’ve been on the Council (7 years). The current condition is not a pressing issue if you live even two blocks away, but it's a daily nuisance for its closest neighbors and I'm particularly interested in hearing from them. I’ve heard from two households who live in what I consider to be the immediate impact zone who have weighed in against this development (primarily for school, preservation reasons). I’ve heard from considerably more close neighbors who are in favor of some modified version of this proposal who have indicated that they don’t feel comfortable speaking up publicly for fear of the negative reaction from vocal opposition. • Werrlein's demonstrated effort in reaching out to neighbors and community groups. The developer seems to have put a lot of thought and energy into community outreach. Those who have worked with them have good things to say about the company. They’ve built in a lot of consideration for neighbors into their construction plans. • I’m just going to say it, I think this looks pretty good. Yeah, it’s more dense than I’d prefer, but it’s attractive and, to my mind, aesthetically preferable to much of the other recent and upcoming development (which the City has very little power over) within our boundaries. It’s a better plan and more considerate of neighbors than the other proposals I’ve seen for this site over the years (none of which have progressed very far). • This development would reduce the amount of impervious surface area. • The planned development is awfully dense and it will impact traffic and parking in negative ways in that area. • "Loss" of the City's use of the parking lot. It's not our land. We are graciously allowed the use of the lot by the current owner. I don't think it's fair to act as if this is something we're entitled to, but it’s a significant interest of the community as a whole and an optimal solution would include parking for better use of Magruder Park. I think this is a tricky thing to factor, though, since opposing the current development plan might result in a more adversarial relationship with the property’s owner (which may be familiar to those who know the history), which could have repercussions on our ability to use the lot at all. • The city can't afford to buy this or to develop this site, I’m frankly relieved that we don’t own this, given that our experience owning buildings has been fraught. • If we oppose this do we get a reputation as a community as being anti-development? There are a lot of Route 1 communities who would love to lure projects away from Hyattsville. • Additional overburdening of existing public school capacity if built. All new development triggers this concern and there’s a great deal of development in the works in this area. I think this is an important factor, but the fact is that our need for additional school space in Hyattsville will be critical either way, whether this gets built or not. • This would be good location for public school right next to our biggest park. • I have no realistic expectation that the County will prioritize purchasing this site or investing in the construction of a new school in Hyattsville. Yes, I know that's the optimal outcome that many are hoping for, and it would, in fact, be great, but I've heard no indication from any County level people that this may be something that could happen in the foreseeable future. I’m even more skeptical that this is likely to happen in a timeframe that would work with the currently planned renovations to Hyattsville Elementary School. • If this site were to be used for a school, though, there would still be negative externalities from the increased traffic. Schools typically involve a lot more traffic than just standard drop off and pick up hours, as schools are often used in the evenings and weekends for various purposes. • Also there's the possibility that any future school use might realistically be predicated on tearing down the existing building (unacceptable to the preservation folks) or building in the parking lot area (unacceptable to the environmental impact folks). • There's the additional issue that relocating the elementary school might put some of the households in the current in school boundary outside of walkable range (this comes secondhand to me from a PGCPS official), which means school buses or redrawn boundaries, which may split up our neighborhood more than it currently is. [T. Carter Ross has responded that this is a non-issue, that this location is more central to the existing boundaries than the current location. He’s one of the most knowledgeable people in the neighborhood about such things and if he says this isn’t a concern I believe him.] • This is dividing the community. One of the things I care most about is the effect the development would have on relationships between neighbors.

    Factors I don't care about particularly, not to say they're unimportant, just that they aren't ones that resonate to me and don't carry as much weight as they seem to do for others: • The fact that this is a bigger project than Werrlein has tackled before. Werrlein seems to be putting a lot of resources into this. • Criminal history of one of the people involved. I care deeply about integrity and past actions and I think it’s fine to take note of such information, but I think that employers should institute fair hiring practices and allow those who have paid their debt to society to pursue their skilled professions. I would vote to “ban the box” in a second. • Increased tax revenue to the city.

    My gut take at the moment is that this choice isn't between choosing the Werrlein proposal or choosing a new elementary school on the site, but, rather, choosing between a modified Werrlein plan in the short term and preserving the potential for a different outcome – one that will almost certainly prompt its own opposition – with the probable short to medium term result that the building will remain abandoned and deteriorate further.

    It's clear where many of our neighbors come out on this, but I would like more information, including input from our Planning Committee and City Staff. I appreciate everyone who has shared their thoughts about this and I'm happy to continue this conversation in person.

    Shani Warner Council Member, Ward 2

    0 Comments 1 Vote Created

    I can support development and new homes, but not at the proposed density. Traffic is already challenging during rush hour in this historic, residential community. Adding the # of proposed homes will turn Hyattsville's residential streets into thruways. In addition, I am disappointed by the lack of a plan for a high-quality community center or mixed use development that includes some commercial space and a more thoughtful plan for incorporating and respecting the green spaces. I moved here in large part because of the green space. Taking that away or making it inaccessible or unenjoyable will have a major impact on the community.

    0 Comments 3 Votes Created
    0 Comments 2 Votes Created

    Sarah Eisen about 1 month ago
    • How will we have events like the cyclocross and carnival without the parking lot?
    • This development encroaches on the playground at Magruder Park. That is not ok. Even if they redesign the playground it will still be looming in the shadow of these new houses.
    • The amount of traffic this development will bring in is untenable - it will make it even more dangerous for kids, joggers, bikers, etc. to get from the neighborhood into Magruder park. That intersection (at the entrance to Magruder Park) is already at capacity.
    • We need this space for our community. There would be little to gain for current residents by building this development, but the developers have a lot to gain ($$$).
    • It is highly likely that PGCPS will choose to build a new school in this location once they get to that point in the CIP process. If the land is already gone, this will no longer be a possibility. There are really no other places central to the neighborhood for a rebuild of Hyattsville Elementary. HES is high on the county CIP list, just not at the point right now where the school district can act so it's really up to us to leave this space available.
    • Impact on the environment - the developer says there will be no impact but what form of accountability will the developer have? For how long?
    0 Comments 6 Votes Created

    The WSSC redevelopment is a great opportunity to expand the city's housing stock within walking distance of the Arts District and the historic core (as well as the West Hyattsville Metro Stop). The proposed design thoughtfully compliments existing houses and returns the WSSC site to its historic use -- single family homes.

    I know many families who find the historic district attractive and would love to live in this humane and walkable community. Given limited listings, they often struggle to find a property and move elsewhere. This project will allow for a greater number of these families to find a home in Hyattsville. This will help make the community more vibrant and help sustain the Route 1 businesses that make the Arts District such a wonderful place, but sometimes seem to struggle with getting enough business.

    If there are crowding issues with the schools, that needs to be addressed by the school board. If it doesn't that is a failure of our local governing institutions and the blame should be pinned there, not on a private development. It is a duty of local government to plan and allow for growth and development. Locking the city into some status quo, isn't really what governing is supposed to be about. There are lots of beautiful historic properties in Hyattsville, but the decaying WSSC is not among them.

    I do fully agree with other commentators that the city and county should look into making it easier to renovate and expand existing buildings and houses.