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Debates over proposed self-storage facilities in the Route 1 corridor – and elsewhere – have been contentious in the past. But a new self-storage facility planned for the existing retail loading docks beneath the Mall at Prince George’s didn’t seem to raise much in the way of critical objections from Hyattsville City Council members, with one exception.
During Hyattsville City Council’s May 18, 2021, meeting, representatives of self-storage facility developer Poverni Sheikh Group LLC and the mall’s owner PREIT, presented their plans for the approximately 90,000 square-foot, 800-unit facility. As first reported by the Washington Business Journal, it will occupy a space originally designed to be the inventory storage and truck loading docks for the retailers in the mall above. The developers estimate the planned facility will generate 20-to-30 vehicle trips per day.
But the facility is planned in an area that does not allow self-storage facilities, courtesy of the zoning regulations associated with the Prince George’s Plaza Transit District Development Plan, or TDDP for short. As a result, the developers are asking Prince George’s County Planning Board and County Council to amend the TDDP to allow self-storage facilities, but only in the basement of the mall.
Nate Forman, one of the local land-use attorneys representing the developers, said the project is viable in part because of the abundance of new apartments and townhomes built near the mall. But he also said changes in brick-and-mortar retail business practices have drastically reduced the need for the mall’s extensive underground loading docks and retail storage areas.
Few questions were asked in the brief discussion that followed. Ward Three City Councilor Ben Simasek wondered about facility access. The response: pedestrians could access the facility from a street-level storefront. Vehicles would use the existing one-way loading ramp lanes to que within the existing loading dock areas, entering near the Ross and exiting near the former JC Penney. Ward Two City Councilor Danny Schaible praised the project for its unique approach and asked if they developed other basement self-storage facilities.
“Our preference is not to be in a basement, but we are leaning into what’s available,” said Forman. “We think we can make it work.”
But the plans did draw an objection from Ward Five City Councilor Joseph Solomon. He worried that expanding the TDDP to allow self-storage underneath the mall could pave the way for other self-storage facilities to be built in the area. He also called for the city to have “a more robust discussion” with mall representatives to determine if the lack of demand for retail storage space was an indicator of “a larger problem” with the mall.
“I don’t know if expanding the uses now to say a location – that is a downtown for us in many different ways – is going to now become a large storage center,” said Solomon. “I am not convinced this is the best decision for us right now.”