Here’s a weird footnote in Hyattsville’s development news: a decrepit downtown Hyattsville building was, until recently, owned by a man who twice campaigned to be president of Liberia. The building is 5223 Baltimore Ave., a two-story brick shopbuilding dating to 1932. A few weeks ago, it was bought for $505,000 by investors who hope to redevelop the site. Its previous owner was a husband and wife named Kennedy and Eugenia Sandy. Kennedy Sandy ran for the presidency of Liberia in 2011 and 2017, according to media reports.
Hyattsville city officials did not go far to pick its next chief of police, tapping interim chief Amal Awad to lead the city’s police department.
Awad becomes both the first woman and the first African-American to head up the Hyattsville City Police Department in the city’s 132-year history.
“I look forward to continuing to work with the dedicated men and women of the city of Hyattsville police department to enhance relationships, reduce crime and create opportunities so that all of our residents and community members feel safe, welcome and valued,” said Awad in a statement announcing her hire.
Awad is a native Washingtonian who holds a master of science in management from Johns Hopkins University. Her career in law enforcement goes back 27 years, when she started her career as a Prince George’s County Police Department officer at its Hyattsville station. At PGPD, she eventually rose to commander of the force’s Bowie station before retiring with the rank of major. She has worked for Hyattsville since 2017, when she came out of retirement to serve as the captain for the force, ranking second to recently-retired Hyattsville police chief Doug Holland.
A developer has assembled a contiguous block of properties in downtown Hyattsville with the intention to redevelop it. The properties are just south of the EYA Arts District development and across the street from the proposed Hyattsville Armory development. But according to a senior Hyattsville economic development official, plans for the property have yet to be fleshed out. Further complicating matters are the city’s own long-term – but still fuzzy – plans for the area, such as a potential need for a new municipal building or parking garage. According to state property records, a series of holding companies registered to College Park resident Phillip Attia now owns the buildings fronting the eastern side of Baltimore Avenue’s 5200 and 5300 blocks.
Hyattsville City Council now has a broad estimated annual price tag for a resident-inspired proposal to operate a circulator bus line connecting the city’s three commercial centers. According to a report prepared by Toole Design, a Silver Spring-based urban design and transportation planning firm, it would cost between $715,000 to $4 million per year for Hyattsville to operate and maintain a circulator bus service linking Prince George’s Plaza, West Hyattsville and downtown Hyattsville together along a two-to-three mile loop. The report estimates such a service would be used for between 12,000 to 38,000 trips per month. However, those costs and passenger loads are highly contingent upon service options, such as frequency, route design and administration. The report was presented to Council at its Dec.
Consider it a sign of the times: Hyattsville City Council went through security training at its Monday meeting. Part of the training, administered by Hyattsville City Police Department officers, dealt with the potential for a gunperson to open fire during a City Council meeting. According to multiple Council members, it is the first time city elected officials have participated in such a training scenario. Specific details of the security training were not open to the public. Instead, Hyattsville City Council unanimously voted to enter closed session to receive the security training near the start of its regularly-scheduled Nov.
Local officials will pay for five sculptures to grace Riverdale Park neighborhoods. It’s part of the Riverdale Park Public Art Initiative, a collaboration between the town of Riverdale Park and the Hyattsville Community Development Corp. The initiative has been active since 2015. This year, they’re seeking five sculptures of various styles and sizes to display at publicly-accessible sites within Riverdale Park. Organizers want “site-appropriate sculptural work fitting of each chosen location.”
Hyattsville City Council unanimously approved a bond measure authorizing the city to borrow $13.8 million to renovate a public works facility and transform an old bank into its new police headquarters. $10.3 million is earmarked for the police station build-out at 3505 Hamilton Street, which was most-recently a branch of BB&T Bank. $3.3 million is directed towards the public works facility. The projects have been on the city’s long-term capital improvement plans since 2016. Hyattsville currently pays $1.8 million per year to pay off its existing debts, a financial line item called “debt service.”
Exemptions to campaign finance reporting rules are on the chopping block in Hyattsville as several City Council members, notably Mayor Candace Hollingsworth and Ward 3 Councilor Carianna Suiter argued for the preservation of the existing reporting schedule. “I do feel like those are important tools for transparency for both the voter and the candidate,” said Suiter, the first to question the proposed reporting rule changes. Debate came during its Nov. 5, 2018, meeting, where Hyattsville City Council considered for a second time a suite of amendments to the city’s elections code. Most of the tweaks work around the edges of the code to clarify terms and vague language.
Hyattsville City Councilor Paula Perry will resign effective Dec. 8, 2018, ending an at-times divisive career in city politics that dates to 1999. “I honestly have felt privileged to have their support; The trust in me that I would do for them what needed to be done; That I would speak for them,” said Perry, reflecting on her constituents in Hyattsville. “I appreciate it. I’m going to miss a lot of this.
Hyattsville’s Commercial Façade Improvement program received a $50,000 grant from the state of Maryland. To date, Hyattsville has provided $396,000 in matching funds through the CFI program. To get money, one must spend an equivalent amount of money to improve the outside of ones business. One recent recipient was Sangfroid Distilling, which used the CFI program to re-do its exterior. The goal of the program is to raise property values by improving “the overall aesthetic quality and functionality of the built environment” within Hyattsville’s three commercial corridors.