Though nowhere near up to par with Arlington's Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, Old Town Alexandria, or the central business districts of Bethesda and Silver Spring, Prince George's Plaza might be the best example of transit-oriented development in Prince George's County. It combines a Metro station with heavy retail, medium density housing, and a walkable street grid. Unfortunately, those things are not integrated with each other.
I love the City of Hyattsville. As soon as I can afford to do so, I plan on moving there. It has a ton of potential. Potential, however, means room for improvement.
Anecdotally, I was told by a Hyattsville Police officer that the city plans to annex and redevelop the suburban style medium-density apartment complexes north and west of the mall. In this same conversation, the officer, who was advising me on where the city experienced most crime, cited garden style apartment complexes like these (like Kirkwood near West Hyattsville station or the apartments on the southwest corner of University and Adelphi) as the worst offenders. I can only assume the isolation of the buildings behind PG Plaza makes them ideal places to engage in criminal activity.
Generally, I don't like the idea of putting heavy transit near a mall. Malls are inherently car-oriented, and over the past decade they have experienced severe decline in image and practicality. The Mall at Prince George's (which I will forever call PG Plaza despite its new name and this newfangled civic movement against saying "PG" in favor of "Prince George's") might be able to take advantage of the Metro station across the street.
Many of the larger development projects in Prince George's County have been greenfield developments outside the Beltway and far from transit taking on a semi-new urbanist format, but are far from transit and isolated from the better urban design closer in. Bowie Town Center and National Harbor are good yardsticks for what we can expect out of planned developments at Brandywine, Westphalia(pdf), Konterra, and Woodmore Town Center (pdf): far from existing transit, isolated pockets of walkable mixed use surrounded by parking. PG Plaza, if redeveloped, can present a retail design similar to that of Bowie Town Center with the added advantage of being across the street from a Metro station in an area that can easily be reticulated into the surrounding street grid.
Remove the roof, which PG Plaza didn't always have anyway, and lay down the grid. I give you new Hyattsville:
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With this, perhaps more pedestrian friendly changes will occur as well. East-West Highway has three shockingly bad design flaws on that stretch. First, the median fences. Anytime a street has a fenced median to discourage jaywalking, it's a sure sign of poor design. Pedestrian traffic is like water flow. It will find the path of least resistance from origin to destination, and will creatively by-pass obstacles. Instead of trying to force pedestrians to go out of their way to cross East-West, embrace the foot traffic with more crossings, traffic signals, and a parallel street to spread out the traffic.
Next, the pedestrian bridge from the Metro station to the mall parking lot has to go. Parking ought to be consolidated into a garage, and the street frontage should be developed. pedestrian bridges over suburban arteries like this are not functional, they encourage speeding on the road, they kills street life, and they are unbearably tacky. Perhaps if the street frontage has an arcade with an upper level of shops and whatnot, it could stay, but generally it looks horrible and it proves to be cumbersome for access to the Metro station.
Third, rename the damn road. East-West Highway (MD route 410) is a title unbecoming for a road passing through the CBD's of Bethesda, Silver Spring, Takoma Park, and Hyattsville. In Takoma Park, 410 is actually called Ethan Allen Avenue. Perhaps Hyattsville could follow suit and rename it something like "John Clark Hyatt Avenue" after the town's founder. Apt, historical, and far less generic.
Hyattsville is evolving as a city. It has come a very, very long way in the last decade, and it continues to grow and improve. PG Plaza will undoubtedly emerge as a hot spot for good urbanism. Eyesores like the pedestrian bridge will be replaced by more of what we're seeing in the nearby Hyattsville Arts District, and instead of an island of good urbanism, it will grow into the fabric of the surrounding areas.