Mount Rainier picks developers for Gateway Arts District project

The Mount Rainier City Council voted Nov. 8 to award StreetSense and Neighborhood Development Co. the rights to develop two city-owned properties at the corner of Rhode Island and Eastern Avenues.

StreetSense, a design and development firm based in Bethesda, and District-based Neighborhood Development, plan 210 apartments and 18,000 square feet of retail.

The project is expected to break ground next year and provide a major boost to the Prince George’s County Gateway Arts District being organized along Route 1 through Mount Rainier, Hyattsville, North Brentwood and Brentwood.

In January, Mount Rainier issued a solicitation for private partners for two city-owned parcels, a vacant lot and a former funeral home. AHC, a Baltimore affordable housing builder, was initially announced as the leading contender for the project after three teams submitted proposals.

But StreetSense built goodwill in the community after bringing Busboys & Poets, Chipotle, Elevation Burger and Yes! Organic Market to Arts District Hyattsville, which it developed in partnership with EYA.

“This is the gateway to Prince George’s County, it’s the gateway to Mount Rainier, so everyone has said that they really want a special gateway project,” said Adrian Washington, founder and principal of Neighborhood Development.

The StreetSense-Neighborhood Development team also expanded the project by securing the rights to a Thrifty trunk rental property next door. The city council voted to support the selection 3-2. City Council member Brent Bolin said he expected the project to be a success. “They were able to more than double the footprint of the project,” he said.

Prince George’s County Council member William A. Campos (D-Hyattsville), praised the choice. “Considering how they have turned empty parking lots into [lots] overflowing with residents looking for parking to go to Busboys & Poets and Yes! Organic Market and that little town center they’ve created, that buzz, I can’t help but be excited to hear what they will bring to the Mount Rainier side,” Campos said.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) pushed for a larger project by offering $1.5 million in financial breaks for the project. Baker aide Aubrey Thagard said further subsidies were on the table.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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