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In Md. Town, Home Is a Walk in the Park

By Keisha Stewart
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, August 9, 2003; Page G01

Neighbors usually stop short of bringing a freshly baked pie to new residents of University Park, although there have been a few exceptions.

Residents, however, still have a way of making new people feel at home in the Prince George's County town.

University Park, near College Park and Hyattsville, has no commercial district within its borders. The Prince George's County town, home to many professors, still features painted street signs. Trees are so prized the town reimburses residents for some planting costs. (Photos Emilie Sommer For The Washington Post)


BOUNDARIES: Wells Parkway and Clagett Road to the north, Route 1 to the east, East West Highway to the south and Adelphi Road to the west.

SCHOOLS: University Park Elementary, Hyattsville Middle and Northwestern High schools.

HOME SALES: Between July 1, 2002, and July 21, 2003, 40 houses sold in the neighborhood for $180,000 to $405,000, according to Dixie Meadows, a broker with Re/Max Sails in College Park. There are four houses actively on the market.

WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: Prince George's Plaza and College Park Metro stations, the University of Maryland, Prince George's Plaza, and College Park shops and restaurants.

WITHIN 10 TO 15 MINUTES BY CAR: Washington, I-95, I-295, Capital Beltway.

"You know the people that live around you," said University Park Mayor John L. Brunner. "In a lot of places nowadays, you don't have that."

University Park, incorporated in 1936, has an eight-person police department and a public-works department, which shovels snow and collects trash. Home prices range from $250,000 to $715,000, said Dixie Meadows, an associate broker with Re/Max and a 31-year resident.

As neighbor to the University of Maryland, the town of 2,300 has attracted well-known professors and scholars. Author and playwright James Cain and Muppets creator Jim Henson lived there. The town has also been home to politicians, including former governor Parris N. Glendening.

But the neighborhood's roster of notable residents past and present is just one of its selling points. Residents say University Park stands out because it nurtures time with family and neighbors.

Peggy Stuart, 37, said the community sponsors events that cater to children and adults, such as Halloween parties and summer jazz concerts. Residents take evening strolls, walking their dogs or pushing their babies along in strollers.

"This neighborhood is like nowhere else I have lived," said Stuart, a stay-at-home mother. "It is so neighborhoodish."

Stuart moved to University Park three years ago from New York City after her husband took a job in Washington. "You know almost every other person who passes you," she said.

Phillip McKee said that when he lived in Fairfax and Oakton, "you were lucky where you could tell each person who lived on each side of you."

Friends mentioned University Park to McKee when he was house-hunting four years ago. He thought it was "picture perfect" as he drove around.

McKee, 31, a stained-glass artist and president of the University Park Civic Association, said he now knows most people living on his block.

The community used to be part of the homestead of the Deakins family, which first received the property in 1657. The land stayed in family hands until 1920.

The town was one of the first communities in the county specifically designed to accommodate cars, according to a 1996 newsletter published by the Prince George's County Historical and Cultural Trust. Because University Park still has 933 buildings representing its primary period of development -- 1920 to 1945 -- it was deemed an area worthy of recognition and preservation. Three-fourths of the town has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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