Transit-Oriented Development Draws Tenants to Hyattsville

By Greg Gaudio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 9, 2009

Before her night shifts as a registered nurse, Tijeerah Washington checks Metrorail's Web site, then dashes out the door five minutes before her train is supposed to leave.

She doesn't live in Arlington County or the District, where some Metro stops have had on-site housing for years, but at a new building in Hyattsville known as the Mosaic at Metro Apartments.

The 260-unit complex sits across the driveway from the Prince George's Plaza Green Line station. It is the first apartment complex on Metro property in Prince George's County, Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato said.

The transit-oriented development aims to curb car use by putting public transportation, offices, restaurants and shops within walking distance of home. Such developments can mean less pollution and more personal time for commuters who otherwise would sit in traffic, said Andy Kunz, director of, an Alexandria-based nonprofit group that promotes progressive urban design.

The most noteworthy examples in the region are along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor in Arlington and around the Columbia Heights and Gallery Place-Chinatown stations in the District.

Kunz said Mosaic could spur similar growth around the Prince George's Plaza Metro station. "That does happen sometimes," he said. "If one project is done right, then the surrounding projects get the idea."

The building could affect the area in other ways, as well, he said.

"It means quite a few good things," Kunz said. "It will bring more new services within close proximity. It means that more people can walk to things. It also means a lot of new taxes from real estate and development."

Mosaic was a joint venture between property owner-manager Equity Residential and Metro.

"Our competitors, just like ourselves, are always looking at: What is the public transportation factor in a location?" said Robert Grealy, area vice president for Equity, which owns 43 properties in the Washington area and hundreds more nationwide. "Residents really prize that type of convenience."

From Mosaic, it's a two-minute walk to the Metro platform and about five minutes over the footbridge to the Mall at Prince George's and University Town Center, on the other side of East West Highway. Grocery stores, banks and drugstores are nearby.

"This is perfect for me," said Washington, 22, who works nights in the neonatal intensive-care unit at Howard University Hospital. "I don't drive, so I want to be near the Metro, near a grocery store, all the things I would need."

She moved to Mosaic in March with a sorority sister and said she's able to wake up just 40 minutes before her shifts.

Fedrick Culberson, 40, moved from Alexandria and said living at Mosaic shaves about 45 minutes off his commute to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he is a health physics specialist.

"I can eat breakfast now," Culberson said. "I can get extra sleep. I can leisurely walk . . . just not having to rush."

Convenience doesn't come cheap. Rents at Mosaic range from $1,275 for a studio to $2,145 for a three-bedroom, several hundred dollars above the going rates in the immediate area. But residents say the amenities, including a gym, game room, pool and movie theater, along with the proximity to the Metro, make the rent worthwhile.

Elements of the building echo the surrounding community. The name "Mosaic" and the cream-and-ivory panels of its mosaic-like facade are a nod to Hyattsville's status as a burgeoning arts center, property manager Jesse Jennell said. So are the floor plans named for famous artists, he said, and a sculpture in the lobby by Mount Rainier artist Alan Binstock.

The complex also features Overlook Plaza, a spiral walkway encircling a Japanese maple tree, which was dedicated to Hyattsville's "hometown heroes" during a June 18 ceremony. Officer Robert J. King, the only Hyattsville police officer to be killed in the line of duty, was awarded a posthumous promotion from private to corporal, exactly 25 years from the date his death. King, 27, was fatally injured when he fell from his motorcycle in a high-speed pursuit.

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