The way it usually works is, artists are the pioneers of the next hip neighborhood — until it gets so hip the artists are priced out. Yet the Gateway Arts District — a three-mile corridor along Route 1 in Prince George’s County, from the District line through Hyattsville — is defying that iron law of taste and real estate.
The arts theme lends a cohesion and a grace that benefits the hundreds of young families, urban professionals and government workers moving into condos going for up to $485,000. Rare is the condo community with a fitness center in a historic moderne auto dealership.The circa-1950 Lustine Chevrolet flagship on Route 1 now displays a different kind of hard body within the fabulous curving glass-enclosed former showroom. The old auto parts sales area is now the artdc Gallery.
“I love just coming home and being surrounded by the arts, the music. There’s always something going on,” says Malika Bryant, whose drawings and paintings are shown in local galleries. She and fellow artist William Larkins are chatting in the oriental-rug-lined common room of the Renaissance Square Artists’ Housing building just off Baltimore Avenue in Hyattsville. The 44 apartments are reserved for creative types who meet low-income guidelines.
“We’ve noticed a change in just the last three months. We see people out and enjoying the neighborhood,” says Monica Serrano, co-owner of the Venezuelan-cuisine Cafe Azul. “It reminds me of Europe, where you can walk around and get everything you need.”
The business features bring-your-own-wine parties where, guided by an art teacher, customers get to take home a canvas of their own creation.
Busboys and Poets may have certified that the neighborhood had arrived when it opened a couple of years ago, but Franklins Restaurant, Brewery and General Store was the pioneer in 1992, before the arts district was a gleam in any developer’s eye. Owner Mike Franklin has been hanging local artists’ work almost since he opened: “It’s a recognition of the types of people who are attracted to this area.”
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