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From housing to food to families, Riverdale Park offers an eclectic mix

With 7,200 residents, Riverdale Park has a mix of housing, including Victorian, Craftsman-style and Sears kit homes, 1960s apartment buildings, and newer townhouse developments built on the site of a World War II government housing community for the ERCO aircraft manufacturing plant. (Michael Blackshire/The Washington Post)

Riverdale Park in Prince George’s County, Md., is the kind of place where a civil engineer-turned-pitmaster from El Salvador can make a go of Central Texas barbecue and win. Where a single mom can find an affordable new house. Where young professionals can walk their dogs on popular trails along the Route 1 corridor.

And where a longtime resident loves her neighborhood so much that she is just fine if it doesn’t get too desirable. Mickey Gee, 89, grew up in Riverdale Park, moved away and then returned about 20 years ago.

“It’s a good neighborhood,” said Gee, who dropped by the neighborhood’s informal hub, the Town Center Market, on a recent Friday during a break from her volunteer shift at a local church. “Everybody gets along here.”

Fernando Gonzalez and Debby Portillo, married business partners, opened their restaurant in April 2020, keeping the previous owners’ sign on the building. The 2Fifty Texas BBQ sign heralds their popular barbecue.

“We love this Bohemian-style, laid-back neighborhood,’’ Gonzalez said.

With 7,200 residents, Riverdale Park has a mix of housing, including Victorian, Craftsman-style and Sears kit homes, 1960s apartment buildings, and newer townhouse developments built on the site of a World War II government housing community for the ERCO aircraft manufacturing plant.

“It’s very much like a small town, super close to D.C. and inside the Beltway,” said real estate agent Don Bunuan of Go Brent.

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In 1801, Belgian aristocrat Henri Joseph Stier settled on 800 acres between two tributaries of the Anacostia River and built a mansion named Riversdale, which is now a museum. Stier’s daughter married into the prominent Calvert family of Maryland and lived in the house after her parents returned to Belgium. Her son, Charles Benedict Calvert, took over the house after his parents’ deaths. He helped found the U.S. Agricultural Society and sold adjoining Rossborough Farm to the Maryland Agricultural College, which became the University of Maryland. He was the first president of its board of regents and is considered the father of the university.

The town has gone through many iterations of its name over the years, and took the name Riverdale Park in 1998.

The town is jigsaw-puzzle-shaped, with Baltimore Avenue/Route 1 forming the western border, Albion Road and the University of Maryland to the north, Kenilworth Avenue/Md. Route 201 to the east, and a sawtooth-shaped southern border of the Anacostia River and Lafayette Place.

Residents appreciate the College Park Trolley Trail linking Hyattsville, Riverdale Park and College Park; and the Northeast Branch Trail, with Lake Artemesia at the northern trailhead. Regular events include the Thursday farmers market and a summer patio concert series at the popular Town Center Market. Riverdale Park is also part of the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area, with themed heritage routes in Prince George's County.

Over the past several years, the town center has attracted several restaurants. Riverdale Park Station opened in 2017 as a mixed-use development on the old ERCO site and the home of Prince George’s County’s first Whole Foods Market. (A vintage 415-C model ERCO plane is mounted at the shopping center entrance.)

“There are some weeks I don’t get in my car,” said Dan Collinge, a program analyst with the Interior Department who moved to Riverdale Park in 2015.

In some places he’s lived, Collinge said, residents expect the town to adapt to them.

“Here people adapt to become more like Riverdale Park. Instead of going home after work and shutting themselves inside, people are oriented to the public spaces, like the farmers market and the Town Center Market. We’ve met so many people out walking our dog on the trails,” he said.

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Marsha Dixon moved to Riverdale Park from Washington in 2014, just a few months before her son, Quentin, was born.

“I couldn’t find anywhere I could afford,” she said. “A friend of mine said, ‘If you head up Baltimore Avenue in D.C., the road changes. Just keep going up and you’ll see new construction.’ I fell in love with the area.”

Dixon, in-house counsel for Nasdaq, was a member of the town council until recently. She described Riverdale Park as welcoming, neighborly and family-friendly. She said the neighborhood is “diverse in every way. We’re African American. Our neighbors are White, Indian, gay and lesbian. It’s great because this is what my son thinks is normal.”

Living there: Route 1 is a main thoroughfare in Riverdale Park, and residents have easy access to the Gateway Arts District, including the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center of Hyattsville. Nearby is College Park Airport, the oldest continually operating airport in the world.

In the past year, 48 houses were sold, for an average price of $481,038, according to real estate agent Bunuan of Go Brent. The highest-priced house was $775,000, built in 2020 with five bedrooms and three bathrooms. The lowest-priced was a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house built in 1959, for $280,000. There are 11 houses on the market, with prices ranging from $549,000 for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house built in 1940 to $660,000 for a five-bedroom, four-bathroom house built in 2018.

Schools: Riverdale Elementary, William Wirt Middle, Parkdale High, Bladensburg High.

Transit: Riverdale Park is 1.4 miles from the College Park Metro station on the Green Line. Four bus services — WMATA, TheBus, Route 1 Ride and Riverdale Park Station Shuttle — serve the area. MARC train service is available at the Riverdale Station. Two stations on Maryland’s light-rail Purple Line — Riverdale Park North-UMD and Riverdale Park-Kenilworth — are planned for Riverdale Park.

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