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EYA Pushes Forward With East Village

Bulldozers and brickworks provide silver lining to economic clouds.

Economic storm clouds are not lifting, but they aren't stopping the Hyattsville Arts District's eastern section from plowing ahead.

EYA broke ground this spring on plans to bring hundreds of homes, Busboys and Poets, Tara Thai and a Yes Organic Market to the stretch of U.S. Route 1 across from the repurposed Lustine Center developed several years ago.

"It's a difficult economy, but we want to see this project move forward," said Aakash Thakkar, EYA's vice president of development. "The architecture will be somewhat different from the original plan … but the new homes will be very consistent with the architectural themes that have been set in place."

The $200 million development plan includes another 30,000 square feet of commercial space, 200 town homes and 250 condominiums and apartments on the east side. Homes could hit the market by January, and the commercial space should open in March or April, Thakkar said. It will take another three to five years to build the project out.

Bethesda-based EYA has projects in the District, Virginia and Montgomery County.

"One of the issues EYA has had, as they were completing the residences on the west side, they felt a lot of shrapnel from the collapse of the economy," said Jim Chandler, Hyattsville's Community Development director.

After numerous delays, EYA sought and received concessions for the east side, including changes in some materials and construction techniques to ease the construction burden. Some infrastructure commitments from Hyattsville, Prince George's County and the State of Maryland also helped. The state contributed $325,000 for infrastructure improvements – curbs, gutters, sidewalks and benches. Prince George's County committed another $750,000 – including improvements on both sides of Route 1.

"The Hyattsville CDC and the state, county and city were proactive and collaborative in assisting EYA in closing its financing gap for the retail component of the east side," said Stuart Eisenberg, Hyattsville CDC director. "We helped them secure infrastructure money at the state and county levels, and pointed them to … assistance funds they were qualified to apply for."

Thakkar remains confident the Hyattsville Arts District can compete, even in a down economy.

He noted some positives of the community including the popularity of the Lustine Center – which houses a gym and an art gallery – the "really interesting architecture," the fact that it's walkable and has a "really great mix of retail tenants."

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