HYATTSVILLE — Move over park benches and empty fields, the green space in Hyattsville is about to get a brand new look.
Parks were the main focus of the Hyattsville City Council’s Feb. 20 meeting where the council listened to a presentation on design schemes for a Hyatt Park place-making update.
Allie O’Neill, a program manager at the Neighborhood Design Center (NDC), introduced two design concepts for a remodeled Hyatt Park during her presentation to the council. The NDC had been selected to undertake the design portion of the project and held several meetings with the community and stakeholders in the area.
“We wanted to get at not just the ‘what’ but the ‘why’ of this park and what you wanted to see in a really well-located place. It seems like it’s a gateway. It’s an opportunity to really set the tone and let people know, coming form the West Hyattsville (Metro) Station, that something is happening,” O’Neill said.
From those meetings, she said, the designers began to understand what the city wanted. The community asked for a park that was interactive, inclusive, iconic, memorable, flexible, welcoming, had a large arts influence and was a “reflection of the vibrant community.”
Other must-haves on the list including creating an area that was accessible by all ages and abilities and place where the city and community can host events like festivals and Summer Jam.
O’Neill said creating a design with all that in mind was a hefty task, but the NDC came up with two different concepts for the council to consider. Both designs considerably repurpose the park from an open field-like site to one that has a stage, multiple seating arrangements and options and a multitude of public art. The NDC also suggested turning falling trees into tree stump seating.
“We knew in every design we needed a variety of seating for a variety of ages and every element had to serve at least two purposes,” she said.
The first concept, O’Neill called a spiral design and it includes plans for strung lights across Hamilton Street leading to a sculpture in the park. The design wraps the current playground with seating and grass mounds and includes an area for food trucks.
The second scheme is called a “Double Allee.” An “allee,” O’Neill explained, is a walkway lined with trees and shrubs and this design pulls inspiration from that.
“Along Hamilton Street, we would be using an allee. So we would be adding trees in this scheme and that would actually create a physical buffer to start to shade Hamilton Street, create an opening and really allow the park to open toward Jefferson (Street) and open in a residential way,” she said.
Instead of being centered, like in the first design, the stage is “snuggled” against Hamilton Street and faces the neighborhood and would be a two-tiered platform. It also includes an informal play area close to the existing playground.
Mayor Candace Hollingsworth said she had some concerns about the park opening toward the neighborhood, saying she is not sure that is the intended purpose of redesigning the park.
“One of the things that was exciting about Hyatt is that it would be across from 3505 kind of making that bridge and that connection across Hamilton Street and (this design) kind of removes that part,” she said.
Still, Hollingsworth said she likes the second scheme better than the first because she believes the design allows for the park to be used in multiple ways, rather than the design dictating how it should be used.
Upkeep of the future park also sparked interest. Councilman Kevin Ward wanted to know if the city has done any research into how much it would cost to maintain a park with grass mounds and extensive lighting.
Assistant City Administrator Jim Chandler said the city is hesitant to use the grass mound based off the feasibility of upkeep, but did not say anything about how much it would cost to upkeep the park.
He also said the city will have to talk about how much of each design they want to use – if they will use all of the seating elements or the lighting elements and how much of each they will use.
O’Neill noted, in response, that the designs are not set in stone and were created to be flexible.
“In both of our schemes, we’re looking to let this park grow with you all. We’re not going to set down a finished product,” she said. “We want to set down something that will catalyze a reaction and allow to grow and change with you all and the needs of the city.”
Councilman Bart Lawrence also raised concerns about accessibility. Although he said he “can’t quite tell” from the illustrative proposals, he said if the city were to hold programming at the park he would like to see more accessibility around the stage.
Another issue he raised is that it seems the park is being retrofitted to attract hundreds of people, but there is no adjacent parking lot to the land.
“It seems like its being programmed to handle maybe hundreds of people and the thought occurred to me, ‘have we considered parking,’” he said. “Are we building something that can’t really be used in the way that we want it to be used?”
Chandler said there is parking across the street at the 3505 Hamilton building, but said the goal is to pull people from the surrounding neighborhood – meaning people who will not be driving. However, Chandler said the city is still considering options.