Small business helps fuel Hyattsville's growth

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Real Estate,Mike Unger
The crowd upstairs at Franklins bar and grill mirrors the friendliness of the city it is in. Chatting amicably, the eclectic collection of patrons washes down chicken wings and onion rings with pints of microbrew beer.

It's the type of family friendly place every town should have -- but not every town is as lucky as Hyattsville.

At a glance January 2011
Average sold price for homes sold in ZIP code 20781: $116,416
Average list price for homes sold in ZIP code 20781: $115,196
Average days on market for homes sold: 79
January 2010
Average sold price for homes sold in ZIP code 20781: $112,050
Average list price for homes sold in ZIP code 20781: $112,158
Average days on market for homes sold: 88

"Hyattsville has a unique flavor," said Jean McFarlin, owner of Hyattsville-based Global Advantage Realty. "It's a very caring community where people look out for each other."

Located in Prince George's County, Hyattsville was founded in 1860 and incorporated in 1900. Today its 15,000 residents represent a blend of cultures.

"The city of Hyattsville has something for almost everyone -- a variety of great housing, neighborhoods with parks and bike trails close to restaurants, shopping, and two Metro stations," said Mayor William Gardiner, a resident since 1997. "We have residents of every age, ethnicity, family structure and faith, and a strong tradition of community participation."

The main street is Route 1 or Baltimore Avenue. Sandwiched between the University of Maryland in College Park to the north and the District to the south, the strip of commercial shops hosting Franklins was a largely sleepy spot until Mike Franklin expanded his toy store and small deli into a large, two-story brew pub nine years ago.

"It's been exciting to watch it grow," said 19-year resident Jim Cassedy, referring to the city and the establishment. "It's an example of the great American tradition of a small business growing by leaps and bounds."

Hyattsville again is poised to surge forward. Just up the street, development continues on Arts District Hyattsville, a mixed-use shopping, dining, office and residential area. Plans call for a Tara Thai restaurant and Yes! Organic Market, among other eateries and businesses.

Loft-style condos and town houses are joining older single-family homes to offer a variety of affordable housing options.

"There are many older houses that are being renovated," said McFarlin, who described the housing market as relatively stable. "People want the neighborhood to look good."

Located just a few miles from the District, Hyattsville is blessed with excellent transportation options. The Metro's Green Line stations of West Hyattsville and Prince George's Plaza are easily accessible, and Amtrak and MARC train service is nearby. The Beltway is just a few miles north on Route 1.

"We're a small town within a major metropolitan area," Gardiner said. "In our neighborhoods and parks, it is easy to forget that we're just a few miles from downtown D.C. We have the diversity, energy, and amenities of an urban area, too."

Gardiner added that, even as new retail and residential development continues, the town also is focused on cultural efforts, such as starting a community garden.

It's enough to make the folks at Franklins on a typical Wednesday night feel lucky to call Hyattsville home.

"I appreciate the family friendly atmosphere [at Franklins] and people," said Cassedy. "Plus they have some very good beer."

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