Two cities A tale of two cities as Frederick, Hyattsville swap development notes

Frederick News-Post (MD), 2014-08-04

Aug. 04 --In one city, an artistic community blooms among refurbished buildings and pedestrian-friendly streets.

In the other, conversation brews over how to achieve the same.

In a tale of two cities, Hyattsville and Frederick residents share a common goal of revitalizing city infrastructure through community involvement.

And Hyattsville's success with using a community development corporation could inform Frederick's push to revitalize the city's east side, supporters said.

"It's a great opportunity any time you bring people in with a different perspective," said Richard Griffin , Frederick's economic development director. "We want to learn from what others have done."

A group of about 20 contractors, city officials and residents heard last week about Hyattsville's experience from Hyattsville CDC executive director Stuart Eisenberg and University of Maryland architecture professor Garth Rockcastle during a walking tour and discussion at That Cuban Place in Frederick .

A CDC is a nonprofit group that steps in where a local government may not be able to. In Hyattsville , such was the case -- Eisenberg said residents wanted to update aging infrastructure, but the city government was too small to make it a priority.

"The greatest plans and visions have to have a shepherd to make it happen," he said.

A CDC can serve a variety of needs, from housing to financial services, in a mesh of public-private collaboration. Eisenberg and his group have coordinated with the city, residents and private developers to bring in new businesses, refurbish or build needed office spaces or housing units, conduct market studies, and coordinate more since the Hyattsville CDC was founded in 2000.

Frederick residents have sought for years to redevelop the city's eastern side. That's why Alan Feinberg , a retired architect, decided to call Rockcastle, an old friend in Hyattsville , and organize Tuesday's event with the city.

Feinberg believes a CDC is the key to moving the East Frederick development plans forward, he said.

"It's the only thing that can bring citizens, the development community and the government together in good sense," he said. "Government can only do so much."

Philadelphia -area communities saw $3.3 billion in investments over 20 years from the work of the city's CDC networks, according to a 2012 Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations report.

But many models exist for community building, Eisenberg said. Hyattsville has long played host to affordable housing for artists, influencing the CDC to seek housing developments that met demand but continued to be affordable.

"Every CDC is different and focused on different things, and they ought to -- each community has different challenges," he said.

In some ways, Frederick resembles Hyattsville . The Urban Land Institute cited the city's arts and entertainment culture as a strength in a 2013 report. And some of the Downtown Frederick Partnership's involvement in the Carroll Creek Park development, offering financial assistance to improve businesses and revitalizing downtown, mirrors the CDC's early actions.

"Many things I heard (Eisenberg) say are things that we have done here in Frederick , which encourages me that we're doing some of the right things," Griffin said.

Several development projects slated for East Frederick are or would be public-private partnerships, Griffin said. The proposed hotel project on Carroll Creek , no matter which of the two proposals is recommended to the mayor and board on Sept. 3 , will include at least 20,000 square feet of meeting space, Griffin said, enabling the project to include some public financial support.

But, Griffin said, that doesn't necessarily mean the city is ready for a CDC. More still needs to be done to determine how best to approach East Frederick .

"It's a little too early to make a leap," he said. "One thing that was very clear is that volunteers alone cannot do the type of critical work that's needed long term."

Much of the conversation surrounding East Frederick's redevelopment has been put forward by volunteer group East Frederick Rising. The group was not involved in planning Tuesday's event, but president and real estate agent Mike Muren said they are open to discussing any means of progress, including CDCs.

"We will be having a discussion about it," Muren said. "East Frederick Rising needs to decide what direction it wants to go in."

East Frederick Rising board member Krista McGowan attended last Tuesday's presentation and said the idea of a CDC is an interesting one, though it's unclear whether the resources are available.

"I'm not sure how it would be implemented, but it's something we should explore for East Frederick ," McGowan said. "A lot has already been done by the downtown alliance, but it's something we should explore."

Follow Laura Blasey on Twitter : @lblasey.


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