While nearby garden apartment complexes are just renovating their buildings, Percontee felt it more appropriate to do tabula rasa, clearing the site and starting over from scratch. The redevelopment would happen in phases, starting closest to the new Post Park apartments on East-West Highway and working its way east.
In an article in the Prince George's Sentinel from last May, he suggested that it was "less cost effective to make repairs" than to build new. "We don't feel it is the most responsible way to move forward by retrofitting . . . rather than by changing what is there," Genn says.
Unlike LifeSci Village, where community support for the project is high, neighbors of Belcrest Plaza are less enthused. Current apartment tenants seem ambivalent about redevelopment. “It doesn’t come as a surprise,” one resident told The Sentinel in May. “The owners and management have to stay up to date to compete.”
At a meeting in August, residents of the adjacent town of University Park complained about everything from pollution to the potential for gentrification. Current residents will be able to move to buildings on Toledo Place that will not be redeveloped. "We want to minimize dislocation as much as possible," says Genn.
While Lambert says there will be "some provisions" for affordable housing in the new complex, Prince George's County has no set requirement for how many units must be built. Percontee claims that the new Belcrest Plaza, with nearly four times as many homes as the original, could actually have fewer school-aged children because of its drastically different demographic make-up.
There was also some skepticism about the success of previous upscale development in Hyattsville. University Town Center has had difficulty filling its retail space and selling apartments; a mile away, the Arts District Hyattsville development (which JUTP visited in 2007) has stalled due to the recession.
Despite its large size, Belcrest Plaza is racing towards becoming a reality. Percontee will submit a full site plan for approval by Prince George's County next spring, with construction to begin as early as 2012. Full build-out should take "ten to twelve years," Genn says.
"A lot of people have a general resistance to change," responds Genn. "We believe big in Hyattsville and its potential. We do think it can be like a Bethesda Row or some of the great exciting places to be in the DC area. We see it as helping to stimulate more investment in the area."