Riverdale Park: A Town Looking For Its Identity

by Amanda Abrams

image
Victorian home in Riverdale Park

Somehow, Riverdale Park in Prince George’s County has slipped under the radar of public attention. The community—a fully established town, with its own mayor and police force—is rarely mentioned in local media like its slightly larger neighbor to the southwest, Hyattsville. Maybe that’s because the town is a quiet place without an overwhelming sense of personality—or at least, one that’s currently in a state of flux

The Middle of P.G. County

Riverdale Park straddles East-West Highway and runs from just west of U.S. Route 1 to Kenilworth Avenue. Riversdale, the large mansion used as the headquarters for those who developed Riverdale Park in the late 19th century, still sits in the middle of town and is open twice a week for tours.

While it is bordered and bisected by busy roads, the town’s atmosphere changes completely once drivers get off the main avenues. Most of Riverdale Park feels sleepy and serene, punctuated by streets shaded by good-sized trees and lined with green lawns. The housing stock consists of a diverse array of detached homes that were built in different eras. They include ornate Victorians, bungalows, kit homes, simple Cape Cods, and ranch houses, most of which are fairly small.

Like in Hyattsville, there are definitely some deals to be found: in April, the median sales price for a three-bedroom home in Riverdale Park was $180,000, shockingly low for the region. But as Laura Bowman Pimentel of Keller Williams Realty pointed out, the area has been hit relatively hard by the foreclosure crisis, and a number of homes are bank-owned.

The Upsides and Downsides of New Residents

Just a few years ago, the Riverdale Park population primarily consisted of black and white residents. But as long-timers have sold their homes and moved on, a younger set has moved in. According to Gerard Sanchez, who’s been in the area for nine years, the population increase has been led by Hispanic residents and young families.

image
A street in Riverdale Park

The influx has been good for the town’s vitality, but for some residents, the noise and related nuisances have been too much. UrbanTurf caught Peter and Mary Saavedra as they were moving out of their home recently.

“In our first year, it was nice and quiet, but now there are too many people in each house,” Mary Saavedra said, adding that the new residents seem to have more kids and more cars, making on-street parking on the weekends a challenge.

For others, though, the new population has been a welcome change. Laurie Lynch, who’s lived in a large Victorian since 1996, said that she now has neighbors from Nigeria and Vietnam, and added that residents work for a range of employers, including the University of Maryland, the federal government, local schools, or themselves.

The occupations of those in the town are illustrative of its location. The University of Maryland at College Park and its affiliated Metro station on the Green Line are about a mile to the north, and the Prince George’s Plaza station, also on the Green Line, is a mile away in the other direction. The MARC station is located in the center of town, and the non-stop trip to Union Station takes ten minutes. For drivers, there are Route 1 and Route 50 that go directly into DC and the Beltway, which is just a few miles to the northeast.

image
The empty storefronts of downtown Riverdale Park

Cute, But Empty

With small, newly renovated storefronts lining the street and a tiny train station, Riverdale Park’s downtown is fairly picturesque — except that almost all of the stores are currently empty. “I don’t know what the plans are,” said Lynch, pointing out that Douglas Development, one of the biggest developers in the region, owns the buildings.

A town of less than 7,000 people whose center isn’t visible from main roads isn’t going to be a huge draw for small businesses and entrepreneurs, but Riverdale Park is also missing many walkable dining options. There is a popular dive, S&J Bar and Restaurant, as well as Dumm’s Pizza, but that’s about it. Route 1 and Kenilworth Avenue have a selection of restaurants, but the trendy eateries of Hyattsville a few minutes away are probably the main options for residents looking to grab a bite on Friday or Saturday night.

image
Riverdale Park train station

Community Pros and Cons

While the big lawns, quiet streets, affordable houses and small-town amenities like a Thursday farmer’s market are all pluses, the main downside for the area is its schools.

Lynch conceded that the schools are not particularly good, but the Saavedras had a much harsher assessment. “They are horrible,” Peter Saavedra told UrbanTurf, adding that they found the middle schools to be particularly bad.

The Saavedras also felt that crime had become much worse during their tenure in the neighborhood. “We’ve had bikes stolen from our backyard, skateboards—you can’t leave anything out.” (Other residents UrbanTurf spoke with said that, despite loud neighbors, they felt safe.)

The Bottom Line

Unlike Hyattsville, Riverdale Park can’t be characterized as up-and-coming—at least, not until it gets a few more independently-owned businesses. On the other hand, the town has some serious upsides, like its serene environment and interesting housing stock. Unlike many DC area neighborhoods that have already “transitioned”, Riverdale Park’s identity is still developing, and won’t become apparent for a few more years.

Amanda Abrams is a Washington, DC-based journalist who has written feature stories for The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Washington City Paper.

  • Zip Code: 20737
  • Schools: Templeton, Riverdale, and Beacon Heights elementary schools; Hyattsville and William Wirt middle schools; and Bladensburg, Northwestern, and Parkdale high schools.
  • Town listserv, reprinted as a blog
  • Riverdale Park real estate data from Redfin

See other articles related to: riverdale, hoods

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/riverdale_park_a_town_looking_for_its_identity/3586

2 Comments

  1. awen said at 9:43 am on Saturday September 28, 2013:

    This article could use an update. It doesn’t provide sufficient context for the location, which is part of an area that will undergo significant redevelopment in the next 5 years. The EYA mixed use development on Route 1 includes around 30 new townhouses inside Riverdale Park borders. To the north, the Cafritz development will break ground by 2015 on a large mixed use project on Route 1, which includes the first Whole Foods in the county, all of which is within Riverdale Park. The historic town center surrounding the MARC stop is about to open a Bikram Yoga Studio, and the family owned corner shop, Town Center Market, just invested in a $1 million renovation and offers an impressive beer and wine selection. The University of Maryland Research Park will add 6,000+ tech and professional jobs within the Riverdale Park borders, adjacent to the College Park metro.

    The community should be understood as part of a larger mix of neighborhoods that include Mt. Rainier, Hyattsville, University Park, Riverdale Park and College Park. Collectively, they offer a mix of housing options, are reasonably priced, good for DC commuting, and seem to be a destination for people who might have lived in Takoma Park 20 years ago, but wouldn’t live there today. Riverdale Park is quiet (except for the train sounds), and offers an unbeatable no-car-involved Hill commute - 10 minutes, no stops to Union Station in the civilized oasis of the MARC train. The F4 bus is frequent and convenient, if you want a shuttle option to the Metro to avoid driving and parking.

    To read the tea leaves for this neighborhood, go to the Riverdale Park Farmer’s Market on Thursday afternoons and count the strollers, babies, and dogs.

    The downside of the neighborhood - like DC, the schools are a challenge that savvy parents spend energy navigating. It is not super hip. But if you have noticed that your cool lifestyle evaporated once you had a baby, it is a nice neighborhood that is within a short visit of your former haunts.

  1. Sandy Irving said at 4:35 pm on Monday September 30, 2013:

    The commuter-with-family folks who are interested in these Route 1 communities might be interested in a house we’re selling on Calvert Road next to the College Park Metro stop.

Join the discussion

UrbanTurf now requires registration in order to post comments. Register here, or login below if you are already registered.

Click here if you forgot your password.




 

Ethan Carson

Coldwell Banker

202-302-0438

Serving:

Eastern Market

Adams Morgan

Kalorama

NEW!

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We’ve collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Ballston
Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Clarendon
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Rosslyn
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
Shirlington
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
Huntington
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
Parkfairfax
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »

Maryland

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Annapolis
Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bethesda
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
Potomac
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
Wheaton
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Hyattsville
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Bloomingdale
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
Brightwood
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
Burleith
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
Crestwood
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
Georgetown
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
Kalorama
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
Palisades
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Petworth
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
Shaw
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Takoma
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Tenleytown
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

Brookland
New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
Deanwood
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Eckington
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
Langdon
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
NoMa
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Rosedale
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
Trinidad
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Woodridge
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 'hoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Hillcrest
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »

Upcoming Seminars ▾