After more than a decade, some in Prince George’s still waiting for arts district boost

Survey under way to find out what is hindering business growth

     by       Staff writer Timothy Sandoval/ The Gazette

Carole Bernard, executive director of the Gateway Community Development Corp., said her nonprofit group has added more studio space for artists in the Gateway Arts and Entertainment District. Now her organization is looking to survey businesses to determine how to encourage business growth in the district .

When the Gateway Arts and Entertainment District was formed in 2001, officials hoped it would spark business growth in the four municipalities it encompassed.

Twelve years later, only one city in the district, Hyattsville, has experienced growth in retail, Gateway officials said, while the other three — Brentwood, North Brentwood and Mount Rainier — lag behind.

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Mount Rainier businesses to get an artistic makeover

Intisar Haamid, owner of Circle Deli in Mount Rainier, wants her business to stand out, but she said the building’s beige exterior and small storefront sign make that difficult.

“It is extremely plain,” Haamid said. “I need something to focus attention on the building.”

Haamid said she would like to see some small murals and perhaps a larger landscape painting on the building. She might get her wish in the coming months as her building was chosen to be beautified by an artist as part of the third annual Better Block Project, an initiative spearheaded by nonprofit arts center Joe’s Movement Emporium to improve the look of the city.

The initiative is funded through a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for Joe’s Movement Emporium to run its Art Lives Here campaign, which includes the Better Block Project and other initiatives that pair artists with businesses in the city to reduce blight.

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Mount Rainier sees lowest number of crimes in a decade

Mount Rainier’s reported crimes have dropped to their lowest point in 10 years, according to data released earlier this month by the city’s police department.

From January through September of this year, the number of reported crimes in the city was 228 — the lowest total in nearly a decade. At its highest point in 2003, the total number of crimes was 475 at the end of September, with the number jumping to 648 by the end of the year, according to the police department.

Larceny, burglary and auto theft are the crimes that have decreased the most since last year, according to the data. Crimes such as assault and robbery were up slightly compared to the same time period last year.

The next lowest total was 272 at the end of September in 2009, with the number at 370 by the end of the year, according to police.

The figure is below the 10-year average of 357 crimes committed from January to September, police said.

“People should know that Mount Rainier is a safe city and they should not worry about relocating here and starting businesses here,” said Police Chief Michael Scott. “I am very proud of that.”

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Vacant funeral home to get facelift as Mount Rainier revives gateway

Mount Rainier officials are hoping to brighten up a funeral home in the city — literally.

The former Dudley Funeral Home, at 3200 Rhode Island Ave., is part of a 33,000-square-foot property the city purchased in 2009. Officials say the vacant three-story building is the first structure commuters from Washington, D.C., see when they enter the city, and they say it doesn’t reflect the energy of the arts-focused community.

As a result, officials announced Feb. 29 a request for development proposals for the site. In the best-case scenario, officials say groundbreaking on the selected proposal would not start until 2014 at the earliest.

“We want to transform it from vacancy to vibrancy,” said Brooke Kidd, executive director of Joe’s Movement Emporium, a performing arts center that has been involved in community beautification programs.

The city plans to renovate all of the vacant properties from 3200 to 3208 Rhode Island Avenue.

As part of the city’s second Better Block Project to revitalize the area, Mount Rainier would provide $4,000 that would go toward painting the funeral home building white and adding an artistic, multicultural design, which has been selected, on the sides that face Eastern and Rhode Island avenues.

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Mount Rainier group hopes residents buy into local currency program

In today’s global economy it may be easy for consumers to choose corporate giants when purchasing goods or services, said Mount Rainier resident Nick Williams, who hopes his organization breaks that mindset by keeping local dollars local.

Anacostia Hours is a local currency servicing Mount Rainier, Brentwood, Riverdale and parts of Hyattsville created in 2006 to encourage local bartering and boost small business.

Williams, president of Anacostia Hours, Inc., said the organization is trying to expand its membership of 74 — comprised of residents and businesses — that currently has 650 Hours in circulation.

To use the currency, participants must pay a $5 fee to become Anacostia Hours members. Members are given two Anacostia Hours valued at $10 each, upon registering and their services or goods are listed in an online directory.

“We’re trying to reorient people’s thinking. Think local first,” he said. “We’re trying to keep the money in town.”

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A glimpse of a thriving downtown - Better Block Project offered a revitalized Mount Rainier for a day

A temporarily revitalized area of downtown Mount Rainier was the centerpiece of a street festival Saturday that used art galleries, music and dance performances to create the impression of a thriving downtown for an afternoon.

The Better Block Project modernized a section of 34th Street, mostly between Bunker Hill Road and Rhode Island Avenue, by decorating empty storefronts with art and setting up outdoor, café-style seating at restaurants.

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