Suitland

Diego Aleman, Rebecca Jacobs, and Sara Phillips



Silver Hill Road and Suitland Road intersect at the center of the neighborhood that is named for those two streets, Suitland-Silver Hill. Both Silver Hill and Suitland are easily the busiest streets in the neighborhood, and they appear to have the most commercial business generated from them. Silver Hill Road crosses and leads to Suitland Parkway, the highway. This most likely leads to it being the most often used road for residents entering and exiting the neighborhood. Because the two main roads intersect in a perpendicular manner, the neighborhood north of the highway is split into four sections, a number of which have distinct characteristics that make this division worth pointing out. For example, the quadrant nearest the Washington D.C. via the Suitland Parkway is entirely claimed by the Federal Government for the Suitland Federal Center.

Also right next to the Suitland Parkway and the Suitland Federal Center is the Suitland Metro stop. It is the second to last stop on the Southeast Bound Green line. The metro station sprawls across Suitland Parkway, above ground and with a clear view of the highway and the Federal Center, facing south and north respectively. There is a long street leaving the station, and multiple lanes for busses to pull into. Any casual observer would have a difficult time ignoring the gargantuan set of buildings that make up the Suitland Federal Center visible as you exit the Metro stop. This center includes the building for several federal government agencies, including the U.S. Census Bureau headquarters, the Office of Naval Intelligence headquarters, and several Smithsonian Institution buildings, and other smaller federal facilities.

These relatively new and definitely expensive buildings are a stark contrast to the small businesses that are directly across the street on both Silver Hill Road and Suitland Road, most of which are much older in comparison to the large federal buildings. The massive complex has several buildings with massive glass window, decorations on the sides, and a distinctly modern architectural style that make it stick out like a sore thumb. The complex also contains a large parking lot, which lends credence to the idea that workers probably Metro and drive to work at the Federal Center daily. Around all complex is a wrought iron fence that stretches down Silver Hill Road and Suitland Road, blocking off the almost an entire fourth of the neighborhood from the public. This contrast becomes even more pronounced with large fences surrounding the Suitland Federal Center, isolating the more polished compound from the residents of the neighborhood.

Right across Silver Hill Road from the Suitland Federal Center, The Verona, a housing development, boasts that it is newly gated, and a group of teenagers have congregated in front of the neighboring 7-11 convenience store. A large empty lot hosts a sign promising that the Suitland Gateway Apartment Homes are “coming soon.” It's a straight shot to the library from there, down Silver Hill road across the freeway.  The sidewalks seem narrow when they're right next to the road, which has six unforgiving lanes. On either side of the road, there are single-family homes with porches and wooden back decks, where one can see evidence of Labor Day barbecues and picnics.

The small local businesses and chains that sit across the street from the Suitland Federal Center reflect the demographics of the area and are littered up and down both streets. There are a multitude of barbershops that cater specifically to black and Latino hair, as well as smaller markets for food and pharmacies. While there are some national chains – McDonald’s, Popeye’s and Subway – the majority of the goods and services that are present in the area appear to be locally owned. This is especially prevalent when looking at the food options. Suitland appears to be a food desert, lacking any major grocery store or other food supplier. There also appear to be several types of businesses that get are in such high demand that there are multiples just along the two major roads. These include three 24 hour Laundromats, three pawnshops, and two different chains of dollar store – all of which point to Suitland being a lower socio-economically advantaged community. This hypothesis is strengthened by the fact that many of the shops in the neighborhood appeared to be boarded up or be permanently shut down.

North of Suitland Road and west of Silver Hill, the neighborhood appears much more residential, as demonstrated by the majority of the area being made up of single-family homes. Mostly identical brick houses reminiscent of 1960s architecture line the narrow residential streets. This evidence is supported here, by the U.S. Census Data that illustrates when most of the homes in the area were built.

There were also multiple apartment complexes of varying outward physical status. Some seemed to be newer and more clean than others, but all appear to be have vacancies waiting to be filled. From these each of these communities, signs fly from the fences or the tops of the complexes on the buildings, advertising open apartments and claiming affordable rates. One of the complexes, Arnold Gardens – located at the corner of Arnold and Darel Road – had been funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as demonstrated by a sign at the front of the complex. This also was one of the less well up kept housing spaces compared to other near by complexes - with trash lining the ground between the buildings and broken windows in each of the buildings. However, at the same time, this complex also had some of the most visible community, with children playing outside on the grass, and men hanging out on the steps up into the building, talking and socializing amongst each other.

The public schools in the area, Suitland High School, Drew-Freeman Middle School, and Suitland Elementary School, are also all in this in this section of the neighborhood. Suitland Middle and High School are next to each other, on the corner of Silver Hill Road and Brooks drive. The schools are massive. There are probably about five or six buildings, a big field and an auditorium. On one of the sides of the high school, there is a large mural, spanning the side of the building, that depicts what appear to be African children dancing and singing, representative of the neighborhood that is predominantly black. All three are close to the two main roads, but are also isolated enough from it to have spaces for children to play away from dangerously busy roads.