BOWIE – True to the adage ‘slow and steady wins the race,’ methodical work has brought a new, modern shopping center, as well as beloved old turtle, back to the city of Bowie. On Oct. 6, city and county officials gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the new Bowie Marketplace shopping center. The $22 […]
BOWIE – True to the adage ‘slow and steady wins the race,’ methodical work has brought a new, modern shopping center, as well as beloved old turtle, back to the city of Bowie.
On Oct. 6, city and county officials gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the new Bowie Marketplace shopping center. The $22 million center is anchored by Harris Teeter, a high-end grocery store with a gas station component, and features several restaurants, a Patient First and other businesses. It also includes a custom-made “Tommy the Turtle” statue – the same kind the original shopping center had in the 1960s.
County Executive Rushern Baker, III attended the opening and said he was very happy with the center’s remake.
“This right here is phenomenal. Not just to bring in Harris Teeter – the whole development that is going to take place in Bowie by retooling this mall, and bringing in amazing retailers, is phenomenal,” he said.
The process to bring the shopping center to fruition started in 2013, when developer Berman Enterprises bought the property. They initially intended to develop it in the future, but pressure and financial assistance from the city and the county convinced Berman Enterprises to move forward far sooner.
“When we met them a couple of years ago, they wanted to buy the property and put it in their portfolio and build it at a leisure time. And we said, ‘no, no, no, no, we need to do this now.’ And to their credit, they jumped right in,” Bowie Mayor G. Frederick Robinson said.
Under Robinson’s leadership, the city council voted to provide $975,000 (including $700,000 to cover the cost of demolishing the existing buildings). Robinson said that was the first time the city had contributed money to a project in that way.
The Prince George’s County Council also approved a loan from the Economic Development Incentive Fund (EDI Fund) to cover almost $2 million of the project costs. Once Harris Teeter signed on as the anchor – after nearly a year of negotiations – other tenants quickly jumped on board.
Brian Berman, a partner at Berman Enterprises, said this project exemplifies what can be accomplished when businesses and government work together.
“What you see before you is not just any old neighborhood shopping center. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this project is a sterling example of public-private and community partnership,” he said.
County Councilman Todd Turner was on the Bowie City Council when it voted for the funding and agreed public-private partnerships (3Ps) are a valuable tool for encouraging development.
“This was a true partnership. We like to use the term 3P, but this was actually a 4P process: you had the private, and you had two publics. You had the city of Bowie, and you also had Prince George’s County,” he said. “For anybody who has a bank account, if you get 10 times as much for your investment as you put in, that’s a pretty good return.”
The new shopping center, located on Annapolis Road near Stonybrook Drive, replaces the run-down one long considered an eyesore. Robinson said keeping the location economically vibrant is key to ensuring the entire corridor thrives.
“What you see here is an incredible change from what it was. When (Bernard) said it was a dilapidated thing, he was being charitable,” he said. “But right now, this is a great development, and I’m tickled.”
The shopping center is the first phase of Berman’s plans for the project. The second is a residential component: 288 market-rate apartments to be built behind the shops. Brian Berman said they hope to break ground in 2018.
However, some residents are already fighting the addition, raising concerns about traffic, crime and the character of the surrounding community, which they feel does not mesh with a four or five-story apartment building.
Berman Enterprises has held several stakeholder meetings to hear from impacted communities, but said the mixed-use nature of the project was a big factor in attracting Harris Teeter as a tenant, and he feels the apartments will be “beautiful.”
The city’s advisory planning board will hold a public hearing on the case Nov. 15.
Despite concerns over the apartments, Bowie residents welcome the revitalization of the shopping center.
Regina Ullrich said she was very happy to see the center brought back to its former prominence.
“It’s just wonderful. I’ve been waiting a long time,” she said. “We used to shop here all the time, and we kept coming even when there were just a few shops. I’m so happy it’s open.”