- The Washington Times - Friday, November 14, 2003

The long-awaited Boulevard at the Capital Centre officially opens for business today, bringing a slew of new retailers to Prince George’s County.

The $85 million, 500,000-square-foot main street retail center is 95 percent leased with retailers such as Pier 1 Imports, Borders Books and Music, Children’s Place, DSW Shoe Warehouse and Magic Johnson Theaters.

About 40 of the 65 stores are open. The second wave of openings, which will include the 52,000-square-foot movie complex, will be in the spring.

The Landover center is a joint venture of Washington Sports & Entertainment and the Cordish Co., a Baltimore developer. It is on the site of the former US Airways Arena, which has been vacant since 1997 when the NBA’s Washington Wizards (formerly the Bullets) and the NHL’s Washington Capitals moved to the new MCI Center downtown. The arena was demolished in December 2002 to make way for the retail complex.

“This is going to be real good for the community,” said LaTonya Smallwood, who works at the new Lane Bryant at the Boulevard. “They have a lot of good stores and a lot of nice places to eat.”

The main street-style retail center, with its new streets, two-story architectural facades and landscaped walkways, will create 750 new jobs and will have an estimated $124 million economic impact on the county and state over the next 10 years. Other retailers are Yankee Candle, Men’s Warehouse, Kay Jewelers and 12 restaurants including Pizzeria Uno, Bugaboo Creek Steak House and Chick-Fil-A.

“The combination of superior design with quality retailers and entertainment tenants insure an upscale experience that will be a complement to the county and the region,” said Cordish Chief Executive Officer David Cordish in a statement.

The Boulevard adds a much-needed boost to the retail landscape of Prince George’s County — an area that has been ignored for years.

Real estate officials have said the perception of high crime in the county and lack of other retailers have deterred many retailers from locating there, even though Prince George’s is the richest county in the nation with a majority black population.

“PG is lacking retail offerings,” said John Asadoorian, president of Asadoorian Retail Solutions, a brokerage house based in the District.

“I think [the Boulevard at Capital Centre] is going to be a huge success. It gives the community high-quality retail.”

For years, retailers skipped Prince George’s County and instead blanketed areas like Montgomery County and Northern Virginia.

“PG County has been eclipsed by the strengths of Tysons Corner, Bethesda, … Pentagon City and Georgetown —these are shopping alternatives that are super regional draws, ” Mr. Asadoorian said.

And while those areas were being built up, Prince George’s consumers traveled outside their own marketplace to find the missing retail. Miss Smallwood, who lives in Fairmont Heights, said she has had to travel at least 25 minutes to places like Annapolis and Bowie to shop. The Boulevard is just 15 minutes from her house.

As a result, retail that did exist — inside the now defunct Landover Mall, for example — went unnoticed.

However, in recent years, Prince George’s County has had an upsurge in interest from retailers and developers.

Bowie Town Center, operated by Simon Property Group, has retailers such as Sears, Hecht’s, Barnes & Noble, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Old Navy and Safeway.

The nearly 700,000-square-foot main street-style retail complex opened in the fall of 2001.

Most recently, Ikea opened a 371,000-square-foot Swedish home-furnishing store in College Park in June.

Retail officials say the more retail the market holds, the more new retailers are likely to consider the market as a viable one.

“Success breeds interest,” Mr. Asadoorian said.

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