- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Longtime Bowie residents have watched as their community seems to have mushroomed during the past decade.

Many remember it as a one-restaurant crossroads, with modest retail and development.

No so long ago, there was so little development that Bowie’s only restaurant, Rip’s Country Inn, also provided the city’s only lodgings.

Business is still brisk at Rip’s, but growth has also led to the arrival of chain restaurants, steakhouses and Italian eateries, along with large hotel chains. In addition, Bowie Town Center Mall has become a top shopping destination in Prince George’s County after opening in 2001.

When Una Cooper, communications director for the city of Bowie, first moved to the city 20 years ago, she says she went to Annapolis or Laurel to shop or dine.

“Twenty years ago, we were a bedroom community,” Ms. Cooper says. “We’ve tried to attract businesses to the area and now have a lot more retail and development than we ever had.

“Success breeds success,” Ms. Cooper says, recalling that Applebee’s was the first large chain restaurant to come to Bowie.

Bowie is the fifth largest city in Maryland and is the largest municipality within Prince George’s County. The city got its beginnings as a small railroad stop. It was in Bowie that the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad tracks branched off from the main line to provide service to the District. In fact, the town owes its name to B&O; president and later Gov. Oden Bowie.

Development has sprouted up around the northern and southern portions of the city, but the area that surrounds the old railroad stop, affectionately called Old Town Bowie, seems to have stood still. However, that area is now undergoing revitalization.

“We’ve invested money to make Old Town a more attractive destination,” Ms. Cooper says.

Businesses and homeowners are investing in the historic area that is filled with antique shops and is home to the Bowie Railroad Station and Huntington Museum. A welcome center recently opened, along with Old Bowie Town Grille.

Much of Bowie’s history is centered on the historic Belair Mansion. City officials say that then-Royal Gov. Samuel Ogle bought the land in 1737 and built the mansion. Ogle was also a racing enthusiast and built the Belair Stable, long considered the origin of the American thoroughbred horse breeding. Racing has long been associated with Bowie.

Now a museum, Belair offers children’s programs, candlelight tours and teas.

A Radio and Television Museum also in Bowie allows visitors to explore everything from early wireless telegraphs to primitive crystal sets in the 1920s to radio and television sets of more modern times.

Bowie is the location of the Prince George’s Stadium, home of the Bowie Baysox baseball team. The Bowie Playhouse, a 150-seat theater for the performing arts, also is located here.

Bowie State University traces its roots to Baltimore in 1865. It moved to Bowie in 1914 as a “normal school,” training blacks to be teachers. It is one of Maryland’s oldest historically black colleges or universities (www.bowiestate.edu).

Heather Hills Elementary School was awarded the status of a Blue Ribbon School this year.

For recreation, many residents frequent Bowie Ice Arena at Allen Pond Park. Allen Pond is an 85-acre park that includes playgrounds, lighted ball fields, paddle boats, picnic areas and an amphitheater.

Bill Nicholas of Home Sweet Home Realty in Bowie says that Allen Pond, numerous athletic fields and good city services are big draws to home buyers.

“It’s a great place to live and has so many attractions,” says Mr. Nicholas, who adds that the city’s proximity to the District and to Annapolis also bring buyers to look.

U.S. 50, which intersects with U.S. 301 at Bowie, allows easy access to the Chesapeake Bay, Eastern Shore and the beaches.

Another draw to the city is that Bowie’s first patrol officers hit the streets last month as part of the city’s new police department. Within the next five years, the city hopes to have about 60 police officers.

While Bowie is expected to get several new large hotels and recently added two publicly traded banks to their list of companies in the area, there isn’t that much space left for offices, Ms. Cooper says.

However, she says that new home construction is steadily growing.

“Fairwood is huge,” says Ms. Cooper, referring to a mixed housing community off of Md. 450 that just recently celebrated the opening of a neighborhood supermarket.

Fairwood is a planned community developed by the Rouse Co. that has a clubhouse, athletic courts and a village center.

Several builders are developing Fairwood, which offers homes ranging from luxury condominiums starting in the upper $300,000s to large custom homes with a minimum of 3,500 square feet priced at about $1,000,000.

Woodmore Estates and Woodmore North are two other Bowie-area communities featuring luxury homes that come with upgraded features.

“Bowie is growing in leaps and bounds, especially with a lot of subdivision in higher price brackets,” Mr. Nicholas says.


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