Deal by Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker will keep developer Bozzuto Group in Greenbelt


Rushern Baker III, Prince George's County Executive, at a regional economic forum in April. (Jeffrey MacMillan)

Prince George’s County officials have approved a $1.5 million subsidy package that will keep the headquarters of homebuilder Bozzuto Group and about 280 employees in the county.

The incentives include $500,000 from the county’s $50 million economic development fund, the largest investment from the fund since it was created two years ago.

The construction, management and land development firm in Greenbelt was founded in 1988 by Thomas S. Bozzuto and three partners, and has since developed more than 50,000 homes and apartments valued at more than $7 billion.

But Bozzuto and his son, Toby, president of Bozzuto Development, had been turned off by the county when it was being run by former county executive Jack B. Johnson, who ultimately was found guilty of masterminding a corruption conspiracy and received a seven-year prison sentence.

As an example, Toby Bozzuto said the Johnson administration had requested that the company build a community center as part of the AddisonApartments in Capitol Heights, but then never followed through on a commitment to pay for the work.

“The county was really pushing for us to have this community center. They said they were going to fund it, we told the community we were going to do it, and when the county didn’t pay for it we paid for it ourselves,” Bozzuto said.

“Our company prides itself on having a tremendous ethical underpinning, and integrity is the most important part of or business, and we were never received very well by the previous administration,” he said.

Bozzuto said that with the lease for the company’s headquarters at 7850 Walker Dr. in Greenbelt approaching expiration, he began to look at relocating the company to the District or Howard or Montgomery counties. He and his father live in the Baltimore area, but a lot of their 1,400 employees, many of whom manage Bozzuto properties in the area, live in D.C. or suburban Maryland, he said.

The package of incentives, assembled over nearly a year of negotiations and meetings between County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, the Bozzutos and their staffs, includes a $500,000 payment to the company that will not need to be paid back so long as Bozzuto maintains at least 284 jobs in the county, spends $6.2 million building out its new headquarters and uses small or minority-owned county businesses for at least 20 percent of the work.

Bozzuto will also be awarded $1.1 million in grants for the St. Paul Senior Living Apartments, also in Capitol Heights. David S. Iannucci, a top Baker economic development aide, said Bozzuto would receive a $513,000 payment in lieu of taxes and another $500,000 in Community Development Block Grant money for the complex on Addison Road.

Bozzuto has agreed to lease space at 6406 Ivy Lane in Greenbelt and will move there in July of next year.

“This was a company that had left the county psychologically,” Iannucci said. Of the work at the St. Paul apartments, Iannucci said, “the evidence was that the county had not worked to deliver on those past commitments.”

Iannucci also pointed out that Bozzuto continues to do business in the county; in May Bozzuto and the Peterson Cos., master developer of National Harbor, broke ground on the first apartment building at the project, a $70 million, 262-unit tower called the Esplanade. It is expected to be completed in 2015.

The $500,000 investment from the economic development fund marks the largest expenditure of the fund to date, and because the money totaled more than $250,000 it required approval, as opposed to just review, by the county council.

“It’s important that they continue to have their headquarters here,” said Prince George’s County Council member Ingrid M. Turner, whose district includes Greenbelt. She said she had highlighted the Bozzuto Group, among other businesses, at a breakfast last year only to learn how unhappy the family was with the county. “They’re saying, ‘We’re glad you all finally decided to pay attention to us,’” she said.

Turner said she was on board with Baker’s efforts to make the county more business friendly.

“He’s paying a lot more attention to the businesses and seeing how we can streamline the permit process, retain businesses and attract new businesses because we have to increase our commercial tax base,” she said.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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