The Prince George's County Planning Board last week approved the first stage of a 102-acre "City of Capitals" business development at Routes 301 and 50, just north of Collington Road in Bowie.
Francis X. Gaegler, owner of the property, said his development would become "the gateway" into the still pending Bowie New Town Center, scheduled to be built on 385 acres just southeast of his property by LSI United Corporation.
Gaegler said his development will include an automobile dealership, two 14-story office buildings and several low-rise office buildings and "a lot of green space and trees."
Gaegler's decision to begin development of the property marks a change in his 10-year campaign to locate a regional shopping center on his land. He and several other developers in the eastern Bowie area have individually sought County Council support for large shopping center complexes along Rte. 50. During a massive rezoning of the area in 1975, the council gave the Levitt Corporation the right to build the New Town Center.
Levitt, which at the time was an ITT subsidiary, has since transferred its holdings to the LSI subsidiary, which will decide within the next few months whether the new town center will be built as planned.
The pending Levitt-LSI proposal for the town center would place a regional shopping mall, office buildings and a municipal center in the center of high - and medium-density townhouse and residential development. Construction of the multi-million dollar project has been delayed for the past few years, however, because of highway access problems and a lack of interest in the project on the part of major shopping center interests, sources said.
Inaction by the ITT subsidiary has led Gaegler to initiate several proposals in the past few years for his 102-acre property. Because his land is zoned commercial, he would need special county council authorization for any shopping center development.
Last summer, three council members introduced legislation which would have allowed Gaegler to apply for a special exception to the zoning regulations in order to build a shopping mall. Opposition from residents in the nearby Heather Hills subdivision abutting Gaegler's property led the council to drop the legislation.
Resident opposition to Gaegler's new plan has been minimal. "Something's got to go there sooner or later," said one Heather Hills resident. "We were really concerned how his shopping mall would affect our residential area, what kind of buffer he would maintain to keep the integrity of our area. In the past, we have felt no empathy from him about this. These proposals seem reasonable to us and show some consideration for the area."
Gaegler calls his development "the City of Capitals" because, he said, it is located between Annapolis and the District of Columbia and near "the capital of ports, Baltimore. This is the heart of Maryland, right here. And we should do something with it soon, before development goes elsewhere."