The Tour de Prince George's

It's not quite Paris, but Bowie will try to copy a grand French tradition this weekend by sponsoring the inaugural Tour de Prince George's Professional Bike Race, a contest that is expected to draw more than 100 hard-core cyclists and raise money for local scholarships.

Sponsored by the Prince George's County police department and more than 40 local businesses, the competition is thought to be one of the most prominent ever held in the state, organizers said.

"It's a full-blown professional bike race, which we believe is unsurpassed in this area," said Charles Ingram, spokesman for State Farm Insurance Co., a leading sponsor. "We don't believe that there's been a bike race of this magnitude in Prince George's County, and perhaps the state."

The race is scheduled to begin at noon Sunday at the Bowie Gateway Shopping Center and will follow an 18-mile loop. Male cyclists will pass through the route more than four times, for a total of 88 miles; the women's course is 54 miles. Top finishers in the men's race will divvy up a purse of $3,200 miles, and the women will split $1,800 in prize money.

Race organizers said they expect more than 100 men and about 40 women to enter the contest. All participants must be professional or amateur cyclists certified by the U.S. Cycling Federation.

"We're after the elite racing market--meaning the top national riders," said Keith Shuey, the race director.

Sidelights for spectators include a youth bike rodeo from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for children ages 7 to 12. Instructors will give bicycle safety tips and offer bike inspections. Fire officials also will be on hand to teach fire safety and give demonstrations on 911 emergencies.

The Tour de Prince George's was dreamed up by the police department's bicycle patrol and State Farm. The insurance company's local agents had donated $24,000 to the department's bike patrol in 1997 and were looking for a way to do something bigger, Ingram said.

More than 40 businesses have agreed to donate about $30,000 to the race, Ingram said. Much of that will go to cover expenses, he said, while the remainder will be used to set up a college scholarship fund for Prince George's students and to benefit the police department's bicycle squad.

Cpl. Al Rothbaum, who oversees the department's bicycle patrol program, said that eligibility criteria for the scholarships has not yet been established. But he said that the grants would target Prince George's residents who attend college or trade school within the county.

Call 410-247-4064 for more information.

-- Craig Whitlock


A Day of Food, Games and More

It's time for the third annual Port Towns day, when the communities of Bladensburg, Colmar Manor and Cottage City get together to celebrate their joint identity.

The event kicks off at 11 a.m. Saturday, with a parade along Annapolis and Bladensburg roads. Roylene Roberts, Bladensburg's town administrator, said that events are planned for the Colmar Manor Ballfields at 38th Avenue, including live music from String Busters and Mosaic, rides, bingo, vendors selling food and other goodies and a classic car show. Most events are free. For information, call 301-927-7048.


Hearings Set on Shopping Center

Bowie city officials have scheduled three public hearings about a planned shopping center near Route 197 and Northview Drive.

The Simon Property Group, headquartered in Indianapolis and the nation's largest developer of shopping malls, has filed an application with the Prince George's County Planning Department to construct a $90 million, 600,000-square-foot neotraditional outdoor retail center to be anchored by Hecht's and Sears and include an Old Navy, said Bowie Planning Director Jim Cronk. The company estimates that the shopping center will employ 1,200 people.

Cronk said the submitted design is similar to the Reston Town Center, but on a larger scale. The mall, to be part of a project called Bowie New Town Center, would have a street down the middle, park-like landscaping, park benches and wide sidewalks.

"It would look like an old downtown, with the large stores anchoring the ends," Cronk said. "There would be a lot of pedestrian walkways, lots of brick, walking paths and bike paths."

Cronk said the company submitted the plans three weeks ago. The City of Bowie has scheduled a meeting at 7 p.m. on Sept. 22 at city hall to discuss the plan. The developer will make a presentation, and residents will have an opportunity to ask questions and offer comments. The city's advisory planning board will hold a hearing on the proposal at 7 p.m. Oct. 12 at city hall seeking opinions from residents. At 8 p.m. Nov. 1 at city hall, the City Council will hold another public hearing, which will give residents yet another opportunity to speak on the project, Cronk said.

The proposed commercial development is part of the commercial portion of the Bowie New Town Center, across the intersection of 197 and Northview from Bowie Crossing. The town center is slated to include 500,000 square feet of office space, 1,200 multifamily housing units, including apartments, condominiums and town houses and 1 million square feet of retail space, Cronk said.

"This is a traditional downtown retail shopping district, with pedestrian amenities and extensive streetscape design," said Rod Vosper, regional vice president with Simon.

Said Bill Shipp, of Fossett and Brugger, the attorney for the builder: "This is really the completion of the Bowie New Town Center mixed-use plan. It is something that has been a long time in coming, and we think it will be the finest quality retail development in Prince George's County today."

The city is holding a hearing to gauge public opinion before making a recommendation to the county. If the company gets approval by the end of the year from the county, Cronk said, the builder plans to have the Hecht's store completed before Christmas 2000.

Cronk said the plan calls for construction of stores in brick, stucco and siding for variety. He said the builder also has submitted a plan for extensive landscaping, both on the main street and in the parking lot of the facility. He said one major component of the plan calls for the construction of hidden service bays, where trucks will load and unload materials in seclusion to make the appearance of the mall more pristine.

Cronk said city officials want to determine how many residents favor the project before deciding whether or not to support it. "Historically, there has been a desire for more commercial and restaurants here so residents wouldn't have to drive so far," he said. "We've had some success in this area recently with the 800,000-square-foot [Bowie Gateway Center]. But at some point, the community will ask how much do we really need. Is getting a Hecht's or Old Navy something we need before we reach our limit?"

Cronk said some officials hope the mall project eventually would be expanded to include higher-end retail stores. He cited Annapolis Mall, which was originally anchored by Montgomery Ward and J.C. Penney, but now includes Nordstrom.

The Simon project is the latest incarnation of a plot of land that was first proposed as a shopping mall in the early 1980s. The property has changed hands three times since then, most recently when Simon acquired it after purchasing the commercial ventures of the DeBartolo company.

And while city officials are investigating the new mall to become part of Bowie New Town Center, there is another plan to revitalize the area known as Old Bowie, Cronk said.

A hearing on that proposal has been scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 4 at city hall.

-- Avis Thomas-Lester

If you have an item about your community, please let us know. Fax to 301-952-1397, e-mail to or write to Around the Towns, Prince George's Extra, The Washington Post, 14402 Old Mill Rd., Suite 201, Upper Marlboro, Md. 20772. The phone number is 301-952-1391.

CAPTION: Denise Hamler helped lead the revitalization effort in Bladensburg, Colmar Manor and Cottage City.

CAPTION: Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) announced an effort to revitalize the Port Towns, which will celebrate their joint identity Saturday.