Developers of a 460,000-square-foot retail center in Largo began razing the old US Airways Arena this week and predicted the $100 million project would be completed by fall 2003.
The urban-style shopping center, which will have a "Main Street" motif, is being developed by Cordish Cos. of Baltimore, and Abe Pollin, chairman of Washington Sports and Entertainment and owner of the Washington Wizards. Cordish Cos. also developed the Power Plant and White Marsh entertainment and shopping centers in Baltimore. The Largo project has been in the county's development plans for decades.
Initially, in 2000, retailers were reluctant to sign on to the shopping and entertainment center -- called Boulevard at The Capital Centre -- but in the last year demand increased, said David Cordish, chairman of the Cordish Cos. The project was planned to be 125,000 square feet two years ago but now the proposed space has more than doubled. About 40 tenants have committed, including anchor stores Borders Books & Music, Linens 'n Things and Pier 1, a home furnishings store.
"It took on momentum of its own," Cordish said. "Each time we add a tenant, it's much easier. . . . Prince George's will have the meeting place it's sorely lacking."
This week, Cordish announced that two white tablecloth restaurants also joined the slate of retailers that have said they will locate at the new shopping area: Chicago-based restaurant Nick & Tony's, an upscale steak house, and Red Star Tavern, an indoor-and-outdoor American-food restaurant also based in the Midwest.
The development is located off the Beltway, across from Landover Mall -- where only a Sears store remains open. The Capital Centre project will help revive the area, Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry (D) said at a groundbreaking for the project Monday.
"This is a really fabulous project for Prince George's County, and will detonate more attractive housing and commercial opportunities in the Largo area and genuinely launch the new town center that was conceived of so many years ago," Curry said. "For people to have agreed to locate here says a lot about what a great market we are."
Cordish and Washington Sports were required by the county to sign enough tenants to fill 125,000 square feet before demolishing the old Capital Centre. The agreement was part of Pollin's pledge to keep the center -- developed as an entertainment complex in 1972 and later renamed US Airways Arena -- a viable part of the community.
"The one thing I promised all the folks of Prince George's was that when we left here we would never let this place become a white elephant," Pollin said at the groundbreaking ceremony.
Besides the anchors, Starbucks, the Children's Place, Yankee Candle, Lane Bryant, Men's Wearhouse, Chik-fil-A, Chuck E. Cheese, Cold Stone Creamery, Drake's Place, Electronics Boutique, Lucaya clothing store, Shoe City and other businesses have signed leases.
Magic Johnson Theaters had also signed a lease with the project but backed out after Lowes Cineplex Entertainment, Johnson's theater affiliate, and other large theater companies filed for bankruptcy. The theater industry is beginning to see an upturn and Cordish said he's expecting to announce another movie theater deal soon. He would not name the company because the deal is not official.
"Things have changed in the movie theater industry," Cordish said. "We are 98 percent there in signing a lease for a 16-seat, stadium-style movie theater."
Members of several Prince George's County civic associations have been actively following the Capital Centre project. Twice in the past four years the groups took trips to Baltimore to see Cordish's projects there.
"It's been on the books for a while, and I've been hoping that they would get the right type of businesses here," said Abraham Lincoln, vice president of the Coalition of Central Prince George's Community Organizations. Arthur Turner, president of the Towns of Kettering Homeowner's Association, said that the project is a step in boosting the level of retail found in the county.
"For too long, Prince George's County residents have been going outside of the county to buy food, clothes and products," Turner said. "This puts us on the road . . . We'll be there when we have the big box stores like Nieman Marcus and Lord & Taylor. This is a positive step, so that we can have parity with Fairfax and Montgomery."