Developers of the huge Bowie New Town Center project are planning to start building 200,000 square feet of office space despite concerns of residents who feel there aren't enough roads to handle the traffic.
The Mark Vogel Cos. wants to begin building the office space in March. It's part of the firm's $400 million, 275 acre project, begun 15 months ago near the busy intersection of Rtes. 50 and 301 in Prince George's County.
Company president Mark Vogel, who has developed several major office parks in the Washington area, has completed a 110,000 square foot office building at the development. He says it is 80 percent leased and will be ready for tenants in February.
Some Bowie residents, while saying they're not against the New Town project, are concerned that the improvement of existing roads and the building of new ones is going to lag behind the arrival of the new residents and workers.
"We just want to make sure that the development doesn't outpace the roads," said Dale Grant, president of the Greater Bowie Civic Coalition, a group of more than a dozen local citizens groups. "If you build before the roads, we're going to have a real mess."
When the Bowie New Town Center project is complete, it is expected to become what some experts have called Prince George's equivalent to Tysons Corner. It will have 1,520 homes, 680,000 square feet of office space and 1.1 million square feet of retail space, including a regional mall with at least three major department stores.
Other developments near New Town Center include the University of Maryland Science and Technology Center, a 400 acre project at intersection of Rtes. 50 and 301, and the Collington Center, a 1,200 acre industrial park just south of Bowie on Rte. 301 that includes one of Maryland's three foreign trade zones.
Residential development in the area is moving rapidly. As part of the Bowie New Town Center project, Oxford Development is building 324 single-family homes; The Artery Organization, 201 town houses; Coscan Washington, 140 multifamily condominium apartments, and U.S. Homes, 110 town houses. The first phase includes 794 units.
Vogel said he believes the roads will be able to handle the traffic. Construction of the mall is not expected for at least two years, when Rtes. 50 and 301 are widened from six to eight lanes and an interchange bisecting the New Town project is built.
Vogel conceded that he has had more success than expected in leasing space in the project, primarily because companies have been attracted to Bowie and Prince George's County by lease rates slightly lower than in the rest of the area.
"We didn't think the market was as strong as it is," he said. "But right now, we really don't have any competition. When the other developers bring on their projects, we're going to have to be more cautious."
Vogel said his building, One Town Center, is leased mainly to local companies that have outgrown their offices. Lease rates at the building are between $17 and $23 per square feet, slightly higher than much of the other office space in the county, which costs between $6 and $12 per square foot.
Grant said his civic group is concerned that Vogel may be straying from the original comprehensive plan for the project by moving too quickly with construction of office space and by removing too many trees.
"We really don't understand what's going on," he said.
"We thought the reason for the comprehensive plan was to integrate everything in the complex, to preserve some of the natural features, but that doesn't seem to be happening."
County planning officials said Vogel is expected to submit a request to revise the Bowie New Town Center comprehensive plan to allow for a change in the regional mall site. The company wants to add another department store. The company also has submitted a plan to the Prince George's County Planning Board to build Bowie New Town Center West, an office building that would be adjacent to New Town.