Work to begin by Jan. on P.G.'s Capital Centre

An upscale complex of shops will be on USAir arena site

September 08, 2001|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

Demolition of the Capital Centre in Landover, an unused sports and concert venue built in 1973, will begin by the end of the year to make way for a "main street" of shops and restaurants, the developer said yesterday.

A partnership led by the Cordish Co., the Baltimore developer that rebuilt the Inner Harbor's Power Plant into a retail and entertainment complex, has been working on the plans for about two years.

The design has changed since the original pitch, partly because a 16-screen movie theater planned by Earvin "Magic" Johnson was scrapped for financial reasons.

But the development group is on course to spend about $80 million to build 400,000 square feet of shops and restaurants in one- and two-story, pedestrian-friendly rows.

The complex is off the Washington Beltway in Prince George's County. It is expected to open in early 2003, when a second phase calls for adding offices and maybe a hotel.

"People are used to going there," said Reed Cordish, a vice president of the Cordish Co., referring to the arena, which has an exit to the Washington Beltway and parking for thousands of cars. "Maybe we'll even have outdoor concerts, keep the idea of the arena there."

To take advantage of the region's familiarity with the site, developers plan to keep the Capital Centre name, although a sponsorship had made the facility known as the US Airways Arena in its final years.

The arena's prime tenants, the National Basketball Association's Washington Wizards and the National Hockey League's Washington Capitals, left for a new arena in Washington about three years ago.

The new Capital Centre developers include Abe Pollin, the arena's owner and majority owner of the Wizards; former basketball great Michael Jordan, a minority owner of the Wizards and Capitals; and Ted Leonsis, the American Online official who heads an investment group that owns the Capitals and has a minority interest in the Wizards.

They are expecting brand names such as Barnes & Noble booksellers, Linens 'N Things and Pier One, all possible tenants, to lure people back to the site, but no retailers have been announced.

Cordish said it was the company's study of the area's demographics that drew it to the project. Nearly a million people live within 10 miles of the site, Cordish said, with 197,575 traveling daily on Interstate 495. Average household income was $56,774 in 1996, and more than half of the local homes are valued at between $100,000 and $199,000.

A stop of the Washington Metro is planned in the next few years.

There are six other shopping malls within about 20 miles of the site, but little in the way of upscale shopping in the county.

"This is one of the most prime sites we've ever built on," said Cordish. "The density of population, their income, their education make it the best site in the state. And it's an incredibly under served area."

Upscale retail has eluded the majority black county that borders southeastern Washington, a county official acknowledged.

But Kenneth E. Glover, chief administrative officer to County Executive Wayne K. Curry, said two other nearby upscale projects are planned.

"Developers are now going to an area they once considered not as good," he said. "They saw there was money there. It's been under served, and the population has kept on growing so fast that some upscale shopping is necessary."

The county, which owns the land under the Capital Centre, signed a long-term lease with the developers and expects lease payments, and property and amusement taxes - in addition to new jobs and the prestige of an "entertainment destination," he said.

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