New Capital Centre deal is reached; Agreement signed for fall start on upscale complex; Main Street in the country; Cordish envisions 'a community gathering place' Development


Developers unveiled sketches yesterday of a $150 million, retail and entertainment complex to be located at the site of the former US Airways Arena during the signing of an agreement that allows construction to begin in the fall.

The public/private partnership for the Landover project, which will be called the Capital Centre -- the arena's name when it opened in 1973, was formalized in an afternoon event attended by former basketball star Michael Jordan, now a minority owner of the NBA Washington Wizards and NHL Washington Capitals.

The agreement between the Cordish Co., which is developing the upscale project; Abe Pollin, the arena's owner; and the Prince George's County administration will go to the Prince George's County Council within 30 days for approval.

Plans call for the 70-acre site to evoke the feel of a Main Street lined with shops and entertainment tenants, coupled with an urban flavor. A variety of architectural styles will used for the storefronts, which will be connected by brick sidewalks lined with gas lamps.

"Not only is it a retail and entertainment project, it's a town center," said Blake L. Cordish, vice president of the Cordish Co. "We want it to become a community gathering place."

Economic benefits to Prince George's County are promised to be sizable.

The first phase of the project, valued at $85 million, is expected to create 3,600 jobs over the next 10 years in a variety of positions ranging from construction to management to long-term operation. Additional taxes over the next 10 years are expected to exceed $98.9 million in property, admissions and sales-tax proceeds, according to Cordish Co. estimates.

The 10-year projected economic impact to the county and state is estimated at $124 million, according to the Cordish Co. No public funds have been asked for the development.

"This project is an excellent example of how a public-private partnership can work together to develop a critical missing element for a community," said Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry.

Pollin said he considered the continued economic growth of the county important to preserving the relationship he had established.

"I made a promise to Prince George's County that I would not leave a 'white elephant' on the Beltway, and that we would develop a project that is worthy of the great citizens of the county," he said.

Project plans initially called for preserving the 25-year-old arena, but developers quickly came to realize that the building had outlived its usefulness, Cordish said.

"We had struggled with ways to keep the arena," he said. "The building had reached the end of its life. It had no aesthetic value. The overall vision of this was going to be damaged to keep the arena."

Instead, a new 6,000-seat live performance and events center is slated, he said. Another anchor for the project will be the Magic Johnson Theatres featuring 16 screens and 4,500 seats, he said.

The first phase of the project, slated to open in winter of 2001, includes 350,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space along with about 200,000 square feet of office space. The second phase includes 170,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space and another 500,000 square feet of office space. The entire project is to be completed by 2003.

"The goal of this project is to fill a void, the lack of upscale, quality restaurants and retail experience in that area," Cordish said. "We're going to bring in tenants who've never been there."

The Cordish Co., developers of the Power Plant, specializes in entertainment retail centers. Among its achievements are Bayou Place in Houston and Charleston Place in Charleston, S.C. The company is working on major contracts in Atlantic City; N.J.; Hampton, Va.; and Louisville, Ky.

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