Developers and officials want College Park included in a bill that would allow future grocery stores to sell beer and wine, but legislators who initiated the bill aren’t willing to amend it.
The bill requests a beer and wine license for Bowie, said Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Dist. 23), one of the sponsors for the bill. He said the goal is to attract a Trader Joe’s or Harris Teeter to fill a long-time vacancy at Bowie Plaza. Developers who lease the College Park Shopping Center hoped College Park could be added to the bill to also attract a specialty grocery store.
“From a developer's standpoint, it improves the odds of being able to secure a grocery store like Harris Teeter, who depends on beer and wine for a significant part of their sales,” said Rob Rosenfeld, principal of JBG Rosenfeld Retail, which leases properties at the College Park Shopping Center.
But Peters said Mayor G. Frederick Robinson of Bowie, who initiated the bill, is not interested in amending it to include College Park.
College Park Councilman Robert Day, whose District 3 includes the shopping center, said he was sorry to learn the legislators don't want to amend the bill, but "I’d love to see Bowie make it work so we can follow right in their footsteps," Day said.
Tuesday evening, the College Park City Council voted 5-2-1 to request the amendment anyway.
Alcohol to Attract Grocers
State law prohibits the sale of alcohol in grocery stores, with just a handful of exceptions, including the Shoppers in College Park. A representative from JBG Rosenfeld, , said that several grocery stores have shown interest in opening a store at the College Park Shopping Center in recent months, including Harris Teeter.
The Calvert Hills Citizens Association submitted a letter at Tuesday's meeting, supporting the city's efforts to get added to the Bowie bill.
Although Harris Teeter has not said it would only sign a lease if it could sell beer and wine in College Park, the store has made it clear it would be difficult to operate without the license, Rosenfeld said.
“Their level of interest was modest without it. When they heard there might be a possibility to do it, their level of interest increased significantly,” Rosenfeld said, but he emphasized that discussions with Harris Teeter are very preliminary.
Not all Harris Teeter stores sell beer and wine, spokeswoman Danna Jones said, but she would not elaborate on the possibility of opening a downtown College Park store, stating it’s against corporate policy to discuss potential or future locations unless a lease has been signed.
A Vision for the Shopping Center
Rosenfeld’s family has owned the College Park Shopping Center property since it was built in 1949. It includes properties west of U.S. Route 1, between Knox Road and Guilford Drive. and are among the shops north of Hartwick Road, and are popular among University of Maryland students.
The area south of Hartwick Road includes an , a FedEx Kinko’s and a surface parking lot. It’s an underutilized parcel that the leasers would like to see redeveloped, Rosenfeld said.
The company’s vision is for the area to become a mixed-use property, with commercial space on the ground floor and residential units on top.
The vision also includes above- or below-ground structured parking. “Almost certainly it would not be surface parking. There just isn’t enough room on the site,” Rosenfeld said.
“Our first choice for the retail is to have all of it or most of it used by a grocery store,” Rosenfeld said, whether it’s Harris Teeters, Trader Joe’s, or something else.
A call and email to Trader Joe's were not returned.
Councilmen Robert Catlin and Monroe Dennis (Dist. 2), were the dissenting votes on Tuesday, and Councilman Fazlul Kabir (Dist. 1) abstained from the vote.
Catlin said that he feared if College Park was added to the legislation, it would hinder Bowie's efforts to get the bill passed.
Councilman Marcus Afzali (Dist. 4) suggested that College Park appeal to its own state delegation to draft similar legislation, but Stullich said it was too late to meet the current legislative session deadline.
“I don’t know if it’s possible to have College Park added to this legislation, but I really think it’s worth a shot," Stullich said.
A half-mile away on U.S. Route 1 is a parcel that another group of developers is working to get rezoned from residential use (R-55) to Mixed-Use Town Center, so that they can build a Whole Foods Market, nearly 1,000 residential units, offices and additional retail space. , which lies in Riverdale Park.
Rosenfeld said that if the Whole Foods Market is built, he’s unsure the impact it could have on the company’s vision for the College Park Shopping Center.
“It’s possible it could change another grocer’s interest,” he said.