Bowie Opposed to Adding College Park to Grocer Alcohol License Bill

Developers and College Park officials hope the city can be added to pending legislation that could help attract an up-scale grocery store to the College Park Shopping Center.

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.

Tuesday's Vote

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.

Cafritz Factor

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.

Matthew Byrd January 27, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Ken, I disagree that this is merely a revenue grab. Downtown College Park lacks a walkable grocery store, and has long-desired one. The store is concerned about their profit margin, as they would have to pay a hefty rent on the space, hence their desire to sell beer/wine. My only concern would be public drinking around the site, but that's what the police are there for. Even if Whole Foods sets-up shop on the Cafritz property, it will not be Metro or pedestrian-accessible, for most folks. The traffic concerns at the Cafritz location are very real. Cafritz is only a quarter-mile from the Route 1 / 410 intersection, 3/4 of a mile from the Metro station, and would draw a considerable amount of additional traffic from the Beltway, and possibly from DC. Unlike downtown College Park, there is no 5-story parking garage to absorb overflow parking there. Harris Teeter is not a destination attraction in the way Whole Foods is, which will naturally help keep those traffic levels down. Plus, a good portion of their customers would walk there, since it would be in the heart of downtown. If the store needs to sell beer to make their rent, I'll support them, just to get the grocery store in there. We want something, they want something: It's a fair trade.
Pamela Torro January 27, 2012 at 12:31 AM
I agree with Matthew - this is a walkable distance for a lot of people and I am thinking that the campus buses will also (if they don't already) have a stop there - which CP residents can use free of charge!
Ken Montville January 27, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Matthew, Maybe I'm confused. What Metro accessibility? Are you possibly referring to a Purple Line stop to be constructed sometime in our lifetime? The only other Metro stop I know of on Paint Branch Parkway is hardly "walkable" to the College Park Shopping Center. Hey, I'm all for a grocery store but not necessarily one that sells beer and wine. There are tons of places in College Park someone can get beer and wine already and I'm not convinced that those who would walk to a Harris Teeter to buy groceries would avoid it because it did not sell beer and wine. The selling job to a place like Harris Teeter is that they can make money as a grocery store, not as a beer and wine store that also, coincidentally, sells food. Evidently, that's a hard sell. I'm also not convinced that traffic would not be just as bad or worse at the College Park Shopping Center than at the Cafritz site. Nor am I persuaded that Whole Foods is a "destination" store.
Nick January 31, 2012 at 04:44 AM
Wikipedia defines a straw man as "an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To 'attack a straw man' is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the 'straw man'), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position." Having shown itself a bad-faith participant in Cafrtiz negotiations, College Park is now trying to create "the illusion of . . . a superficially similar yet unequivalent" alternative to Whole Food. Mr. Rosenfeld's equivocal language belies any suggestion to the contrary. Finally, who can blame Bowie for not wanting anything to do with College Park. If College Park is willing to stab its neighbors in the back to get at its tax revenue imagine what it would do to a city on the other side of the county!
Shannon Hoffman February 07, 2012 at 03:37 PM
And update on Ulysses Currie: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/maryland-politics/post/currie-spends-long-afternoon-with-md-ethics-panel/2012/02/06/gIQAlxFtuQ_blog.html


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