Business is starting to percolate in Prince George’s County’s outer beltway areas with new restaurants and businesses opening while the bidding process for a south county casino moves into the final stages, officials said this week.

A major project is expected to be announced by mid May.

Aubrey Thagard, an assistant deputy chief administrative officer for Prince George’s County, said the county has attracted “business with good salaries, a good number of jobs.” Details will be released in the announcement, he said.
One of the most anticipated projects, a multimillion dollar casino, has moved into final bidding with three companies vying for the opportunity to build the facility.

Penn National, which owns Rosecroft Raceway, submitted an offer for a $700 million casino with 500 slot machines at the ailing race track off Brinkley Road. Greenwood Racing, which operates Parx Casino in Philadelphia, has offered to build an $800 million casino with 4,750 slot machines at a site near Indian Head Highway. MGM offered to build an $800 million casino with 3,600 slot machines at National Harbor.

The casino cannot open until July 1, 2016 or after a new casino opens in Baltimore, officials said. The state committee that oversees casinos and gaming plans to make the final decision on the winning bid by year’s end.

Another potential economic windfall for the county would be the relocation of the FBI headquarters from Northwest Washington to Greenbelt when the agency relocates from the J. Edgar Hoover building in downtown D.C.

In February, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and Prince George’s Council Chair Andrea Harrison co-wrote a letter to the General Services Administration (GSA) suggesting Greenbelt as an ideal location due to its proximity to Washington, D.C. and the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade, Md. The letter also trumpeted Greenbelt’s accessibility to I-95, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, Metro and MARC trains. If the county were to secure the FBI building, it would join other government facilities already housed in the county from agencies such as NASA, the Smithsonian, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, NOAA and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The FBI project would bring “11,000 – 15,000 employees to the county and roughly a $52 million revenue impact,” Thagard said.

The regional competition for the FBI relocation took a nasty turn when Gerald Gordon, president of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, implied at a meeting on March 7 that the FBI should relocate to Prince George’s so it would be close to all the criminals they track, according to the Washington Business Journal.

Several people at the meeting were offended by the statement. Gordon said in an email to the Journal that he “made that comment in the context of talking about why Fairfax County is the most appropriate location for the FBI headquarters, including our safe neighborhoods and decades-long tradition of good government.”

Prince George’s officials tried to stay out of the fray, according to Thagard. “The comments were inappropriate and as a policy we don’t make those types of disparaging comments about other jurisdictions,” he said.

While the FBI building and the casino are in a holding pattern for now, other projects are coming to fruition.

Cheddar’s Casual Cafe and the Xscape 14 Theaters recently opened in Brandywine Crossing and slated to open soon are the mega-auto dealer CarMax and family-friendly restaurant Fuddrucker’s.

“Obviously it has not only an impact on the county in that area, but it serves as a draw from Charles County, as well,” Thagard said. “An anchor on that edge of the county is very important.”

While the Southern end of the county experiences new business development, Bowie on the northern end is dealing with success and struggle.

Two luxury apartment complexes are being constructed adjacent to Bowie Town Center. But at the same time, the shopping center is struggling to keep a hold on customers after losing big name stores such as the Gap and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

The economic viability of the town center remains a priority, officials said.

“We’ve been working with the City of Bowie with regards to retention over there,” Thagard said. “Looking at how we can replace some of those large stores, we are working continuously on that area.”


Teria Rogers

Special to the AFRO