When the Boulevard at the Capital Center was opened in 2003, it was promoted as the first major retail hub in Prince George’s County. Just seven years later, people everywhere are questioning its viability as business after business continues to close.

“That area has shows a consistent history of failed retail services,” said Duane Henderson, a resident of Largo since 1993. “People that purchase nice things have too many nearby options that provide better safety and service.

“Landover Mall failed, AMC Theatres failed and Sam’s Club failed all before the Boulevard. If you consider that all those franchises are in the same 1 mile radius of the Boulevard, it is no surprise to me that the Boulevard failed as well.”

The site was built on the grounds of the old Capital Centre (also known as the US Airways Arena). Anchored by the Magic Johnson movie theater, it was supposed to rival the outdoor shopping malls in other parts of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. However, the economic downtown, safety and perception have prevented it from being competitive with shopping centers in Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties.

The mall has had its fair share of issues with crime over the years. There have been multiple murders at the complex and a rash of car thefts, which many county residents said have made them shy away from the complex as they believe an unsavory element ruins the entire experience.

Wayne Phillips, a victim of a crime at the complex, says he sees no reason to go back again. “The last time I went to the Boulevard I spent over $100 and it wasn’t on merchandise,” said Phillips, a District Heights resident. “It was on the glass I had to get replaced the next day.”

Shannon Gray, a 33-year-old Bowie resident, still patronizes the complex, but she limits herself to certain stores at certain times of the day. “I think location, types of stores and the fact that they let people hang around plagued it,” Gray said. “I will go there early on a Saturday morning to go to Game Stop, Chick-fil-A or to Carolina Kitchen, but other than that, no, I don’t go.”

Over the past five years, there have been five murders at the complex including the infamous 2008 triple homicide outside the now defunct Uno Chicago Grill on Super Bowl Sunday.

Businesses like Circuit City, Linens ‘N Things, Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles and Office Depot have all gone under. This year, WOW Wingery has already closed and the closing of Sidelines, a restaurant owned by former Washington Redskins and current 106.7 radio personality Lavar Arrington, received enormous media scrutiny. Even the space Sidelines took over was the location of a closed restaurant, Red Star Tavern.

Inland U.S. Management, the Boulevard’s property owners, are well aware of the struggles the complex has seen. They say however, more than anything else, the recession is the primary reason for the problems the shopping center has faced.

“The Boulevard at the Capital Centre was not immune from the nationwide economic turmoil of the past several years, experiencing store closings that reflected the nationwide downturn on a local level, as tenants like Circuit City, Linens ‘N Things and Uno’s closed to due chain-wide bankruptcies,” said Bill Parks, vice president of property management at Inland, in an e-mail.

However, Parks remains optimistic about the complex and says he believes in the buying power of the residents in Prince George’s County. He says the Boulevard is due for a turnaround.

“The Boulevard at the Capital Center benefits from a great location and an outstanding lineup of remaining tenants,” Parks went on to say. “We continue to aggressively market the vacant space and are seeing increasing leasing activity from local and national tenants. We recently signed a lease with a major tenant to take over the Circuit City space, which will be announced in coming weeks.”


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO