The crumbling Bowie Marketplace shopping center sat on Route 450 for years as the city and various developers tried to engineer some kind of plan for its destruction and eventual makeover.

Now, the job of eliminating the retail eyesore is proceeding ahead of schedule.

Berman Enterprises, the Rockville-based development firm that has taken over the property, began tearing down the rear of the retail space on Monday morning – about a month ahead of schedule. Safety fences are up, bulldozers are on site and the piles of rubble have begun to form.

Berman had initially hoped to begin demolition on June 1.

“It would not be happening if not for the incredible effort of the city and county,” said Brian Berman, a partner in the development firm. “They’ve done everything in their power to get this through quickly and get this eyesore down.”

Berman said that his company paid for early termination of some of the tenants’ leases to get them out sooner, a move designed to give work crews a chance to take advantage of the favorable spring weather conditions.

“I think this begins the resurrection of the site,” Bowie Mayor G. Frederick Robinson said last week when the county and city finally issues the necessary permits. “This is going to be like a phoenix coming out of the ashes.

“My guess is that this will be positive move for that whole (Route) 450 corridor. I’m incredibly pleased that we’re doing this. I’m just looking forward to walking into Harris Tetter in 12 to 16 months and buying some groceries.”

Both the city and Berman tried for years to woo a grocery store to anchor the new retail space. It was considered quite a coup for the city, county and Berman to land Harris Teeter. The grocery chain has only one other outlet in Prince George’s County, in Laurel.

As part of the deal, Harris Teeter will also operate its own gas station on the site.

Berman said that the company is close to finalizing deals with a number of other tenants, including Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, Sweet Frog (a frozen yogurt chain), Firehouse Subs and Sports Clips, a chain specializing in men’s haircuts. There will also be a luxury day spa in the new shopping center, which will have space for about 25 businesses in all, Berman said.

Two tenants of the now-closed shopping center – Parcel Express and Chaney Tire & Auto – will return when it re-opens. The debut of the new shopping center is tentatively scheduled for sometime in the summer of 2016.

Officials from Glory Days, a locally popular sports-themed bar/restaurant in the old shopping center, continue to negotiate with Berman about a possible return.

As of now, there are no plans to change the name of the shopping center, according to Berman, even though it will look entirely different. Inevitably, people would refer to it as Bowie Marketplace even if the developers decided to call it something else.

“That name has a lot of nostalgia,” he said. “If the city and residents really want to change it, we would.”

Members of the city council were so eager to make over the decaying retail space that they approved an incentive package of nearly $1 million last fall to help Berman attract a grocery store anchor and cover some of the other costs associated with the demolition and re-construction of a new shopping center.

City officials had been hoping to engineer a makeover for years while encountering one roadblock after another, including several changes in ownership of the land. Meanwhile, the shopping center continued to decline.

John McNamara

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