Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Beltway Plaza could become mixed-use site

Mall needs co-owners to redevelop the property

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To create residential and office space at Beltway Plaza, as well as new retail shops, mall owners are hoping to find a co-owner so they can redevelop the property.

A new mixed-use site, which would incorporate part of the existing mall, could cost $300 million to $500 million, said Kap Kapastin, Beltway Plaza spokesman. GB Mall Limited Partnership, owner of the shopping center, needs a co-owner of the property to absorb that cost.

Mall owners have been in talks with potential joint-venture partners for the past two years, Kapastin said. For legal reasons, he could not say who GB Mall Limited Partnership has spoken to.

However, Kapastin said this year’s goal is to have a partner and mixed-use conceptual site plan approved by the Prince George’s County Planning Board, which regulates all county development, before June 30.

Kapastin also said GB Mall Limited Partnership hopes to have a partner before June 30. He said a joint venture partnership is necessary for a major investment because of the potential financial risk. He said the mall is not struggling financially.

The mall, located on Greenbelt Road, currently has 115 businesses on its property, including Target, a Giant Food store, Value City and Marshall’s. But owners say the trend for renovations or expansion of shopping centers is leaning toward mixed-use and that is something they would like to do as well.

‘‘I think a mixed-use site is the [most logical transformation] for Beltway Plaza property,” Kapastin said.

Residents have mixed views about the mall’s potential transformation.

Hyattsville resident Melvin Judkins said adding residential space would make Beltway Plaza overcrowded.

‘‘I think the office space would be better than residential because having residential makes the area too congested. But with office space, that’s more jobs,” Judkins said. ‘‘There is enough homes across the street. This area could use more jobs. You see all the kids that hang out here, they could be working.”

However, College Park resident Richard Thimijan said he realizes that the mall’s expansion is inevitable.

‘‘I suppose that’s the right logical step,” Thimijan, 69, said. ‘‘Properties are always changing. The question is do you want to get bigger or smaller, and I don’t think [the mall] wants to get smaller.”

The Greenbelt City Council has not taken an official position on the mall’s redevelopment. However, Celia Craze, Greenbelt’s director of Planning and Community Development, said the city currently has concerns with pedestrian and vehicle traffic on the site.

‘‘Some of the concerns the city of Greenbelt has had historically with Beltway Plaza is with circulation, how people and vehicles move around on the site, the aesthetic of the property and the long term market position,” Craze said.

Craze said discussions would continue between mall representatives and city staff before a proposal is brought before the City Council. Craze said the city has not discussed the project at all because it is too early in the process.

‘‘It’s too early to say what is to become of the mall. We’re still in discussion. But whoever we collaborate with will have to come up with a lot of money because right now we don’t have the money to pay for the redevelopment,” Kapastin said.

E-mail Marcus Ngbea at mngbea@gazette.net.