Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Shopping center to go ‘green’

Owner sees Burtonsville plaza using geothermal power, recycled materials

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The owner of the Burtonsville Shopping Center hopes to make it the most environmentally friendly plaza in the country when he breaks ground on a new center in July.

‘‘It is our goal to build the ‘greenest’ suburban retail in America,” said Chris Jones, the president of the BMC Property Group, who owns the land.

Jones, who unveiled plans for the shopping center during a June 4 presentation before the East County Citizens Advisory Board, said his goal for a ‘‘green” design is ‘‘not just fluff” and outlined a host of environmental changes.

He said his approach includes drilling 30 to 40 geothermal heat pumps 350 feet down into the parking lot, which will cycle heat from just below the earth’s surface to power the center and reduce the current energy used by 35 percent.

Tenants will be required to use Energy Star appliances, which Jones said are the most efficient. He plans to purchase wind and solar energy and use at least 75 percent of recycled material from the old shopping center to build the new one.

Among the changes visible to shoppers will be special parking for hybrid cars, bike racks, native plants and a pedestrian-friendly environment, he said.

In his presentation, Jones said the 150,000-square-foot area at the corner of routes 29 and 198 would feature an unnamed anchor grocery store, three large retail areas and at least two sit-down restaurants. Dunkin’ Donuts and the post office will be moving out, Jones said, while the county liquor store and the CVS will stay.

Jones stressed he is going ahead with this project despite what the county does with its revitalization efforts, although he has been talking often with Roylene Roberts with the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, who is heading the Burtonsville Community Legacy Plan to upgrade the area. He said his town center should easily fit into the county’s plans.

Jones plans to begin construction within the next month and hopes to finish by late spring of 2009.

Kim Bobola, advisory board chairwoman, said she was impressed with Jones’ time scale and presentation, adding it was the most information anyone has heard about his shopping center plans.

‘‘He was as forthcoming as he could be at this time,” she said. Bobola said there was frustration within the community that a new shopping center was just talk. But she said Jones’ presentation showed her that ‘‘something’s happening now.”

‘‘We’re going to see results,” she said.

However, all the stores still have not been determined. Jones said he has two spaces for sit-down restaurants but may not be able to attract a tenant until the economy gets better.

‘‘Sit-down restaurants are the first ones affected by a recession,” he said.

He said he could not announce what the grocery store would be but declined to comment on speculation that it will be a Giant supermarket. He did, however, reassure board members that there is enough room in Burtonsville for another grocery store. A Giant supermarket is currently located across the street in the Burtonsville Crossing shopping center.

Advisory board member Bill Strassberger said he has high hopes that the new shopping center will bring commerce back to an area that has lost it since the Route 29 bypass was put in.

‘‘I’m optimistic because Burtonsville is really struggling to survive,” he said.

He said Jones’ plan seems to be a good compromise between the community and what is economically viable.

‘‘No one can fault him as they have in the past,” he said.