BRANDYWINE – Thousands of commuters travel along US 301 every day, and developers and officials are hoping more of them will stop in Prince George’s County thanks to redevelopment projects in the Brandywine area.
On May 10, County Executive Rushern Baker, III, District 9 County Councilman Mel Franklin and Cadillac Motel owner Manny Patel hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the redevelopment of the motel, located on 301 near the Brandywine Crossing shopping center.
“It’s a big deal for Brandywine. It really signifies that Brandywine is becoming a true economic destination here in the county,” Franklin said. “Amenities are critical to attracting high-quality businesses, like offices, and they’re also critical to attracting residents to want to live locally.”
The redevelopment will occur in four phases. In Phase One, which has already started, a retail center will be built to include retailers such as Verizon and restaurants like Chipotle and Hibachi Grill. Phase Two will be the construction of a Lidl grocery store and an office building where the Cadillac Motel currently stands. In Phase Three, Patel hopes to attract a four-star, 100-room hotel, ideally a Marriott. The final stage will be a medical office complex.
Patel said the 15-acre site will eventually house seven or eight buildings and provide 200-400 direct jobs and support double that amount through its supply needs.
Franklin said that is welcomed news for the area. Residents want to spend their money locally instead of travelling into Charles County to make purchases, he said, and the redevelopment will give them more opportunity to do so.
“We want to keep our residents' dollars in Prince George’s County. We want to have our dollars circulate to help our small business community grow, create jobs,” he said. “At the end of the day, we are trying to make sure that Prince George's County is transformed from being just a bedroom community to being now an economic destination for the region and even the world.”
Getting this project off the ground hasn’t been easy. Patel bought the land back in 1976 and held onto it through the recession. In 2010, he began applying for permits for a hotel project but, three years later, when the permits were finally issued, he changed course and opted to do a shopping center first.
Baker said many property owners and developers gave up on the county during that time, but praised Patel for remaining committed.
“The jobs that will be created from the restaurants, the hotels and the mixed-use are all going to be important for Prince George’s County, in an area that has been asking for these things for a long time,” he said. “To have Mr. Patel stick with us, redo a historic motel and now bring in jobs and a new hotel here, it's going to be fantastic for this area.
“This was a journey. This was not easy. We remember what it was like 7 years ago. You couldn’t talk about a grocery store coming here. We had to figure out a way to try to stop them from leaving. Now they’re coming.”
Patel said the decision to stay with the project made good business sense, from his perspective.
“The key is, it’s a nicely located area. And if you think about it, Virginia is already filled up. And PG County is surrounded by almost 50 percent of the Beltway, and compared to any other county, PG County is centrally located. So I would say, one day, Prince George’s County’s going to be big, like Fairfax County,” he said. “And that was one of the reasons I decided to be here.”
Shopping centers like the one Patel hopes to build are on the decline around the country. According to Costar, an industry research and analytics group, in a May 10 news release, some of the major retailers that serve as anchors for many of the country’s malls – like Macy’s and JCPenney – have announced closures amounting to 64 million square feet in 2017 alone, and vacancy rates in all grades of malls have increased, some for the first time in five years.
But Prince George’s County is bucking this trend. Jim Coleman, chief executive officer of the county’s Economic Development Corporation, said it is because of rising incomes and spending in the county.
“Our median household income is up $5,000, meaning more of our families in the county have more to spend,” Coleman said. “The other big thing is, we do about $7 billion a year in total sales. We could be doing $9 billion. There’s about $2 billion that leave in revenue sales every year in Prince George's County. We’re going to capture that and bring that back home.”
In addition to the Cadillac Motel property, the Brandywine Crossing center will also be getting revitalized, Franklin said, and several new housing developments are also in the works. Franklin said the revenues from these projects can be used to address transportation issues in this part of the county.
“We’re going to have those all work to have us fund more transportation in this area. We’re working right now with the development community to build a spine road that’s going to allow you to go from Brandywine Road right down to Brandywine Crossing and over to a shopping center like this and get around the traffic backup that happens on 5 and 301,” he said.