Groundbreaking planned for Safeway-anchored University Town Center

Development of the Prince George’s University Town Center was derailed, like so many other projects, due to the financial downturn of 2008, but the path forward finally appears to be smoothing out.

Echo Real Estate Services Co. plans to break ground in the next 60 days on a Safeway-anchored retail project at the site along East-West Highway and also hopes that much of the project’s planned retail space will be spoken for long before the project is completed.

“We have picked up a number of projects over the years that either had issues with development or got caught up in the economic upheaval of 2007 and 2008,” Drew Gorman, senior vice president of acquisitions and development, said. “One of the challenges is convincing people the project is going forward. Now, it’s for real.”

The two-building development, slated to cost around $25 million, should be completed in late 2015. Echo previously reached a deal to bring Safeway in as an anchor tenant. 

KLNB Retail recently brokered two more retail leases in the 82,000-square-foot project, Unleashed by Petco and boutique salon concept Phenix Salon Suites. Gorman said interest in the project is starting to pick up and he believes the retail center could be a catalyst for additional development in the area.

Safeway will lease 55,000 square feet in the development. Petco has signed a lease for 4,600 square feet and Phenix another 4,500 square feet. There is about 18,000 square feet still available for lease.

Echo has retained MV+A Architects and Bohler Engineering for the project, but has not yet selected a general contractor. The retail center is part of the larger 1.3 million-square-foot University Town Center development that includes a student-housing tower and more than 1,0000 luxury apartments. 

Several  portions of the project went into foreclosure and were sold off back in 2011, stunting the development’s potential economic impact. Prince George’s County and Hyattsville approved a $3.5 million tax deal in November to help support the project, with the hope that the development will generate more momentum for the larger project and surrounding area. Jim Chandler, assistant city administrator for Hyattsville, then told the Washington Post the project has failed to catch on due to the lack of an anchor tenant.

“Part of the struggle of that development is that the anchor is absent now,”  Chandler told the Post. “Safeway will serve as an anchor, will create more retail and residential demand for the area, and will help increase the occupancy rate.”

Echo acquired the 3.5-acre site of its planned development back in January from the Bernstein Co., which selected it to develop the property after acquiring the land and an adjacent 1,500-car parking garage.


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