Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Washington Outer Beltway Alters Belair at Bowie Plans

Many people from Bowie are aware that the Somerset neighborhood, informally known as the "S" section, was the first neighborhood to be built by Levitt & Sons on the former Woodward estate known as Belair.  What's not as commonly known is that Somerset was not intended to be the first neighborhood.

According to an article written by Don Wescott in 1974, an executive who worked for Levitt & Sons for years, Levitt planned on building the Glenridge neighborhood first.  In the Belair at Bowie lexicon, Glenridge is not a very familiar name.  It's certainly not as familiar as Somerset, Buckingham, Kenilworth or Tulip Grove.  So what is Glenridge?

Glenridge was originally a 72 acre parcel of land across from the end of Church Road at the intersection of what was then Route 450 (now Old Route 450).  It was bordered on the west by a property containing a telephone utility building, and it was bordered on the east by the railroad tracks in some spots, and Route 197 in others.  The red oval in the following image illustrates the approximate location of the proposed Glenridge at Belair subdivision (the "G" section).  Twenty-two houses were eventually developed in the northeast corner of the property on Galaxy Lane in 1969.  Those 22 houses make up what is today known as the Glenridge neighborhood, and the remaining undeveloped portion of the property is now owned by the City of Bowie.

So why did Levitt & Sons alter the plans to build the Glenridge section first?  After Levitt created the initial plan for Belair at Bowie, a plan was proposed to build the Washington Outer Beltway - a highway similar to the proposed Capital Beltway that would circle the D.C. area.  The Outer Beltway would be much longer than the Capital Beltway, and it would be located farther out in the suburbs.  Part of the Outer Beltway was going to run along the northern end of Church Road, and a highway interchange was going to be built at what was then the intersection of Church Road and Route 450.

The dark blue line on the following map shows the proposed path of the Outer Beltway, and the blue circles represent the proposed interchanges.  The red arrow on the map points to the proposed interchange at the intersection of Church Road and what was then Route 450.

Levitt decided that it wouldn't be a good idea to build a neighborhood in the path of a proposed highway, so the plans were changed, and Somerset became the first Belair at Bowie neighborhood to be built.

The Washington Outer Beltway was never built as originally proposed, although the Intercounty Connector and the Fairfax County Parkway are considered to be portions of the original proposal.

Several years after the original Glenridge plan was scrapped, another proposal was made that would affect the Glenridge parcel.  A proposal was made to relocate Route 450 so that it would bisect Glenridge into two sections.  It would take more than 35 years before that proposal came to fruition.