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From the Baltimore Sun"

Towson's transformation gets going
Flurry of projects set to replace rubble from demolition
By Laura Barnhardt
Sun reporter
Originally published May 20, 2007
The heavy equipment has arrived in Towson.

Bulldozers have plowed through many of the old stone apartment buildings on Dulaney Valley Road, and they've knocked down a gas station next to the Towson Town Center mall, along with three commercial buildings near the York Road traffic circle.

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Before the various demolition crews are finished, they'll take out a fast-food restaurant, part of the Towson Commons complex and dozens of houses. The rubble, though, will soon be replaced with luxury apartments, restaurants and new stores.

Projects long in the works are moving forward in Towson - and the work crews are providing visible evidence of what some say is an unprecedented flurry of development in the Baltimore County seat.

"People have been saying, 'We just want to see the cranes,'" said Andrea J. Van Arsdale, commercial revitalization director for the county's Department of Economic Development, whose office puts the value of development coming to the area at more than $400 million. "Now, when you get off the Beltway in Towson, you see the cranes. ... Dirt is being moved."

County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, who represents the area and has been on the council since 1990, said: "I don't think we've ever seen all this, all at the same time."

For decades, residents, business leaders and elected officials have kicked around ideas to reshape Towson. While the core of the town has grown over the years, it retains many of its quaint elements, and residents crave such amenities as upscale restaurants. Stubborn problems - notably, traffic patterns that can make walking an adventure - remain unresolved.

But some who live and work in Towson are hoping those questions can finally be answered, even as the new wave of development draws more visitors and residents - and gives all of them more chances to spend their money.

Projects getting off the ground include the first expansion of Towson Town Center since 1992, when the Nordstrom store opened, as well as three new high-end apartment and condominium complexes with a total of more than 1,400 units. The new Fidelity Investments office on the traffic circle is due to be completed within months. And new restaurants and shops are part of a renovation under way at the 15-year-old Towson Commons, which includes an enclosed, three-story mall and 10-story office tower.

County economic development officials haven't even included the likely cost of some other, newer projects in estimating at least $400 million in development in the area in the next five years.

"People see other people jumping in, and they jump in, too," said J. Stephen Adams, president of the Towson Retail and Restaurant Association. "You need momentum."

Some business and community leaders are less enthusiastic about the projects in the works, saying there's nothing, thus far, that has created a strong buzz. Residents want - and have the cash to support - boutiques and restaurants that offer an alternative to the chains, said Mike Ertel, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations.

"From a neighborhood perspective, we're still hoping we get those things," he said.

Transforming Towson - home to Goucher College, Towson University and three hospitals, along with the county government - has been a source of frustration, and conflict, for years. Spiro T. Agnew was Baltimore County executive when, in 1964, a commission put together a spiral-bound plan for "A New Urban Center" of shopping and dining. But many of the same issues remain under discussion - as seen by the fact that at least five studies have been conducted since 1992.

And not all development plans have been warmly received. When the county gave preliminary approval for a proposal that included student dormitories in the heart of town, residents complained of being shut out of the process - and claimed victory when the dormitory proposal was dropped in 2005.

Perhaps no other problem has proved as vexing as creating an urban, walking environment in a hub of suburban car culture.

Merchants have long lobbied to extend the hours for parking along York Road through the center of town to slow traffic and steer drivers toward the Towson bypass. The most recent blueprint for Towson even suggests taking down the stop lights in favor of four-way stop signs.

"Right now, York Road is a highway bifurcating the town," Adams said.

And while some who already live in Towson worry that more development will mean too many more traffic jams, others point out that the new high-rise dwellers should be able to simply walk to the new stores and eating establishments.

A weeklong planning session dubbed "Walkable Towson" is planned for next month. This comes a year after an out-of-town Urban Design Assistance Team, or UDAT, helped draw up a plan for Towson.
That plan included ideas like using the parking lot near Trader Joe's below Joppa Road as a "canyon" for weekend festivals, farmers' markets and concerts. Nearly all of the projects in the works in Towson include aspects that community and business leaders named as priorities during the UDAT process, such as attracting residents to areas where many of the businesses and offices are located, said County Executive James T. Smith Jr.

And restaurants - listed among the most important amenities by residents - are part of the plans for the Towson Town Center expansion, the Towson Commons renovation and the Towson Circle III development on East Joppa Road near the Towson Circle complex that is home to Barnes and Noble Books, Trader Joe's and Pier 1 Imports.

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A spokesman said last week that tenants for the expanded area of the mall would be announced soon, after lease agreements are reached. In earlier discussions with the community, mall officials said an expanded Crate and Barrel store would be part of the addition, which is to have a "Main Street"-style facade.

The latest project to be unveiled, a 15-story apartment complex near the old courthouse government center, tentatively called the Palisades of Towson, would also include new shops, offices, and restaurants, county officials said.

The residential projects planned for Towson are mostly luxury rental complexes. The demand for those units has remained high despite the recent housing slump, Van Arsdale said.

"The private sector is responding in significant ways to the input of the community," Smith said.

The convergence of the projects can also be attributed to tax incentives, Towson's central location, the number of businesses and government offices, and the demographics of Towson residents, Gardina and others said.

"The market conditions have to be right," said Robert A. Hoffman, a land-use and development attorney in Towson involved with many of the projects in the works. "There's a greater demand to live in urban areas. ... And the level of retail options in itself is an attraction."

The first residential project expected to be completed is The Quarter, a 900-unit condominium and apartment complex that will replace the Dulaney Valley apartments across from Goucher College on Dulaney Valley Road.

Demolition of vacant houses bought up in prior years in the Towson Manor Village neighborhood closer to Towson University is expected to begin this fall, clearing the way for a complex of condominiums, townhouses and single-family homes. And there are plans to build a luxury apartment complex, called The Promenade, at York and Lambourne roads.

Business and community leaders say they hope to find the point where the area prospers but where those who already live there are not overwhelmed by the growth.

"Economically, Towson needs a shot in the arm," Ertel said. "The tightrope you have to walk is how much development is enough and how much is too much.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Synopsis

The projects
Originally published May 20, 2007

The Quarter

A $170 million, 900-unit condominium and apartment development at Dulaney Valley Road and Fairmount Avenue replaces the 256-unit Dulaney Valley Apartments. Demolition began last month. The first phase, a 150-unit condominium building, is scheduled for completion in 2009.

Fidelity Investor Center

A 6,800-square-foot office on the York Road traffic circle for the mutual fund manager. Demolition of a bank, small office building and optometrist office has been completed. Building is expected to open this fall.

Towson Manor Village

A 160-unit complex of condominiums, townhouses and duplex or single-family homes near Towson University. Twenty-one single-family homes and four duplexes will be demolished. The first phase would be complete in 2009, finished by 2012.

Towson Town Center expansion

Addition of more than 100,000 square feet to the 930,000-square-foot enclosed mall to make room for three restaurants, an expanded upscale, home furnishing store, with its own entrance facing Dulaney Valley Road, and more parking. Project to be completed in the summer of 2008.

Towson Circle III

Addition of 2,000-seat movie complex, shops, restaurants and parking near Towson Circle. Construction to begin in 2008.

Towson Commons

A $30 million makeover to the 324,440-square-foot center at York Road and West Pennsylvania Avenue. Some retail space would be demolished, according to the plans. The office space will remain. First phase of renovations is scheduled to be completed in November.

The Promenade

A 379-unit apartment complex at York and Lambourne roads.

Palisades of Towson

A 15-story apartment building, with parking and retail, office or restaurant space at the street level. Construction is to begin next year.
 

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Keep in minds

Towson University is adding 3,000 to 4,000 beds over the next 10 years and will go to 20,000 students. They should have 8,000 to 9,000 living on campus in the next 10-15 years.

The projects
Originally published May 20, 2007

The Quarter

A $170 million, 900-unit condominium and apartment development at Dulaney Valley Road and Fairmount Avenue replaces the 256-unit Dulaney Valley Apartments. Demolition began last month. The first phase, a 150-unit condominium building, is scheduled for completion in 2009.

Fidelity Investor Center

A 6,800-square-foot office on the York Road traffic circle for the mutual fund manager. Demolition of a bank, small office building and optometrist office has been completed. Building is expected to open this fall.

Towson Manor Village[/b[

A 160-unit complex of condominiums, townhouses and duplex or single-family homes near Towson University. Twenty-one single-family homes and four duplexes will be demolished. The first phase would be complete in 2009, finished by 2012.

Towson Town Center expansion

Addition of more than 100,000 square feet to the 930,000-square-foot enclosed mall to make room for three restaurants, an expanded upscale, home furnishing store, with its own entrance facing Dulaney Valley Road, and more parking. Project to be completed in the summer of 2008.

Towson Circle III

Addition of 2,000-seat movie complex, shops, restaurants and parking near Towson Circle. Construction to begin in 2008.

Towson Commons

A $30 million makeover to the 324,440-square-foot center at York Road and West Pennsylvania Avenue. Some retail space would be demolished, according to the plans. The office space will remain. First phase of renovations is scheduled to be completed in November.

The Promenade

A 379-unit apartment complex at York and Lambourne roads.

Palisades of Towson

A 15-story apartment building, with parking and retail, office or restaurant space at the street level. Construction is to begin next year.
 

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It's about time Towson got some new buildings. I think it could really become a bethesda or silver spring if there are a few more highrises with ground-level retail. It's just too bad that buses are the only public transportation option available.
 

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^^ Ideally the Yellow Line will connect Towson to the rest of the metro system in the not too distant future, but there was also talk of a streetcar on York Rd. being part of Towson's revitalization.
 

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I had never heard of a Yellow line coming soon. Either way, great to see some higher buildings creating more density in Towson and hopefully York and Charles seem some revitilization. I agree about Towson becoming a Bethesda, but they are a real long way off.
 

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I had never heard of a Yellow line coming soon. Either way, great to see some higher buildings creating more density in Towson and hopefully York and Charles seem some revitilization. I agree about Towson becoming a Bethesda, but they are a real long way off.
The Yellow line was a hypothetical LRT line drawn into a plan during the Glendenning days. It's so far in the future as to be fantasy.

I hope some of these projects in Towson come to fruition. The place has a lot of unused potential and the Balto County govt seems to lose interest for a decade at a time. What I saw in that article looks interesting and should add to the density and residential base, but what they also need is a comprehensive rehab of the pedestrian environment. Crossing the roundabout is only for serious sprinters and handling the daunting hill discourages walkers who aren't in it for the fitness. If you ever try to enter the Mall from York Road, you have to navigate through a bunch of dreary garages and stairways.

Right now the biggest unresolved question I can see is that ugly "Investment Building" that sits at the summit of the hill. A seriously sick building, it's hard to imagine anybody willingly moving into that hulk and being at the top of the hill it's visible for miles in every direction. What do you do with something like that? Maybe somebody could strip it to the steel structure and rebuild.
 

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I had never heard of a Yellow line coming soon. Either way, great to see some higher buildings creating more density in Towson and hopefully York and Charles seem some revitilization. I agree about Towson becoming a Bethesda, but they are a real long way off.
The yellow line is so far off I'm not really thinking about it. Charles st. is mostly wooded in Balt. Co., I hope tha it dosn't get developed. Maybe you were thinking of Dulaney Valley Rd. in Towson?

Was Towson overbuilt in the late-60's -early-80's? I did not live here and ask as a general question. I see a lot of development in that timeframe and not too much since.

Towson has been in a 15 year funk with only some smaller developments occuring (the condo's on fairmount. some smaller redevelopment). Not really regression, but certainly stagnent. Since I live near Towson I am really happy to see some fresh life in Towson.
 

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.....Was Towson overbuilt in the late-60's -early-80's? I did not live here and ask as a general question. I see a lot of development in that timeframe and not too much since.

Towson has been in a 15 year funk with only some smaller developments occuring (the condo's on fairmount. some smaller redevelopment). Not really regression, but certainly stagnent. Since I live near Towson I am really happy to see some fresh life in Towson.
I don't think Towson overbuilt but many others seem attached to the idea of the sepia-tinted county seat that just isn't there anymore. Development has never been dead (the mall, Towson circle, condos on Fairmount, a couple office buildings at Joppa and Fairmount), but there never seems to be any big plan that is promoted by the government. Some streetscaping and the big rotary were built, but somehow when things get rolling, the county government seems to lose interest for a few years. I don't get it. There is enough vacant and underutilized land that's there's room for lots more density and activity. It's a small mile-square area that has 2 colleges, county government, 3 hospitals, a major corporation and numerous law offices and it could be a beehive of activity while still preserving the pleasant old-suburban surroundings, especially to the west.
 

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I like what theyre doing in the mall. Theyre opening up the ceilings on the 1st and 2nd floors to let more skylight in, the way it comes in on the 3rd and 4th floors that way it doesnt feel like a scary dungeon anymore.

I really hope they add more lighting around the towson commons area. Friday and Saturday nights, theres way too much "riff raff" loitering on the corner in front of the theater. When the 711 up the street added more lighting it really made the area feel safer... but who knows, maybe moving the bus stop caused that O_O

What do you think the chances of Towson one day getting annexed by the city are??
 

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I like what theyre doing in the mall. Theyre opening up the ceilings on the 1st and 2nd floors to let more skylight in, the way it comes in on the 3rd and 4th floors that way it doesnt feel like a scary dungeon anymore.

I really hope they add more lighting around the towson commons area. Friday and Saturday nights, theres way too much "riff raff" loitering on the corner in front of the theater. When the 711 up the street added more lighting it really made the area feel safer... but who knows, maybe moving the bus stop caused that O_O

What do you think the chances of Towson one day getting annexed by the city are??
I'm wondering if the movies will go away when TC is re-done. I have not heard specifics but one of the recent new pieces alluded to a movie in a different location. I guess that would just move the riff-raff problem to another location but we have to be careful with labels because the riff-raff will take care of us in our dotage.

As for the chances of being annexed, that's close to zero. Towson is the seat of county government and the state enacted a law in the 1940's that specifically forbade the city from growing again without a vote of all the counties in the State legislature. One of Baltimore's problems is that it is so separate from the rest of the State and, with that ironclad boundary, can't grow into its own growth areas. The city also does not have its roads cared for the State, which maintains most big roads in the counties.
 

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What do you think the chances of Towson one day getting annexed by the city are??
zero.

I'm wondering if the movies will go away when TC is re-done. I have not heard specifics but one of the recent new pieces alluded to a movie in a different location. I guess that would just move the riff-raff problem to another location but we have to be careful with labels because the riff-raff will take care of us in our dotage.
They are definitly building movies in the Towson Cirle III development on Joppa (this is the big lot east of Towson Circle, the old guy who owned the only standing stucture on the lot died and it has now all been consolidated). I have not heard for certain, but I have a feeling that they will close the theatre in Towson Commons.
 

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zero.



this is the big lot east of Towson Circle,
Do you mean where the Burger King and the 1st Mariner Bank are? Isn't part of that also used by Vin as an outside eating area? I would really like to see that empty lot developed. It's just been sitting there for goodness knows how long.

Also it's good that someone has started a thread for Towson development since there is a lot going on right now with the mall expansion, the new condos and Goucher College's Athenaum building going up on their campus. I would be all for a replacement for the AMC cinemas that are currently in the Towson Commons. That part of downtown Towson is looking pretty dead since the Borders moved out. That was the only reason that I used to go there even though I hated that parking lot where you used to have to park. It would be great if someone could post some pictures of some of these new developments for people you might not be as familiar with Towson in general.
 

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Do you mean where the Burger King and the 1st Mariner Bank are? Isn't part of that also used by Vin as an outside eating area? I would really like to see that empty lot developed. It's just been sitting there for goodness knows how long.

Also it's good that someone has started a thread for Towson development since there is a lot going on right now with the mall expansion, the new condos and Goucher College's Athenaum building going up on their campus. I would be all for a replacement for the AMC cinemas that are currently in the Towson Commons. That part of downtown Towson is looking pretty dead since the Borders moved out. That was the only reason that I used to go there even though I hated that parking lot where you used to have to park. It would be great if someone could post some pictures of some of these new developments for people you might not be as familiar with Towson in general.
yep that empty lot. Hopefully all these new residences will spur new growth.

The edenwald expansion is also finishing up (Have to mention that since its a 14 story building and this is skyscraper city :lol: ) maybe not as exciting since its senior housing but Edenwald is wealthy senior housing and should the restraunts in the area.
 

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They are definitly building movies in the Towson Cirle III development on Joppa (this is the big lot east of Towson Circle, the old guy who owned the only standing stucture on the lot died and it has now all been consolidated). I have not heard for certain, but I have a feeling that they will close the theatre in Towson Commons.
Given the intense politics of the movie industry and film clearance controversies, I can't imagine having another cineplex in the same small district. You can bet 4 - 1 that if there's another movie complex, the one in TC will go away unless one is willing to show nothing but foreign films and documentaries. The way they have been NOT maintaining the current movie "palace", they must know that too.

I think I heard that the Burger King would remain there. There also are a couple historic stone buildings and a tiny family graveyard that will probably stay. The rest of the area is parking now and it's fairly good size lot for a downtown area.
 

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Towson University is going through a lot of changes too . They are building a new garage , couple new apartment buildings for dorms , a huge acadamic building and renovating the Towson Center .
 

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Do you know what's going where the Lida Lee Tall building was? I have driven past there a couple times lately and to my surprise saw that they had basically ground the old building into dust and were hauling it away.
 

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Do you know what's going where the Lida Lee Tall building was? I have driven past there a couple times lately and to my surprise saw that they had basically ground the old building into dust and were hauling it away.
I think they are trying to create a quad-like area around there. I know they plan to raise Linthicum Hall, a horribly non-descript building in which I endured countless boring lectures in the 80's (we used to call it Linoleum Hall), and replace it with a much larger structure to hold the universities humanities departments. Check out the planned changes here:
http://wwwnew.towson.edu/adminfinance/facilities/facilitiesplanning/masterplan.asp
 

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I think they are trying to create a quad-like area around there. I know they plan to raise Linthicum Hall, a horribly non-descript building in which I endured countless boring lectures in the 80's (we used to call it Linoleum Hall), and replace it with a much larger structure to hold the universities humanities departments. Check out the planned changes here:
http://wwwnew.towson.edu/adminfinance/facilities/facilitiesplanning/masterplan.asp
I hope nobody finds Linthicum to be historic. I also spent many hours in that building, which reminded me of a paper warehouse with desks. The big plan is pretty impressive.
 

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I think they are trying to create a quad-like area around there. I know they plan to raise Linthicum Hall, a horribly non-descript building in which I endured countless boring lectures in the 80's (we used to call it Linoleum Hall), and replace it with a much larger structure to hold the universities humanities departments. Check out the planned changes here:
http://wwwnew.towson.edu/adminfinance/facilities/facilitiesplanning/masterplan.asp
Thanks for finding that link. We have talked about some of the changes coming to TU before and I had seen those renderings but for the life of me I couldn't find that link. :lol:

I had also heard that they were considering tearing down the administration building on Osler. The slanted faux-modern chunk of parallelogram garbage.
 
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