By: Mary-Ellen Davis, Staff Writer
Retail Properties of America Inc. has released plans to renovate Towson Circle and Towson Square, which the company purchased from Heritage Properties Inc. and Cordish Companies in 2015, to make the area more accessible to members of the community.
Towson Circle, south of Towson Town Center mall, is the epicenter of businesses in uptown Towson area.
Towson Square, located just below the circle, is bounded by York Road, Joppa Road, Virginia Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue. The square houses a collection of stores, restaurants and the Cinemark Towson Theater.
The plans for the area, which were originally brought up in 2015 and are currently under review by the county council, are expected to be approved later this year, slating construction to begin in 2018. The redevelopment will bring underground retail on Joppa Road up to street level to increase accessibility to the stores in the circle, as well as add mid-rise apartments, creating 371 units. RPAI has paired with AvalonBay Communities on the residential portion of the project.
Vice President of Development from RPAI Nick Over said the inspiration for the project came more from “necessity in that the current asset… is configured as a ‘mini-mall’ that is no longer feasible in today’s retail environment.”
Over explained that the current configuration makes it so that 70 percent of leasable property is below ground, which “is simply not viable as retail and restaurant tenant’s today want walkable, street facing retail, in a pedestrian realm format.”
“The inspiration came when we developed a design and re-configuration of the project that created a vertically integrated mixed-use, pedestrian friendly, double sided retail street along Joppa Road,” Over said.
Baltimore County Councilman David Marks said the project will “bring the retail up to the street level, so that’s what you want to have in a downtown core. You want to have street level presence, so I think it’s definitely going to improve the look of that area.”
When asked about the goals for this project, Over said RPAI wants to provide best in class retail and restaurants for the community.
“This project will become the place for residents and students of Towson to visit for their retail shopping, entertainment, and dining needs,” he said.
Marks said that while the redevelopment is going to lead to a lot of change in the area, the proposal is consistent with the vision for downtown Towson, which will lead to a higher density within the commercial core.
Marks also expects there to be both population and demographic changes, as the new apartments at the square, as well as those being developed in another project known as Towson Row, will provide a lot of new housing options for community members and students in the area.
Towson Row is a one million square foot, planned development for downtown Towson which will include office spaces, retail spaces, luxury high-rise apartments, exclusive student housing, a business-oriented hotel and a parking garage, according to the Towson Row website.
Over believes the project will “help raise the profile of Towson and the University and serve as model for future development around it.”
Marks cited the conditions of the site as the most challenging aspect of the project.
“We will be building on a small site in a hole with multiple busy streets around the site. That said, we are confident that we can accomplish this project and deliver something unique to Towson,” he said.
Towson Row, which has already been approved, will have student designated housing, as well as apartments and retail areas incorporated into the project.
“Towson Row will be under construction well before Towson Circle. The delay with Towson Row has had to do with the excavation of the rock,” Marks said. “The developer has redone the blueprints for the project, and they should be starting construction this spring.”