The New Towson: A mini-city in the making

Posted at 9:30 AM, Aug 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-26 09:30:50-04

A staple of the Canton Square, home to hubcap margaritas and Elvis, will soon have a second home.

“Towson has a nice plan and we’re looking forward to being a part of it,” Alison Parker, project manager of the Towson Nacho Mama’s, said.

Nacho Mama’s is set to open its second location at 2 West Pennsylvania Ave. before the end of the year.

Nancy Hafford is the executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce. She said people are anxious for the restaurant’s opening.

“The biggest question I hear is, ‘when are they going to be open?’” she said.

Hafford said she’s heard all positive feedback about the opening. She believes that the locally owned restaurants are something that set Towson apart and she is “thrilled to death” to have had so many businesses choose Towson.

Though Towson is less than three miles from the city line, it’s becoming quite a city in its own right.  In addition to Nacho Mama’s, the Point in Fells is set to take over 523 York Road, the former spot of The Crease.  Local restaurants and retailers aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed big changes in Towson, but developers want in, too.

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Several development projects are set to add more retail, restaurants, business space and homes.

Developers of the Towson Row project are bringing Baltimore County’s only Whole Foods Market to Towson. The 1 million square foot, $350 million development will take up five acres of land bound by York Road, Towsontowne Boulevard, Washington Avenue and Chesapeake Avenue. In addition, the project is set to add over 300 luxury high-rise apartments to an ever changing skyline.

“Towson has changed,” Hafford said. “Some people don’t like it, but some people just don’t like change.”

She believes the business community is the front door of the residential community. She says you need full, popular and busy storefronts to make the neighborhood attractive.

Councilman David Marks agreed. He said one of the biggest challenges has been keeping residents in downtown Towson. When he was elected in 2010, he aimed to revitalize Towson. Since then, he’s worked with entrepreneurs and developers to attract residents downtown.

Towson Square opened in 2013, bringing a brand-new, state of the art movie theater to Towson as well as nine premier restaurants. A new CVS store now occupies the corner of York Road and Chesapeake Avenue, a previously vacant spot at the Towson Commons.

The demand for housing in Towson is increasing. Evergreen Homes is building 25 new townhouses in East Towson, a proposal has been submitted to redevelop the Towson Circle property to a residential property, and the 101 York Project aims to add student housing south of the downtown center.

Marks said construction could begin at the Towson Circle property in about a year. The location is currently home to Trader Joe’s and Barnes and Noble. The Pier 1 store closed earlier this year and Trader Joe’s plans to move to a new Kenilworth location in 2017.

The 101 York student housing project has not yet been approved. Marks said the project has been a difficult one, between balancing neighborhood community concerns and the demand for student housing. The developer had submitted a request to increase the zoning at the location. Tuesday, Marks announced he would not support a change in the zoning.

“The zoning in the Towson Triangle will remain the same except for four acres of public space, which will be preserved as open space through Neighborhood Commons zoning,” Marks said in a statement.

Green space has been another of Marks’ goals since being elected. He said the keys to a successful living area are open space, transportation and public safety. He has several plans to preserve open space and create parks, including Olympic Park and the Radebaugh Florist property.

Marks is also working with Gov. Larry Hogan to develop plans for a public transit circulator through downtown Towson. Hogan has invested state funds for Marks to develop a plan with possible routes and estimated costs. Marks expects that plan to be released in the near future.

City leaders and developers and truly aiming to make Towson the spot to live, work, shop and play – a mini-city just minutes from the Beltway.

“People in Towson have terrific restaurants in their backyard,” Marks said. “You don’t have to go downtown for a first class dining experience.”

Parker said she and the owners of Nacho Mama’s feel the Towson location was a great way to expand their brand. She said it was a great niche. Parker wouldn’t announce an opening date, but she said it’s starting to look real.

“This calendar year,” she said. “Sooner than you think.”

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