By Sydney Engelhardt
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
New apartment buildings and entertainment venues that are being built in the Towson area are being sparked in part by students who attend Towson University and other colleges, local government and business officials say.
Officials who were interviewed over the past few days said young people have helped spark the local economy because they need places to live and they regularly visit restaurants, bars and theaters.
“A large amount of the residential uses are geared to student housing, indicating a reaction to the growth of Towson University, ” said Kathy Schlabach, the chief of the county’s Department of Planning.
The new development projects in Towson have attracted more people to the town, which has resulted in a changing demographic in the area.
“What we see around the county is a growth in Millennials,” said Council member David Marks, whose Fifth District represents Towson. “These are younger adults that are interested in the aspects of urban living, and we think that Towson is a very receptive place for those that want that type of environment.”
“In the past decade, younger people are moving into this area and interested in the type of qualities that Towson provides,” he added.
The development that brings younger people to the area helps local businesses grow.
“All of these businesses are thriving,” said Nancy Hafford, the executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce. “The university is not the whole reason, but they are sort of like, they are the spark that started the flame. They are here, other businesses are here, and it has become a snowball effect.”
These developmental changes also affect the old neighborhoods of Towson.
“There is defiantly a change in the demographic of the neighborhood, but I think in a very positive way,” said Mike Ertel, the president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations. “You always want to have a blend of younger and older residents. It makes neighborhoods diverse and vibrant.”
Recent developments include the new movie theatre and entertainment complex that opened in 2014 in downtown Towson, Marks said.
He said there are also two new major developments in the works: Towson Row and a project called The Flats.
Towson Row is a $350 million project that will bring 700 apartment units to the area, Marks said.
“Towson Row will change Towson. It is a true mixed-use property in the sense that it will house students and house residents,” said Katie Pinheiro, the executive director of the Greater Towson Committee. “It’s going to be instrumental in making Towson a true urban destination for Baltimore County.”
The Flats is another apartment project that will be located at York Road and Washington Avenue and will have 105 new apartments, Marks said.
“Right now the apartments we have are over 90 percent leased and that is extremely high and that is because people want to live here, in a community that has a lot to offer,” Hafford said.
The changes have made Towson more urban, which can affect older neighborhoods. Some community residents are nervous that developments such as Towson Row will create traffic and parking problems, Ertel said.
“We have talked about urban and suburban meeting each other and a lot of people are concerned about signs, traffic, and parking and how it’s going to affect the adjoining neighborhoods,” Ertel said.
However, despite the concerns people in the neighborhoods of Towson think the development is positive.
“Overall people are welcoming [of] having someone come in and developing,” said Carrie Cronin, the president of the West Towson Neighborhood Association. “We just want to make sure that it is done right and that there is going to be a lasting positive refection of Towson and what Towson life can be.”