G. Synade Beason
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Within the past three years, LA Fitness, housing complexes, Cinemark movie theater, a new fire station and restaurants have been added to the unincorporated community of Towson and city officials say the best is yet to come.
Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, said she has watched Towson grow and transform the many years she’s lived in the community, located about 15 miles from bustling Baltimore. With a population of more than 55,000, Towson is the second most populated unincorporated county seat in the United States, records show.
“Towson was a ghost town, people were leaving Towson,” said Hafford of the area’s past. She described Towson as a half mile of vacant retail space with a dying suburban business community.
“Businesses were not coming,” she said.
But now, Towson’s thriving urban business community attracts young people. Students at Towson University are seen about town, shopping and mingling with local residents.
“It is a safe environment with a lot of great restaurants and shops,” said Hafford, adding that there has been an increased value of residential homes surrounding the area. “Towson University is also an instrumental part of the growth within Towson. The University has brought a more diverse community, added richness, and business professionals to Towson.”
Gustavo Arango, head of development for Greenberg Gibbons, shared Hafford’s excitement over Towson’s evolution.
“Redevelopment is driven by market demand,” said Arango. “This is why the goal within Towson is in creating a more friendly and urbanized environment. This can only be met with more redevelopment. Through the process of redevelopment, Towson’s true potential can be revealed.”
Arango said contractors recently broke ground for more developments. He said additional student housing can be expected by fall 2020. Hotel renovations also can be expected to be completed by summer 2020. Retail and other residential units are still in the process of being designed, he said.
With those in favor of redevelopment in Towson, come those who are hesitant or opposed to the new development plans.
“I just do not feel like it’s needed,” said Kalia Green, a longtime Towson resident and university student. “Towson has been fine as it is. Now, Towson is changing too fast. There is enough crime in surrounding areas as it is.”
Thomas Aleo, also a Towson student and resident adviser at Millennium Hall, noted the pros and cons of the projects.
“Yes it was inconvenient at first, but I’m very thankful that I am able to experience it now,” said Aleo. “A few years of inconvenient construction will be worth it down the line.”
Aleo said that construction shows that Towson cares about it’s community and added that if officials did not work to advance the city, people would then complain that Towson does not care for its people.