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Harris Teeter Proposed at Current Towson Firehouse Site

David Strouse, president and CEO of Birchwood Capital Partners, presented the proposal before the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations Thursday night.

(Update 9:42 a.m. Friday)—A Harris Teeter grocery store has been proposed for the site of the existing Towson fire station.

David Strouse, president and CEO of Birchwood Capital Partners, told members of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations Thursday night that his Baltimore development company is pursuing plans to acquire the firehouse site at York and Bosley roads from Baltimore County to construct the store.

"We're sort of in the preliminary stages of planning," Strouse said.

An early site scheme presented to the council shows a 48,756 square feet food store with a parking surface for 163 cars and an additional parking space for 100 cars underneath the store.

"It's a smaller Wegmans concept," Strouse said.

Members of the council, including President Paul Hartman, expressed concerns about the store complying with Towson's urban design plan that stresses walkability.

"It really is about walkability," said Ed Kilcullen, a former GTCCA president and Towson Manor Park delegate.

Towson Park representative Carl Eltringham, whose community is near the site, said he is worried about traffic congestion, particularly between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

"It's a crazy intersection." Eltringham said.

Mike Ertel, another former president of the council who now represents the West Towson community that is also close to the site, said he was concerned about rumors circulating about a gas station or convenience store, such as Royal Farms, that would be open around the clock coming to the location. Ertel noted that he personally likes the idea of a grocery store at the site.

"It would probably be less egregious than a 24-hour gas station," he said.

Ertel also pointed out that lights from a 24-hour store would be intrusive to the Towson Park community, which lost a buffer a couple of years ago when trees were cut down near the neighborhood along Morningside Drive to accommodate a cemetery.

Councilman David Marks said Friday morning that he was reserving judgement on the project until all proposals are reviewd and the county council is approached about the sale of the land.

"I think it's the type of supermarket that would be welcome by many in Towson...I'm going to be asking very tough questions about traffic, walkability...any effects to the nearby neighborhoods," he said.

The county officially put the site up for sale, along with the North Point Government Center in Dundalk and a police substation on Liberty Road in Randallstown, in early January.

Funds raised from the property sales would go toward the construction of new county facilities and finance school improvement projects.

Towson Manor Park was initially considered for the site of a new fire station, but following community protests County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said that he plans to build the station at the corner of Bosley Avenue and Towsontown Boulevard—now the site of a fueling station for county vehicles.

The Harris Teeter supermarket chain was founded in 1960 in North Carolina, according to the company's website.

Ed March 03, 2013 at 04:54 PM
Old Terp, I agree with the vast majority of what you say. The timing is awful, strictly retail would be a bad use of the space and a grocery store clearly is not needed. As for office, I don't know what the vacancy rates are in Towson now, but before the downturn, vacancy rates in the Towson area were low compared to the rest of the metro area. And a good developer would want to start constructing new space as a down market is ending to have good space available as the market improves. I will admit I'm not sure how the size of the fuel station parcel fits in, but remember a few things when comparing to the current space. First, the new station likely would be drive-through (garage doors at the front and back), increasing the flexibility of moving equipment in and out. Second, the existing site is the size it is because it was designed for four purposes: local fire station, fire headquarters (the offices on the north side along York Road), the equipment repair shop and the training academy. The last three functions no longer take place there (with the last two being replaced by the highway shop/salt dome, which shouldn't be in downtown Towson in my opinion). That's why there is so much open space on that location. The timing is tough because the existing station is functionally obsolete (the oldest station in the county that has not been replaced or rehabbed by about six years) and needs to be replaced soon. -- more --
Ed March 03, 2013 at 05:04 PM
In my ideal world, with budget and commercial real estate issues not in play, I would find a spot in the Timonium/Hut Valley area to move the highway shop and salt dome, construct a modern fire station as far south along the Bosley Avenue side of the parcel as possible. Then, when the market was better, I would sell off the rest of the parcel for some sort of mixed use complex with strict design standards and the new building fronting York Road and parking areas between the new fire station and the new commercial structure, with requirements to add additional turn lanes, etc., to help with traffic flow. Alas, what is ideal and what is feasible aren't always one-and-the-same.
Mbatley March 04, 2013 at 05:14 PM
Ed, Old Terp, all, As a resident of Southland Hills I'm wondering who we "pissed off?" We seen increased noise and traffic from the aggressive policy of the University to grown its population. This has led to significantly increased traffic and parking in our neighborhood. Most days when I come home at 5:30pm I cannot find parking on my street because of all students parking in our neighborhood. We have also seen increased traffic and noise from the University's new grand entrance being place directly across from our backyards and then to add insult to injury they build a large, 2-story building basically in our back yards with lights on and University trucks and buses coming and going. Now the county piles on... The noise from this new firehouse will be significant as they will pull out with sirens blaring to clear and stop traffic. That noise will easily come into our neighborhood night and day. (And what those in the Palisade's Apartments directly next to the new location?) I wrote to Councilman Marks about this and in his meeting with our neighborhood leadership and KK's assistant we were told that, "this is a done deal." Harry's Teeter wins, we lose and where is our leadership??
Mbatley March 04, 2013 at 05:20 PM
Ed, We in Southland Hills would have loved to see this with the a new Firehouse built back where the highway shop and salt dome are presently located. We suggested that and it was immediately shot down. Never considered. There was never a real process for this decision. The whole, "let's put it in the park" feels now like a ploy not unlike when my son asks me for $50 dollars, and I say, "NO WAY!" He responds, "well how about $20 then?" And I give it to him. He walks away thinking, "That's what I wanted the whole time..."
Mbatley March 04, 2013 at 05:49 PM
Another point to consider...Why do we need this??? 21204... Graul's Eddy's Fresh Market Safeway Trader Joe's 21286... Shoppers Giant Target-full grocery inside Walmart-grocery inside Weis-new next to Target Lutherville... Mom's Organic Shoprite Mars This says nothing about local Royal Farms, 7Eleven's, Ethnic Food stores, and specialty food stores in the same area.

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