Driving up and down the York Road corridor in downtown Towson is not something I really enjoy doing. It's not that I don't appreciate its certain aesthetic appeal, mind you. Rather, it's too busy and I get too claustrophobic; I prefer the bypass.
When I do drive straight through, I keep my eyes on the road, my mind on the destination and I try to make eye contact with no one and nothing. To give you an idea of how rarely I frequent this section of Towson, consider this: It wasn't until just the other day that I noticed the new construction in the old Hudson Trail Outfitters building.
Upon a closer look at the sign displayed proudly above what will be the entrance, I discovered that the new tenant of this building will be none other than Urban Outfitters (, it will be the chain's second store in the state of Maryland). This raised two flags in my mind—one of hope and one of disappointment.
On one hand, this is great for Towson. Urban Outfitters is a big name and has an even bigger market, especially when we're once again flooded with thousands of college students (). Just in time for this coming holiday shopping season, it will bring fresh daytime life to the district.
With the exception of Allegheny Avenue, which seems to be doing just fine, the heart of downtown Towson looks as though it is slowly and steadily crumbling in its lack of just about everything. This addition promises to bring in more clientele, and therefore more businesses, restoring this area to its former glory.
On the other hand, is this really the kind of industry we want as an anchor for our small city? Sure, Urban Outfitters has some nifty items, but the majority of its products are profoundly kitschy and profoundly expensive.
Is the ultimate goal to spawn higher spending and lead in even more expensive retailers? Probably.
As a recent college graduate, I know that the majority of our age group doesn't have $40 to spend on a T-shirt with a faded cereal logo on its front, let alone really high-class stuff. Provided our economic climate, I fear that Urban Outfitters and the people in charge of Towson's future may have hopes that are a tad bit too high.
But what if it does work, you ask? What if this is the prescription we need to cure our downtown retail blues? I hope and pray that the new confidence will be humble and understood, not superficial and kitschy like the items soon to be purchased.
Towson is a lot of things, but I have never considered it “hip.” I want it to thrive, but not sell its soul. All I ask is that as things change and grow, we remember where we came from.