Pennsylvania Avenue is the easiest way to get out of Adelaide Bentley's North East Towson community.
Now Bentley, president of the North East Towson Improvement Association, said she worries she and other neighbors could be "boxed in" for days at a time due to street closures as construction gets going on the long-anticipated Towson Circle III project.
Construction, traffic, safety and other concerns were at the forefront during a town hall meeting held Wednesday evening at the East Towson Carver Community Center. About 40 residents and business owners, mostly from east Towson and the Ridgely Condominiums, attended.
Towson Circle III is an $85 million project to be built on the space bounded by Joppa Road and Pennsylvania, Virginia and Delaware avenues.
to run a 16-screen movie theater and developers and the Cordish Companies promise upscale restaurants to fill five pad spaces. The Baltimore County Revenue Authority will operate a new 862-space garage below the theater.
Jack Cannella, vice president of design and construction for Heritage Properties, and Wayne Mixdorf, parking director for the revenue authority, took questions at the town hall, which was organized by County Councilman .
Cannella said work could begin as soon as late April with the demolition of the former Burger King and bank building facing Joppa Road. Nearby residents, however, are concerned about the impacts of construction, expected to continue in some form through 2014 (the garage will be ready by next year).
Cannella conceded some road closures may be neccessary for two to three days at a time to connect utilities, but said detour plans would be in place. Bentley, however, said that since many streets in East Towson are one-way, that could mean having to drive out to Towsontown Boulevard just to get out from her Pennsylvania Avenue home.
Many asked about plans to manage increased traffic and avoid backups in the Towson roundabout. Cannella said crews plan to widen Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia avenues. Marks floated the idea of adding new traffic signals in the area.
Some residents at the meeting were openly hostile to the project, with one jokingly suggesting that Heritage and Cordish build a park on the property instead. Many pressed Cannella on security issues and the viability of the project, citing the fate of Towson Commons, which opened in 1992 to great fanfare, but tenants left one by one over the years, with longtime anchor AMC Theaters leaving in 2011.
Cannella and Mixdorf assured residents that the complex would have security hired separately by the management, Cinemark and the revenue authority. And, Cannella said, the developers have done their homework.
"They look at the 21204 zip code and just start drooling," he said.
But, when one resident, a supporter, asked those who thought Towson Circle III was a good idea to raise their hand, only about one-third did.
"I think it'll be a good project," said John Hergenroeder, a Ridgely resident. However, he added, "We didn't hear any solutions to the problems and the problems aren't going to be solved by making the streets wider."