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Towson Circle III: Three Ideas to Improve Community Support

The open-space Towson Circle III project is an opportunity to get the community involved, long after it opens in 2014.

As news continues to evolve regarding the revitalization of downtown Towson, most recently the , I keep thinking that there is a real disconnect between the development and the community.

This "Look What I've Done For You Lately" approach of building bigger and more lucrative projects in Towson is burying the beauty of what makes Towson unique in the first place.

It is nearly impossible to get that "old-town feel" of one-way streets and local businesses when it is overshadowed by mega-theater complexes and big-box shopping developments.

That's like saying, "I'm going to build a Walmart to bring in the out-of-community traffic, but their lower prices and one-stop shopping experience will make the rest of Towson a nice place to drive through on the way back home." Building big doesn't mean that the locals are going to benefit necessarily from the increased traffic coming in to Towson.

I'm not against the development; I just think that the gap between "big draw" and "local feel" is widening with each new project, simply because we are missing the opportunities to make the community more a part of the revitalization. Towson Circle III, with its open-space plan, gives us a chance to change all that.

I offer three initiatives that I think would diminish that gap and allow both groups to support each other.

1. Create a stretch of stores at Towson Circle III just for local businesses. I think this is something that is sorely missing from the Avenue-style projects. Allow small, Towson-based businesses the chance to open up or move their stores to the new Circle, and reduce their rent accordingly. Offer small business owners the chance to set up kiosks or even rolling stands that feature products from their Towson store, thus enticing shoppers to head over to the local district and spend some time walking along Allegheny, Chesapeake, and the other store-lined streets. As more of these Avenues pop up, a local strip of stores, reflecting the culture and history of that smaller town, would bring a refreshing merger of old with the new, giving local owners a chance to be a part of the revitalization, and not a discarded afterthought.

2. Offer free or reduced parking rates to the local communities. If we are revitalizing the community, and we want more of our community residents to patronize these newly developed projects, entice us by providing Towson community parking permits or even coupons that we can use—not just at Towson Circle III, but at all the county-owned garages in Towson. Isn't it common sense that, if you let us save a few dollars in parking, we are more likely to stay local and spend much more money in our Towson-based businesses?

3. Provide opportunities for local artists to perform. Towson is rich with artists and musicians of all ages. Towson Circle III could instill that local feel by allowing local artists from schools and small community groups to perform and make some money. As a result, local foot traffic would increase, making the latest addition to Towson the strongest yet when it comes to appreciating and integrating the local talents unique to our area. 

In the past, community involvement has meant little more than making decisions about how a new development can blend in with the existing look and feel of Towson. Let's make this more than just a cosmetic interaction and build a plan that is going to involve the Towson communities in a meaningful and sustaining manner.

Rus VanWestervelt is a local writer, photographer, and educator. A graduate of both Towson University and Goucher College, Rus currently teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in writing.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Buzz Beeler January 31, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Dale, I related to the fact that I was not privy to the current situation with the issues. I will say the problems I and the community leader were relating to occurred well after school was out. The party scene starts when the sun goes down. They actually had buses picking up bar patrons on certain nights regarding various promotions. My reference to the TU police force reflected in what used to be to what is. I am out of the loop now, but I have not heard about the student issues like I used to.
Bart January 31, 2012 at 02:50 PM
I am a long time resident of Towson, and have raised a family here. It is a great place to live, and is getting better all the time. The student problem was far worse 5+ years ago, but has improved as of late. Yes, there were indeed "Party Busses" especially on Thursday nights. To their great honor, the Towson Police Dept. worked dilligently to end the practice. For a while there, it was a game of "cat and mouse" with the busses, after the communities chased them off their streets, and the private chartered busses hid behind office buildings to pick up. David Marks has worked hard to open a productive dialog between TU and the Community, and things are pretty smooth. Things will never be perfect, students will be students, but TU has started making the students accountable for their behavior off campus, has rolled back TigerFest, and has formed programs to make the students more of a positive influence in the community. There will always be bad apples, but they are now in the distinct minority.
Buzz Beeler January 31, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Bart, that is always an effective way of reaching these students. You said the key words which is - "accountable for their behavior off campus." I think a lot of these students realize the sacrifice their parents are making in giving them the opportunity for a good college education and do not want to jeopardize not only the opportunity, or their parents money. Then you have the competition factor among college students occurring in the job market which sets the tone in the importance of their education. That is positive step for Towson. http://www.8newsnow.com/story/16592105/teens
D Schmid February 07, 2012 at 07:41 PM
I live in Towson. When the weather's nice you cannot walk past the planters in front of Barnes & Noble without being stopped by someone asking for money. The area in front and back of the Rechter Theatre, as well as the entire block on that side of the street, is littered with cigarette butts, and along Delaware Ave. you'll find lots of empty plastic cups and the aroma of stale beer, plus empty liquor bottles. I can't open my windows in the evening when the weather is nice because of the loud music and yelling from the patio area in back of the Rechter. If it's bad where I live at the Ridgely, imagine what the people at Virginia Towers endure. The other theatre failed, why will a new one be any better? You couldn't walk past there in the evenings without being harrassed by the crowd that hung out front. From what I read, theatre attendance is way down. I don't know anyone who goes to the mall at night. When I first moved into the area I thought how nice it was that I can walk to the mall. If I do, I make sure I leave before dark. I wish the new development well but I have serious doubts about the success of the project. I love Towson and am very sad at what it has become.
D Schmid May 02, 2012 at 03:01 PM
I said I would not go to the mall after dark, now after the couple was robbed last week at 7:30 pm, I will not go during the day. It chills me that I walk down the same garage stairs where the gunmen fled.

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