Towson City Center

Towson City Center, formerly the Investment Building, is being rebuilt as a new downtown office center, and will see Towson University as one of its main tenants. (Photo by Brendan Cavanaugh / October 29, 2011)

Eight months before the developers of Towson City Center expect their building to be open for business, the list of tenants for the site is growing.

Yet also growing is the controversy regarding a new set of signage guidelines that will apply to the City Center project.

Arsh Mirmiran, director of development for Caves Valley Partners, said this week that five tenants have already signed leases to occupy the former Investment Building on York Road.

Among those are Towson University's College of Health Professions, and Cunningham Kitchen, a restaurant run by the Bagby Restaurant Group.

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Also signed on to occupy the space is the Mile One Automotive group and BusinesSuites, a shared office space company. Caves Valley Partners, developer for the project, will also have office space in the building.

In addition, another element from Towson University — the campus' radio station, WTMD — is also in negotiations to occupy part of the development.

The lineup of tenants is good news for those who see Towson City Center as a potential office mecca to boost foot traffic in downtown Towson.

In a press release on Nov. 1, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said, "Towson City Center is bringing together the elements that make a downtown fresh and vibrant."

The county release stated that, "With the glass building facade now complete, the $27 million Towson City Center literally reflects downtown Towson."

Amie Voith, special assistant to the vice president of administration and finance at Towson University, said the university will be moving all of its offices in the College of Health Professions to the Towson City Center building.

Presently, that includes four clinics: a wellness center; the Speech, Language and Hearing Center; the Center for Adults with Autism; and their Occupational Therapy Center.

The Wellness Center and Speech, Language and Hearing Center are both currently located on campus, while the Center for Adults with Autism is a new clinic, which the university received federal grant to create. The Occupational Therapy Center is also a new offering from the university.

At an Oct. 19 meeting of the Greater Towson Committee, Towson University's Interim President Marcia Welsh also hinted at the radio station leasing space, saying WTMD plans to move into Towson City Center. She said the university's business incubator facility would eventually move into the building as well.

Voith said the different university entities in the building are on separate leases, and that the radio station will be in the annex just off to the side of the larger tower, but that the university fully anticipates a deal to be agreed upon, with an eye toward moving in August 2012.

City Center a sign of change?

With Towson University signed on as a tenant, Towson City Center qualifies for amendments to the county's existing signage laws — approved by the County Council this month at the behest of 5th District Councilman David Marks.

The bill stipulates that buildings with more than 150,000 square feet of office space or floor areas, and which are used by state-run agencies, can have certain types of rooftop and movable type signs.

Towson City Center will have an estimated 168,000 square feet of space.

Such signs could be requested through the county's variance process prior to the bill's passage, but during the council's deliberations, Marks said developers had requested the bill to avoid the one- to two-year legal battle that a variance request could bring.

"I have a long record of opposing electronic signage in residential neighborhoods, but downtown Towson has urban qualities and a density not found in most of Baltimore County," Marks said.