And so it begins. With the opening this week of the 15-screen Cinemark movie multiplex, Towson will get a look at the first wave of visitors drawn by nearly $800 million due in new investment that will transform the town center of the county seat of government. The theater is the first in a series of density-boosting projects.
The new Cineplex is equivalent in size to the multiscreen movie emporiums in Hunt Valley and White Marsh, but with a crucial difference. Those suburban theaters are surrounded by ample free surface parking, which is what moviegoers in Baltimore County are accustomed to. In Towson, film fans arriving by car might try to find street parking, but will mostly have to pay to use a garage.
County officials say they are ready. Downtown Towson has more than 5,100 parking spaces, including the new 850-space Towson Square garage adjacent to Cinemark. With movie theater validation, parking will cost $2 for four hours.
This means Towson is following the Montgomery County model. Moviegoers in Bethesda, Rockville and Silver Spring have virtually no choice but to park in a garage. In Towson, it will be a novelty.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz assures us the county is "well prepared."
"Many county agencies have been engaged to address a range of issues in the entire downtown area, including parking, public safety, traffic patterns, sidewalks, lighting, crosswalks, signs and maps to help people navigate downtown Towson by car, bike, transit or foot," Kamenetz says on the county's website.
Those are encouraging words, but they contain an underlying message: The county is preparing to fend off gridlock — and not just traffic jams in the street. We think pedestrian congestion looms as a problem requiring attention.
The county is keeping its focus on public safety. It has improved outdoor lighting, added five police officers to the Towson precinct and created barriers to jaywalking. We hope these and other measures prove sufficient.
We want Towson's transformation to be a success. And we hope the Kamenetz administration monitors developments closely. We certainly will be.