A suitor for the fire station site in Towson shared its plans for the York Road property with the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations on Thursday, the first proposal for the site to be made public.
David Strouse, president and CEO of Baltimore-based Birchwood Capital Partners, spoke at the monthly meeting of the GTCCA Feb. 21 on behalf of his group and the Pikesville-based 28 Walker Associates.
The two groups developed the Harris Teeter grocery store in Locust Point, and are working on a second store in Canton, and plan to bid on the Towson firehouse site to bring a Harris Teeter to the corner of York Road and Bosley Avenue.
"They really do a first-class job," Strouse told the community leaders. "They work very closely with the community. It's not a one-size-fits-all approach.
"I think we see ourselves in somewhat a unique position and we're able to come to you, the community, and say, 'This is what we want to do on the site and this is what you'll have,' " Strouse said. "At the same time, we'll be able to go to the county and hopefully offer the highest price."
Strouse said the proposed three-story building could feature parking on the first floor, the store on the second floor and a mezzanine. In the Locust Point store, the mezzanine features a pharmacy and dining area.
He said the store had a potential to be for Towson what Wegmans has become in Hunt Valley — a shopping attraction that also offers dining.
Delegates from the GTCCA questioned Strouse about traffic flow especially as the development would affect the busy intersection. They also urged Strouse and his group to adhere to design principles crafted by Towson leaders, including the Towson Urban Design Assistance Team plan, which primarily call for a more pedestrian-friendly Towson.
According to a preliminary site plan shown at the meeting, an access driveway would be added off York Road to complement the existing access off Bosley Avenue. Strouse said the site would also be leveled off. Developers would bring renderings to the community for its input on the design, he said.
Mike Ertel, vice president of GTCCA who lives in near the site in West Towson, said during the meeting that he preferred a grocery store at the site than something like a Wawa or Royal Farms, an idea for a use that has been discussed.
GTCCA President Paul Hartman was glad the group was thoughtful enough to consult the community early in the process.
"We appreciate the developers' efforts to treat us as partners rather than adversaries," Hartman said. "The end result will come out better, and the appeared willing to design something that fits in the community rather than shoehorn in a big box store. … It's a good plan from what we've seen, but we'd like to see more details."
Strouse told the group that the North Carolina-based Harris Teeter had been looking in Baltimore County and when the request for proposal was issued for the Towson firehouse property, his company and 28 Walker approached Harris Teeter and agreed to pursue it for them.
The Towson fire station is one of three county-owned properties for which Baltimore County issued requests for proposals in an effort to raise funds.
Towson residents fought late last year against the proposed use of Towson Manor Park as a new fire station site. Ultimately the new site was changed. If the county raises enough money with the sale of the fire station site to build a new one at the corner of Bosley Avenue and Towsontown Boulevard, the sale of the old site will go through.
Proposals for both that site and the two other sites slated for sale on April 5.
Baltimore County is also trying to sell the Randallstown police substation and the North Point Government Center in Dundalk. As part of that plan, the county hopes to use the Eastwood Elementary building as a police station and combine Eastwood Elementary, Norwood Elementary, and Holabird Middle into a K-8 science, technology, engineering and math magnet program on two campuses.
The Baltimore County Board of Education will consider that plan on Tuesday, March 5.