By Jon Meoli, firstname.lastname@example.org
12:28 PM EST, January 16, 2013
A proposed bill that will lessen the required number of parking spaces for fitness centers in downtown Towson has helped finalize a lease to fill much of the vacant space at Towson Commons, Councilman David Marks said Tuesday, Jan. 15.
"This is a bill that will certainly help Towson Commons fill a vacant 50,000-square-foot space by attracting a nationally known health club," Marks said at Tuesday's council work session.
However, despite the lease being finalized, Marks would not identify the health club.
Genny Hardesty, the property manager for Towson Commons, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
As currently written, the county parking code requires 10 off-street parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of floor space at athletic clubs, save for area devoted to tennis or racquetball courts. For every 1,000 square feet for tennis courts, three off-street parking spaces are required.
Marks' measure, Bill 81-12, amends the code to require just three off-street parking spots per 1,000 square feet of floor space in any athletic clubs located in downtown Towson. The councilman calls the bill "good public policy."
"Many patrons of the health club use the facility in the morning, they use it at lunchtime, they use it right when they get off work," he said. "So they probably would already have parking wherever they have a job [in downtown Towson]."
During the work session Marks said he communicated with Towson's three stakeholder groups — the Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations and the Greater Towson Committee — and all supported the bill, he said.
Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, said her organization is thrilled about the new movement at Towson Commons.
"It's the first time in — I can't say how many years — we've finally had something start at Towson Commons," Hafford said. "To have a business come in taking 50,000-square-feet, bringing bodies not just in the daytime between 9 and 5, but early in the morning that can support our breakfast places (and) at nighttime that will support our local eateries, we couldn't be happier."
GTCCA President Paul Hartman said, "We feel this will bring people back to the building and make it a productive building."
He recalled that even there was an eight-screen AMC movie theater at Towson Commons, the building was "a ghost town." The movie theaters left in March 2011.
When the bill was first introduced last month, Hartman expressed concern then that Marks was skirting the variance process, which requires community input.
But since Hartman said the GTCCA supports changing the parking requirements, they "don't think it's worth it to put up a big stink about the process."
The council is scheduled to vote on the bill on Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers.