The inaugural meeting was held last week for a local committee formed by County Councilman David Marks and designed to explore development possibilities for the Towson Triangle — that area of Towson located between York Road, West Towsontown Boulevard and West Burke Avenue, composed of several different properties.
"There is no question that that is a very visible and valuable tract of land that is in desperate need of a total overhaul, a total makeover," said Josh Glikin, the committee chairman. "So we are really honored to be able to put our input into it."
"I think between the Towson Circle III project, what eventually happens to the Towson Commons and the Towson Triangle … is going to have a profound impact on the look and shape of Towson for the next few decades," Glikin said.
At the meeting, held Jan. 24, Marks brought copies of the Baltimore County Master Plan and the Walkable Towson plan, which sets design standards that promote a more pedestrian-friendly downtown area.
The councilman also reviewed the topography of the land, and who owns the various properties.
"It was pretty much a brainstorming session," Marks said of the first meeting. "I think there's a lot of hope for that property, but there are some obstacles. It's an extraordinarily hilly property, and there are some environmental issues. There's a stream bed that goes through there that would have to be taken care of."
But while the Triangle represents the last large tract of undeveloped land in downtown Towson, it's not all actually available.
Towson Post 22 American Legion owns a 5.5-acre tract of land in the heart of the Triangle, and Marks said they have "no intention of moving."
Marks said the American Legion's representative, Adjutant Paul Moran, did not attend last week's meeting. But in an email to the Towson Times, Moran said that he hopes to attend future sessions.
Marks estimates that one third of the property would be developable, even without the American Legion's property.
Glikin, who also serves as the vice president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, agrees, and said there is great possibility for that stretch of York Road.
"If you walk that tract of land ... it's pretty destitute back there," Glikin said.
But with the ongoing Towson Green development and some of the surrounding neighborhoods already in place — as well as the thousands of guests that stay at the Towson University Marriott Conference Hotel on the corner of West Burke Avenue and York Road — Glikin said companies have a lot to gain in the Triangle if they choose to move there.
"What's missing is a real sense of walkability on that stretch — boutique stores, restaurants and other shops that could really give those neighborhoods a lot to visit," Glikin said. "People who stay at the Marriott are looking for somewhere to go that's close; a restaurant outside the hotel that's close."
In a sense, Glikin said he's is looking for a bridge to downtown Towson for the communities that find themselves out of reach now.
"It's intimidating to walk by all that down a very congested York Road corridor," Glikin said. "I think we're going to come up with some very unique and maybe drastic things that can change the shape of the area, and retail is one of those things we all said we would like to see."
Other members of the committee include Charlie Culbertson, Southland Hills resident; David Kosak, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations; Mike Ertel, West Towson resident; Dave Hinshaw, former Towson Chamber of Commerce president; G.T. Keplinger, president, Burkleigh Square Community Association; Therese McAllister, president, Southland Hills Improvement Association; and Stephanie Keene, West Towson Neighborhood Association president, among others.
Overall, Marks said he believes everyone on the committee has a realistic attitude, despite the zeal with which they have for the task at hand.
"They also know that a lot of these decisions are generated by the private sector," Marks said. "Our goal is to come up with some expectations so that when lands are presented, developers know what the community would prefer for the site."