Downtown Towson's development boom grew yet again Tuesday, when Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced a $60 million commercial and residential development in the Towson Triangle.
The DMS Development project, named "101 YORK" for its address at 101 York Road, will feature 200 apartments and 10,500 square feet of street retail along York Road just north of Burke Avenue.
"101 YORK brings apartments that will be attractive to university students," Kamenetz said in a statement. "This new investment builds on the significant new residential, retail, entertainment and office development rising in the heart of downtown Towson."
The project also will feature parking for residents, plus 100 spaces for retail customers. The project will add to the 1,500 new luxury apartments that have been built in Towson in the past four years, county officials said.
"As Towson University grows, there's just not enough room on campus and the more students we have in our area, the more dining dollars and shopping dollars come to town, so we need housing in Towson," Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, said.
In a statement, DMS' founder, David Schlachman, said the development will "liven the southern entrance to downtown Towson."
"I applaud DMS Development's interest and investment in this blighted part of Towson," County Councilman David Marks said in a statement. "I have already reached out to community leaders and promise a robust public input process."
Many Towson leaders consider the area between York Road, Burke Avenue and West Towsontown Boulevard, known as the "Towson Triangle," the last, biggest development opportunity in downtown Towson.
DMS, headquartered in Towson, has purchased properties in the area over the past decade, including the real estate used by Pizans Pizza and York Liquors, both of which might relocate, officials said.
Marks, whose 5th District includes Towson, formed a committee of community leaders to study development possibilities for the land. The councilman also blocked a zoning change that would have upzoned the property for high-density apartments and businesses, and included it in the downtown Towson business district.
Among the opponents of the zoning change was Towson American Legion Post 22, which owns property in the triangle. Legion leaders feared that commercial development nearby could force them to sell.
The property is now zoned for major businesses. The project will need to be advanced with a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which allows for construction outside a property's zoning, provided there is a community benefit and community input.
"I have pledged that there will be strong community input," Marks said. "That's precisely why I opposed rezoning this property. It needs to be done as a Planned Unit Development with strong consultation from surrounding neighborhoods, and that will be my job."
Marks said Paul Hartman, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, and Josh Glikin, a community leader who chairs the Towson Triangle Committee, met with DMS earlier this week, and would get a full presentation on the project next week.
At the county's announcement Tuesday, Kamenetz and DMS officials touted the apartments as housing for students and young adults, a potentially troubling prospect for community leaders.
"Historically the community has been against student housing off campus," Hartman said. "We've tried to get the university to go with more dorms and residence halls on campus, and it is in the master plan for the university to do that, but this is a truly private thing and it really has no link to the university other than they would like to market to their students."
Deb Moriarty, vice president of student affairs at Towson, said the building could be a perfect fit for the school's older, mature students.
"The reality is that after their second year, most students don't want to live on campus," Moriarty said. "Transfer students come in at an older age, they're a little bit more mature, and this is exactly what they're looking for: convenience to campus, and they want to live in relatively nice apartments."
The announcement is the latest in a series of major developments in downtown Towson.
Last summer, the former Investment Building reopened as Towson City Center, a fully leased office building just north of the traffic circle. Tenants include MileOne Automotive, Towson University's Institute for Well-Being, and the building's developer, Caves Valley Partners.
Caves Valley Partners also will develop a recently purchased nearly an entire block of property and buildings between West Chesapeake Avenue, Washington Avenue and West Susquehanna Avenue.
Additionally, work began earlier this year on the $85 million Towson Square project, which will feature a Cinemark movie theater, restaurants, and an underground county parking garage.
Construction is also under way on the former movie theater space at Towson Commons, which will house a 52,700-square-foot LA Fitness health club. Baltimore County is also considering bids for developing the Towson fire station site, with options including a Wawa convenience store and Harris Teeter grocery store that would also feature apartments.
This story has been updated.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun