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Towson Circle owner plans apartment tower, hotel

Apartment tower, hotel proposed for Towson Circle

The owner of Towson Circle, anchored by Trader Joe's, Pier 1 Imports and Barnes & Noble, is developing plans to redevelop the high-profile property, adding a 400-unit apartment tower and hotel.

Retail Properties of America Inc., an Illinois-base real estate investment trust focused on shopping centers, discussed the proposal in a recent earnings call about its 2014 performance. A spokeswoman for the firm said it hopes to provide an update on the redevelopment of the prominently located site in the next two months.

The firm has not contacted Baltimore County officials about the proposal, said spokeswoman Fronda Cohen. Cohen said the idea is in keeping with the other recent investments in downtown Towson, which are moving the area toward a denser and more urban feel.

Other developments include the $350 million Towson Row which would add hundreds of apartments, student housing, a hotel, offices and shopping, including a Whole Foods to five acres bounded by York Road, Towsontown Boulevard, Washington Avenue, and Chesapeake Avenue.

Several large residential developments have finished in recent years and a new movie theater and several new restaurants opened last year at the $85 million Towson Square redevelopment.

County Councilman David Marks said the Retail Properties project could improve an awkwardly situated zone, dubbed the "canyon" in a recent planning document for its below-grade parking and store entrances. That "Walkable Towson" report called for redeveloping the property for residential use.

Marks said he is surprised that the firm has not briefed him on the proposal, which would need to be incorporated into the planning for a Towson circulator bus.

"I think it's a possibly exciting project that could repurpose an area that has a little bit of awkward logistics, but I suspect the community will have quite a bit of questions regarding traffic and what it does to existing businesses," he said.

In announcing the plan to investors, CEO and President Steven Grimes cited "significant demand" in the market for retail, residential and hotel space. The property, one of more than 200 owned by the firm, was about 73 percent leased at the end of 2014, according to company documents.

Retail Properties of America acquired Towson Circle in 2004. The property, a former Hutzler's department store, was redone in 1998 by Towson-based Heritage Properties Inc. and Cordish Co. of Baltimore.

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