Towson's Patriot Plaza will likely not get an ice rink after all.
The Baltimore County Council on Monday approved a contract to redesign the underused plaza, but officials said the renovated plaza won't include expensive details that were previously considered — one idea that might be nixed is a seasonal ice rink.
The county will pay nearly $400,000 to ESDA Inc., a landscape architecture firm with an office in Baltimore, to draw up designs for turning Patriot Plaza into a more welcoming park.
The plaza is a two-acre expanse of stone and concrete between the Baltimore County Circuit Courthouse and the Historic Courthouse. The plaza's focal point is a non-functioning water fountain and it also has a pair of memorials to fallen firefighters and police officers.
The Patriot Plaza redesign was announced one year ago as a $3 million project, but the cost grew to $4.25 million as officials realized the cost of improvements and needed infrastructure fixes would be more than they expected.
The plaza has been a headache to the county for years. Its fountain had to be turned off after it leaked into offices underneath. A major part of renovating the plaza will be removing the fountain and fixing the problems it caused.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz asked council members to OK the design contract in December, but they put off making a decision after concerns were raised about the scope of the project. The contract appeared on Monday night's agenda without advance public notice, and council members approved it on a unanimous vote without discussion.
"They want to do something that's nice for Towson, but not extravagant. There will be no skating rink there. There will be a green lawn," said Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican who represents Towson.
Marks said he's glad the scaled-down project is moving forward. Downtown Towson is lacking in open space and parks, especially as more people move into the growing number of apartments and condominiums in the area, he said.
Kamenetz still is including $4.25 million in his budget for the Patriot Plaza renovation, said his spokeswoman, Ellen Kobler.
"Now that the contract has been approved, the county can move forward in discussions with the firm to talk about exactly what features may be included, but it is unlikely that an ice rink will be part of this phase of the project," Kobler said.
Kobler said the new Patriot Plaza is now envisioned as an extension of the landscaped gardens on the other side of the Historic Courthouse, "with as much green space as possible."