Baltimore County is adding additional police officers and improving nighttime lighting as part of a public safety focus for new developments in Towson, including next month's opening of a 15-screen movie theater.
With multiple projects sprouting in the county seat, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said Friday that public safety is the priority. He sought to assure residents that the county can handle crowds expected to flock to downtown Towson for the new Cinemark theater and restaurants at Towson Square.
"Downtown Towson is the place to be — and we are prepared," Kamenetz said at a news conference at the county courthouse.
The theater is scheduled to open July 10, and five additional officers are being assigned to the Towson precinct. Both uniformed and plainclothes officers will patrol alleys and streets, he said.
The county also has made outdoor lighting downtown 50 percent brighter and improved crosswalks on East Joppa Road between Towson Town Center and Towson Square to prevent jaywalking, officials said. New maps and improved signage will help visitors find entertainment destinations.
Parking in Towson also has been a concern for residents. Towson Square includes a new garage next to the movie theater with 850 spaces, said county Revenue Authority CEO Kenneth Mills.
In addition to the Towson Square project by the Cordish Cos. and Heritage Properties, other major retail and residential developments are planned for downtown, such as the mixed-use Towson Row, which will bring 100,000 square feet of retail space, 350 apartment and condominium units, and 300 student housing units.
Councilman David Marks, a Republican who represents downtown Towson, said the additional resources will address immediate concerns, but he wants serious discussion about longer-term solutions, such as a circulator bus to relieve traffic.
"Over the long term, we're going to need to continue to push the envelope and think about things like a transit circulator," Marks said. Towson Square "is really the first big development, and it's going to be a test case for how we're going to deal with growth in the future."
Kamenetz said that while there has been some talk of a circulator, "we're not there yet."
Paul Hartman, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, said he strongly supports a circulator. He also said he's pleased additional police officers will be added because residents have pushed for that. While development could be positive for the community, people also are nervous, he said.
"It's a mix of being excited and being scared, because it's a big change," Hartman said. "It's a lot to happen all at once."