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Towson

Officials tout new CVS as a win for downtown Towson

Baltimore County officials celebrated the grand opening of a CVS Pharmacy at the corner of York Road and Chesapeake Avenue, at the Towson Commons shopping center Friday saying that the pharmacy will help to make downtown Towson more vibrant.

County officials also announced that a Chipotle Mexican Grill eventually would open in the shopping center, though a timeline for the opening isn't yet available.

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While the CVS opened more than a month ago, the event Friday celebrated the addition of the convenience store and pharmacy to downtown, which officials said will draw more business to Towson, foster healthy competition nearby, and add to the area's walkability.

"Even the national big-wigs know Towson's on the map," County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said in his remarks at the event. "Towson's the place to be."

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The CVS will attract other national chains to downtown, Kamenetz said, adding that he envisions more clothing stores opening in the area, because the CVS will boost foot traffic. The new Chipotle will likely bring more restaurants to the area, he added.

"All of these [stores] are good for the community because it increases the number of walkable options, but it's also good for our economy because these are companies who are doing the hiring," Kamenetz said.

Jeff Guidera, who owns The Greene Turtle restaurant, across the street from the new pharmacy, said he believes the CVS will have a positive impact on downtown business.

"I'm tired of looking at blank stores," Guidera said, adding that he considered the proposed addition of a Chipotle to Towson Commons "terrific."

"The more businesses open in Towson, the more people come to Towson," he said.

About five years ago, a movie theater at Towson Commons closed, leaving a "gaping hole" in the center, which once included the theater, a Borders book store and a craft gallery, said County Councilman David Marks, who also spoke at the grand opening.

In November, Towson Commons Retail LLC, a venture between Baltimore-based MFI Realty and Bethesda-based Woodmont Properties, purchased 115,000 square feet of retail space in the center for $15.2 million. The only tenant in the space at the time was Kyodai Rotating Sushi Bar. The space currently occupied by LA Fitness wasn't part of the sale.

In December, Kamenetz challenged the group to fill the center within a year. The venture is about a third of the way to that point, with the addition of a clothing store, Boho Nation, in December, the CVS and the future Chipotle, MFI Realty agent Michael Stoltz said.

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The addition of CVS and Chipotle will help fill the remaining vacancies, Stoltz said, because those national names provide validation to other businesses interested in moving into Towson Commons.

The Chipotle will move into a space on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the center, near the main entrance, Stoltz said, adding that additional information, such as when the Chipotle will open, wasn't available.

During his remarks outside the new CVS Friday, Kamenetz pointed out nearby businesses that were improving their look to keep up with the competition.

"When we encourage this new development and reinvestment we're also seeing existing property owners step up to the plate," he said.

The Greene Turtle, which added a rooftop section in 2013, was among the businesses the county executive mentioned.

"Instead of people fearing competition, everyone's embracing it," Kamenetz added.

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The CVS will likely increase foot traffic downtown, Nancy Hafford, the executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday.

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"I'm sure it's going to help other businesses," she said.

The store is also an important addition to the downtown area because students and other downtown residents can walk to it, Hafford added.

Business at the new CVS has been steady but not busy, Baltimore District Manager Terra Breeding said, adding that, as people realize that the CVS is open, she expects business to pick up. The CVS is one of 62 in the Baltimore market, she said.

The proximity to Towson University and the redevelopment occurring downtown are two reasons CVS chose Towson for a new store, CVS Regional Manager Chris Cretella said.

"It was something we definitely wanted to be a part of," Cretella said.

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Chipotle Mexican Grill officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pam Wood contributed to this report.


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