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Towson Whole Foods plans detailed at Design Review Panel meeting

Towson Whole Foods plans detailed at Design Review Panel meeting
A rendering of Whole Foods, the planned anchor tenant for Towson Row. (Courtesy Photo/Greenberg Gibbons)

A planned building anchored by Whole Foods in central Towson will feature a plaza with outdoor seating and retail space, a terrace accessible to student housing residents and a modern neutral color pallet, the project’s developers told a Baltimore County panel Wednesday night.

The project on the corner of York Road and Towsontown Boulevard had to make significant changes from previous designs in order to lure in Whole Foods, which had been announced as the anchor tenant years ago but pulled out of the project, said officials from developer Greenberg Gibbons.

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Those changes included scrapping plans for a new street connecting Towsontown Boulevard and Chesapeake Avenue, instead designing a narrow 6-foot pedestrian pathway.

In a presentation that spanned more than an hour, Greenberg Gibbons expressed excitement and relief at locking down the Whole Foods deal, which was announced in April.

“Whole Foods is the quintessential retailer of the future,” said Eric Walter, executive vice president of acquisitions and development at Greenberg Gibbons.

In addition to the 45,000-square-foot grocery store, the building is set to create 10,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and about 220 student housing units above, said Venable attorney Christopher Mudd, who represents the developer.

It is part of Towson Row, a $350 million mixed-use development originally launched by developer Caves Valley Partners in 2013. After a years-long delay, Greenberg Gibbons was brought in and the County Council approved a $42.9 million financial assistance package to get the project off the ground.

Greenberg Gibbons announced in April that Whole Foods would anchor the $350 million development. It was before the Baltimore County Design Review Panel on Wednesday to get approval to move to the next step in the process to refine the plan, which has already been preliminarily approved.

The panel approved the changes with conditions, asking that the developer resolve issues with the walkway, facade materials and other minor details administratively.

The developer told the panel Wednesday that Whole Foods will take up the entire footprint of the building, which faces Towsontown Boulevard, York Road and Chesapeake Avenue. It will have a mezzanine and outdoor dining that faces a plaza adjacent to Towsontown Boulevard, they said.

Retail and restaurant space separate from Whole Foods will face that plaza, which the developers want to have outdoor seating and water fixtures.

A street called Towson Row Avenue is planned to provide access to the building and adjacent parking garage from Towsontown Boulevard. That road, however, will end at the parking garage and become a narrow pedestrian pathway in order to provide access to Chesapeake Avenue.

Some people who signed up for public comment said that narrow passageway could be a safety issue, and the Design Review Panel also had concerns about how welcoming it will be.

Greenberg Gibbons CEO Brian Gibbons said he does not like that the walkway is so narrow, but that space constraints meant there was no way to make it wider and “still have Whole Foods commit to the project.”

“We are committed to making that the best pedestrian experience we can,” Gibbons said. “But I don’t want to lose Whole Foods.”

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