Two years after a yearlong zoning battle over the biggest development in years in the center of Towson, it will be time to go to the movies next week.
General Cinema Corp. has announced a May 22 opening date for its eight-screen movie theater at Towson Commons, the $70 million development that will include retail shops and 190,000 square feet of office space.
"We believe Towson Commons will help revitalize the downtown [Towson] area and will become the focal point for day, evening and weekend activities in Towson," said Lynne Watson, vice president of LaSalle Partners, lead developer of the project.
The project was controversial even before it was formally proposed in 1989, drawing fire from community associations that thought the 10-story complex was too big for Towson, which has several taller buildings, and specifically for the 400 block of York Road, where low-rise buildings line the other side of the street.
Towson Commons' retail and theater space is 65 percent leased as the project points toward a staggered opening, with different tenants scheduled to open at different times, Ms. Watson said.
LaSalle has leased six of the seven shops surrounding the project's rotunda at York Road and Pennsylvania Avenue, Ms. Watson said.
The complex also has seven other retail spaces that haven't been spoken for, but she said a deal with a bookstore for at least two of the spaces "should be signed shortly."
LaSalle announced the names of only three of the retail tenants. They include Tomlinson Craft Collection, which has a store at the Rotunda shopping center; What's Your Game?, a specialty board game store that has an outlet at Harborplace; and Whimsicals, a home furnishings and specialty shop that Ms. Watson said is its owner's first store.
Ms. Watson said the other three retail tenants that have signed up are a florist shop, a card store and an accessory shop.
"They are predominantly local businesses," she said.
LaSalle said Paolo's Ristorante will open in August at the new complex. Paolo's also has a Harborplace location.
Previously, LaSalle had announced that L&N; Seafood, which opened April 1, and Pizzeria Uno would open at Towson Commons. Pizzeria Uno is to open in July. The plan calls for five restaurants in addition to the 12-stall food court.
Food court tenants will include mamma ilardo's pizzeria, Everything Yogurt & Salad Cafe, Great Steak and Potato Company, Panda's Rice Bowl, Cafe Au Lait, Bananas (which sells fruit drinks and shakes), and Flamers (a hamburger outlet), LaSalle said. Others have been signed, Ms. Watson said, but LaSalle isn't ready to announce their names.
The project's office building, which rises eight stories above the two stories of retail space, has had rougher going in the difficult real estate market.
Only 7 percent of the 190,000 square feet of office space has been leased, but LaSalle said it is close to new deals that should push occupancy to 20 percent.
"That's on target with our leasing schedule," Ms. Watson said. "For a suburban project like this, given today's leasing market, we expect it to be 20 percent at this time, and we expect to fill it in two to three years."