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Giant steps


It looks like the neighbors of little Forge Park in Towson won a double victory when BTR Realty Inc. recently decided to scratch its plans to build a "Gucci Giant" supermarket on a portion of the county-owned park. Not only will local residents get to keep the seven-acre facility in its present state, but they could also have a Gucci Giant in the York Road Plaza shopping center by early 1994.

For about a year, the Linthicum development firm that owns the JTC shopping center had sought to replace the current Giant store in the 6300 block of York Road with one twice as large. Certainly the location is ideal; Rodgers Forge, Bellona-Gittings, Anneslie, Stoneleigh, Wiltondale and other nearby communities teem with residents who would make good use of a top-of-the-line supermarket.

However, the original proposal failed when community groups balked at the plans and BTR was unable to find suitable county land to be used in a swap for the Forge Park space. Now the developer has come forward with another proposal to expand the Giant -- this time sideways onto property occupied by a restaurant, a beauty salon and various shops. BTR would relocate the businesses in a new structure to go where the York Road Cinema now stands, though General Cinema Corp. officials first must agree to vacate the building.

If these and other details can be worked out, the benefits could be widespread. The tired-looking, 26-year-old York Road Plaza, the gateway to Towson, would get a much needed face-lift. The owners of the even frowzier Drumcastle shopping center across the street might be inspired to spruce up their shops to attract customers from the revamped York Road Plaza. And, of course, all the remodeling and expansion should make the public happy, which should please BTR and its tenants.

Some park neighbors might claim this as a triumph of community activism. They would be partly correct; their lobbying to save Forge Park put pressure on BTR, Giant and local politicians. But ultimately the residents won because BTR and Giant didn't want to alienate valued customers, especially with a new Eddie's Super Market about to open its doors a mile away on North Charles Street. Community activism can be a powerful weapon, but this little park was saved because the community had the power of the pocketbook on its side.

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