Towson renovation plans head northward 'Ugly' York Road due for beautification


In a continuing effort to beautify Towson, county planners are taking aim at York Road north of the business district -- a commercial strip called "ugly" and "most unattractive" by officials and community groups.

The congested state road -- a main entrance to the county seat -- is jammed with car lots, service stations, eateries and other businesses. Its sidewalks are crumbling, inaccessible or nonexistent.

But now, the county is moving ahead with a project that would include renovating sidewalks from the Beltway to the business district and making the stretch pedestrian-friendly and appealing visitors.

"No kind words can describe that part of York Road," said Wayne Skinner, executive director of the Towson Development Corp., a nonprofit community improvement association. "You should always keep your front doors in order."

The county recently began advertising for a design consultant for the project, which includes sidewalk enhancements in East Towson on Shealy, Pennsylvania, Chesapeake, Delaware and Virginia avenues. The county has earmarked $1 million in its budget for the renovation and has requested $1 million from the state.

"It's a unifying element of the whole downtown revitalization," said Councilman Douglas B. Riley, a Towson Republican.

The latest proposal will complement central Towson's $4.3 million streetscape and traffic roundabout projects -- under construction -- and a $200,000 second streetscape phase along York Road from Towsontown Boulevard to Burke Avenue, which is in the design stage.

Most elaborate

The most elaborate renovation, which includes brick sidewalks, decorative lighting and plantings, is coming in the 300 to 600 blocks of York Road. The other areas probably will get new concrete sidewalks with brick trim, benches, trash receptacles and some trees.

"They will not have the detail or complexity of the central part, but there will be significant improvements," said Ray Heil, county streetscape manager. "It is part of a comprehensive face lift."

To minimize inconvenience to merchants, work on the initial phase, which began in December, takes place from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays.

"I don't know why anyone would be affected" by the construction, said Roxanna Pollack, who owns Town & Campus/Fraternity Row in the 400 block of York Road with her husband, Craig. "It doesn't look that great, but if you're coming on the block, you're coming on the block."

In some ways, the 400 block on the east side -- the first segment of the streetscape project -- resembles a war zone with its chopped-up sidewalk and orange mesh fencing -- but stores are accessible by a wooden walkway.

Business not harmed

"It hasn't hurt business," said Craig Pollack, who's looking forward to completion of the project that will extend north on Dulaney Valley Road, close to Towson Town Center. "If people can walk from the mall to Towson, that would help Towson a lot."

While utility work has slowed the streetscape renovation, officials are confident they will meet the end-of-the-year timetable.

Utility work also is being done at the busy intersection of York, Joppa and Dulaney Valley roads and Allegheny Avenue, where the roundabout will be. The State Highway Administration expects the project to be completed by the end of the year.

"We're still on schedule," said David Buck, an SHA spokesman, although he added that the utility work has taken longer than expected, "There are so many utilities under there. It's impossible to know what to expect. It's such an old road."

Once the first phase of the enhancement project is completed, the second part of streetscape work on Burke Avenue is expected to begin. It is to be complete by next spring. Heil said.

"It's hard to say when phase three would begin, considering it's so early in the process." he said. "Ideally, it would follow on the heels of phase two."

Pub Date: 4/05/97

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