By Corey Johns.
Future tenants for the Towson Station development have been announced, and they make up a less than inspiring group of businesses. Last year MOD Pizza, Mission BBQ, Nail Trix, and Men’s Warehouse were announced as tenants for the new site. Recently added to the list are a Chase Bank, The Habit Burger Grill, European Wax, and Tropical Smoothie Cafe.
To recap, of the eight places announced, two are cosmetic salons, one is a clothing store, one is a bank, and four are fast-casual chain restaurants.
The property is now private after Baltimore County sold the former fire station site to Caves Valley Partners, but there could have been more oversight worked into the contract of sale for Baltimore County. That was part of the process before anyway. The property was originally planned to be a Royal Farms convenience store and gas station but major push back resulted in a change of course. Traffic disruption and the fact that there is a quick stop gas station across the intersection made a Royal Farms seem highly unnecessary. But a flood of new fast-casual restaurants also seems rather unnecessary.
When development projects require public money or land, they should be, for lack of a better term, more interesting. And they should add more to the area to make it a destination. More fast-casual chain restaurants are just uninspiring and certainly do not make Towson Station a destination. Not far away surrounding the CineMark there is already a Bonefish Grill, World of Beer, and On the Border. Just down Joppa road there is a Red Robin, Qdoba, and an Applebees. Four more run of the mill chain restaurants bring nothing new to Towson.
The Towson Row project on Chesapeake Avenue was also a victim of uninspiring planning. Considering a nearby Marriott was converted into student housing, does adding a new hotel to the site seem necessary? With a Trader Joe’s, The Fresh Market, and Sprouts all close by in Towson, does a Whole Foods add anything new?
It is easier said than done, but Baltimore County needs a little more creativity. There is nothing stopping the local government from putting restriction on and working to secure tenants for developments that benefit the area more than the low-hanging fruit fast-casual chain restaurants.
Towson has a lot going for it, being both the political and economic center of Baltimore County while also being a college town. It could be a very attractive destination for new types of businesses. Rather than more fast-casual chain restaurants, why not reach out to get a celebrity chef to come into town. Considering Towson Universities’ focus on arts, why not reach out to Meow Wolf, an up-and-coming immersive, interactive, high-tech art museum that is opening up various locations throughout the country as they are growing? A high-end collectors shop, a Funko store. An in-door go-kart track. A board game lounge, like Boards and Brew in College Park. In New York, believe it or not, there are cocktail lounges where millennials play shuffleboard and socialize that are a huge hit.
Places like those are unique, would give Towson a bit more of an individuality to it, and would likely attract people from all over the county and even outside the county to visit. If tax dollars or public property is involved in a development, Baltimore County has to start being more creative with how they are going to spend it.