Reporting Derek Valcourt
TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) — The heart of Towson used to have a bustling business district. Now that area is dotted with boarded-up shops and one of the largest attractions just shut its doors.
Derek Valcourt takes a closer look at the problems facing the area.
More than 300,000 square feet soon up for lease inside Towson Commons adds to a number of already vacant spaces in the bustling county seat. From closed up carry out restaurants to vacant storefronts to retail shops that have relocated, For Lease signs are popping up all over.
“There’s a lot more than there were a few years ago,” said Cindy Brohawn.
At Artist Materials on York Road, manager Cindy Brohawn is familiar with rosy pictures but she knows too many vacancies aren’t so rosy for her business.
“It’s definitely less foot traffic,” Brohawn said. “Any time any business leaves an area, you’re going to have less people coming in.”
But county officials say the retail vacancy rate in Towson is only four percent.
“Which is very low, so sometimes perception is not reality,” said Baltimore County Planning Director Andrea Vanarsdale.
County officials blame what they call a perception problem on the size of Towson Commons. All that square footage accounts for about 90 percent of Towson’s retail vacancy rate, according to the Chamber of Commerce.
“I would challenge people outside of the Towson Commons project, which includes 40 West on Chesapeake. There are very few vacancies in the downtown Towson area,” Vanarsdale said.
Some vacancies are getting filled. A long-vacant office tower is now undergoing a major renovation with plans for retail on the first floor. A new Fresh Market Grocery will move into the vacant space in Dulaney Plaza and major retailer Urban Outfitters is set to take over the building once occupied by Hudson Trail Outfitters, big changes that leave many local business owners optimistic.
“The last couple of years were rough for everybody in Towson, but I think that was everyone in the United States. The economy was down, so hopefully the economy is starting to pick up and people are willing to come out and shop, spend money and go to restaurants,” said Kathy Harden.
Towson Commons owners won’t say what will happen next. Renovation work is expected to begin sometime this summer.