Towson is Stronger Than in 2010, But Key Challenges Remain - County Councilman David Marks

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In 2010, I was elected to the Baltimore County Council from the Fifth District. Towson is the westernmost region of the Fifth District—a center for law, government, medicine, and higher education, with some of the most stable and desirable neighborhoods in central Maryland. Despite all these enviable characteristics, Downtown Towson was a major concern.
In 2010, vast tracts of land were rotting away in Downtown Towson. The movie theatres at Towson Commons were on the verge of closing, and the remaining retail space was largely vacant. The deterioration of Downtown Towson was a blight on an otherwise strong region.

Today, no one talks about how we need to jumpstart the revitalization of Downtown Towson—it is already underway. Whole blocks of Downtown Towson have been revitalized, and construction cranes are in the air.

I attribute our success in Downtown Towson to three key factors.

First and most importantly, entrepreneurs have invested in Downtown Towson.

Second, there was a tone for redevelopment set by former County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, current County Executive Don Mohler, and the County Council. The past seven budgets have invested in school renovations along with transportation improvements such as the resurfacing of Bosley Avenue and Stevenson Lane. Three new parks are finished or under construction throughout Towson.

Third, relations have greatly improved between Towson University and Goucher College and their residential neighbors. In 2010, those relations were frayed as neighborhoods experienced the impact of students renting more and more homes farther away from campus. Since that time, Towson University and Goucher College have opened more dormitories, and the social host ordinance has eased relations between our college students and long-term neighbors.

Moving forward, it seems clear to me that there are a few fundamental initiatives that can advance our work in Downtown Towson and its residential neighbors.

First, we need to implement a Towson circulator—already planned by the state—to ease mobility throughout Downtown Towson.
Second, the county government must identify a guaranteed source of funding to support the care and maintenance of Downtown Towson. Right now, this urban area competes for resources with communities across Baltimore County—and, in fact, in most counties Towson would be its own municipalities. The Towson Chamber of Commerce does excellent work cleaning the streets and beautifying parts of Downtown Towson, but Baltimore County must do more as this area develops.
Baltimore County’s single biggest capital priority in Towson must be a new high school. Already, the population at this aging school has swelled due to demographic changes. The reconstruction of Towson High School must be timed with the reengineering the nearby Herring Run to eliminate chronic flooding.
Towson is stronger than it was in 2010. Many people deserve the credit, and they will all need to work together to advance solutions in the future.

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