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Towson Square development site is paved over

Six months after construction of an $85 million mixed-use entertainment development in Towson was expected to begin, a surface parking lot has been installed at the newly cleared site.

The site of the proposed $85 million Towson Square project on Friday after a surface parking lot was installed.

The Towson Square project, to be anchored by a 16-screen Cinemark movie theater, was unveiled amid a popcorn-laden, film-themed event in late January. County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said the development would begin in March, with a completion date in 2014.

But last week, a large portion of the site, at Joppa Road and Virginia Avenue, was converted into a newly paved surface parking lot and striped to hold about 100 vehicles. A former Burger King restaurant and 1st Mariner Bank building had recently been razed there.

Ashley Miller, a spokeswoman for a part of the development team, The Cordish Cos., said Friday the Towson Square project — recently renamed from the original Towson Circle III — remained on schedule.

“Towson Square is full engines go,” Miller said in an emailed statement. “We have broken ground and construction will continue over the next 18 months. Tenants will open in phases with a grand opening scheduled for the Spring of 2014.”

Miller declined to comment for the record about the parking lot.

Other Baltimore County officials and business representatives, though, said they could not explain the new development at the site.

Councilman David Marks said he was perplexed to see the new parking lot installed where a bulk of the Towson Square project was to be built.

“It’s on my to-do list to ask about,” Marks said Friday afternoon. “I saw it last night.”

Fronda Cohen, a county spokeswoman who focuses on economic development issues, referred questions about the parking lot to Heritage Properties, the other developer in the project.

A clerk at Heritage on Friday said Heritage CEO Mike Batza was unavailable for comment and referred calls to Cordish.

Pauline Harris, the new executive director of the Greater Towson Committee, also said Friday that she did not know any details about the status of the Towson Square project or the installation of the surface parking lot.

The Towson Square project is expected to have the movie mega-plex and five restaurants totaling 45,000 square feet. An 862-space parking garage is also planned for the site.

County officials say the development will generate 870 new jobs once it is fully opened.

The county and state are paying $8.2 million of the costs toward the project: a $6.2 million grant from the Baltimore County Revenue Authority for the parking construction and $2 million from the Maryland Department of Transportation for infrastructure upgrades.

Miller said developers had leased all spaces in the Towson Square development except one.

“We are pleased to report that we have an all star line-up of premier restaurant operators, many of which will be new to the region,” her emailed statement said.